My Little Pony Monthly Issue 27 (June 1, 1999)

My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997
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Issue 27
June 1999

The Cat Show
by Tabby

"Tabby, you have to take my place at the show!" Tamara pleaded, and then sneezed.

"I don't know in the least how to judge show-cats," Tabby said impatiently. "I never much liked the idea of showing cats anyway."

Tamara, Tabby's nearly-identical cousin, had recently moved to Dream Valley and was staying at Tabby's house until she found a home of her own. She was a show-cat breeder, and had set up a cat-show at the Royal Paradise for the next morning, of which she would be the judge. Unfortunately, she'd come down with a cold that evening.

"I can't just call it off!" Tamara wailed. "And I simply can't go in this condition!"

"Find someone else to be the judge," Tabby said, waving her hoof through the air in dismissal.

"But, Tabby," Tamara continued in a wheedling voice, "it would look bad if I wasn't there for the first show. You have to pretend you're me."

"And what about our eye color?" Tabby demanded. "Someone might see the difference." Tamara had yellow eyes, whereas Tabby's were lavender.

"Color contacts," Tamara said promptly. "I bought some just last week in case of an emergency like this."

Tabby looked horrified. "Those... things you put in yours eyes? I am not going to wear contacts! And I'd have no idea how to pick the best cat, anyway."

"If you want to take the chance of being recognized..." Tamara said breezily. "And judging... yes, I'll be right back!" Tamara got up from her seat at the kitchen table, and went on to trot up the stairs. A few minutes later, she returned, holding a thick book in her hooves.

"Here," she said, tossing the book to Tabby. "Read through that, and you should be able to do good judging."

" ‘Cat Show Judging'," Tabby read off the cover. "And I'm supposed to read this whole thing?!?!" The book looked to be two inches thick.

"Just the highlights of each chapter," Tamara said nonchalantly. "Plus, you'll have a few hours tomorrow morning to read before the show starts."

"I didn't say I was going to do it yet," Tabby said stubbornly.

"I know you, Tabby!" Tamara assured her . "You'll agree to it in the end. Now, I'll tell you a bit more about how the show's going to run--"

"Hey!" Tabby protested.

"I only found seven contestants for this first one, and they're all princesses," Tamara explained. "They're the only ones with purebreds good enough to show."

"Hmph! Barn cats are just as good as purebreds!" Tabby retorted.

"But since admission is free for everyone," Tamara went on, "more ponies will be interested in buying a purebred cat, so future shows will be larger." Tamara paused to blow her nose.

Tabby's mind began to wander, remembering how she'd begun to ignore Callie, her pet cat. after getting her Meowth Pokèmon. All Tabby ever saw of Callie anymore was when she was curled up on the living room couch. At least Tabby remembered to keep Callie's food and water dishes filled.

"...each of the princesses showing a cat will have a numbered table for their cat," Tamara was saying, though Tabby was only dimly aware of it. "You're to walk around to inspect them and-- oh! Here, this'll be much easier to understand than me explaining it all." Tamara paused and pulled a piece of paper off the fridge.

"It's a write-up of all you were going to do?" Tabby questioned, glancing at the paper.

"Yep." Tamara nodded. "I compiled it myself."

"Hmm, hmm, hmm," Tabby mumbled as she skimmed through the information.

"I knew I could count on you!" Tamara beamed. "I'd better be going to bed now-- be sure to study that book! Tah-tah! See you tomorrow!" With that, Tamara breezed out of the doorway, leaving Tabby alone in the kitchen. She listened to Tamara's sneezes fade into the distance.

Tabby sighed. Tamara had beaten her, she knew. Might as well start reading. She flipped to the first chapter of the book-- "Good Points to Look For".

Their ears are pointed, and so are their tails, Tabby pondered aimlessly to herself. She winced at the recollection of her first meeting with Tarquin, her Meowth. Claws, too.

Shrugging, she jumped into her lesson.

* * *
Tabby woke to the buzzing of her alarm clock. She groggily opened an eye and looked up at her clock, which read six-thirty. "It's Saturday..." she mumbled to no one in particular.

"Tabby!" Tamara's voice exclaimed brightly. "I set your alarm clock earlier for you-- otherwise you'd be late for the show."

Tabby groaned, remembering what Tamara had talked her into doing. She could fuzzily make out her cousin's outline in the doorway.

"Did you finish that book last night?" Tamara continued.

"Mmm... yeah." Tabby's senses were beginning to wake-up. As a matter of fact, she'd read two pages of the first chapter; by then, she had been so bored that she'd dragged herself up to her room.

"Great!" Tamara said. "Then you'll know all about judging cats. Now, take your shower, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and have breakfast; then I'll attend to putting make-up on you." Tamara breezed downstairs.

She's certainly energetic for being so sick, Tabby thought to herself as a million questions ran through her mind. The show certainly didn't start this early, so why did she have to get-up at six-thirty?

Sighing, she pulled herself out of bed to prepare herself for Tamara's make-up onslaught.

* * *
"There! You look great!" Tamara gushed, wiping a stray bit of powder off of Tabby's face.

Tabby grimaced as she saw her reflection in the mirror. For the past half-hour, Tamara had been fixing up Tabby's face, and kept changing her mind on colors.

"Unless I should have put magenta lipstick on you instead of pink," Tamara frowned.

"For Pete's sake, Tamara!" Tabby said impatiently. "What time is it by now?"

"Seven-thirty," Tamara said distractedly. "I hope you're not late."

"What time does this show start?" Tabby demanded.

"It opens officially at ten, but you'll have to be there by eight-fifteen to make sure everything is set up properly and that all the princesses and cats are there," Tamara explained, talking a mile-a-minute. "And I still have to braid your tail and mane, maybe even add some jewelry-- you have to look as much like me as possible. Sure you don't want the contacts in?"

"You're not getting me to put those things in!" Tabby snarled.

"All right, all right." Tamara backed off. "Now, for the braiding..."

* * *
Another half-hour later, Tamara was inspecting Tabby for the last time. "You'll pull it off great," she said energetically.

"What happened to your cold?" Tabby asked bluntly.

Tamara coughed. "I still feel awful inside."

Tabby raised her eyebrows. "Whatever you say," she muttered.

"Of course, we'll have to switch pets today, too," Tamara went on.

"What?!" Tabby shrieked.

"You'll have to take Persian along with you," Tamara explained. "She'll walk along with you during the judging. The on-lookers should like that."

"Persian?" Tabby echoed. Tamara's Pokèmon was rather snobby, and she and Tabby didn't get along well.

"I'll explain everything to her," Tamara said. "And I suppose I'll have to watch that Meowth of yours."

"Tarquin doesn't need watching," Tabby sniffed. "Just be sure he gets cherry pie filling for lunch. And he sleeps until nine in his windowseat, so don't wake him up until then."

"Here's Persian now," Tamara cooed, and scooped the sleek white cat into her hooves. "Now, Persian dear, Tabby's pretending to be me at the cat-show. You have to go with her and play along."

Persian twitched her nose snobbishly, but stayed at Tabby's side when Tamara set her down there.

"Remember the list I gave you last night," Tamara said quickly as she opened the door for Tabby and Persian. "And, Tabby, don't forget you can't act like yourself-- act like me. Tah-tah!" With that, she closed the door, leaving Tabby and Persian standing alone on the porch.

"She wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise," Tabby complained as they walked down the steps.

"Persian," the Pokèmon said nonchalantly.

"The show is at the Royal Paradise, right?"

Persian stayed silent, and concentrated on walking daintily.

"Snob," Tabby muttered to herself.

"Tamara! Tamara!" a voice suddenly called out. "I'll walk with you to the cat-show!"

Tabby's blood ran cold at the sound of that voice. It was Tex, her arch-enemy-- but Tamara rather liked him.

"Shut up, you--" Tabby snapped before she could stop herself, and remembered she couldn't give the act away. "Why, Tex, how nice to see you," Tabby said in perfect imitation of Tamara, her voice dripping with sugar.

"You certainly look pretty today, Tamara, like you always do," Tex complimented her, finally catching up. "Your Persian, too."

Tabby batted her eyelashes furiously as she so often saw Tamara and Tiffany do-- personally, she thought it was a waste of time. "Thank you," she cooed, making a mental note to herself to really let Tamara have it once this cat-show business was over. "Persian is such a sno-- I mean, such a well-behaved Pokèmon."

By the time the two had reached the Royal Paradise, Tabby felt like fading away into oblivion rather than have Tex following her all day long-- and having to make-up sugary-sweet Tamara lines.

"Which room is the show supposed to be in?" Tex inquired.

"I think it's through that door to the left, there," Tabby said, adding a few eyelash bats. "The princesses should be all set up in there."

"Per-r-rsian," Persian agreed.

Upon entering the room, though, Tabby's mouth gaped open. The numbered tables were set up... but only one princess was there.

"I hope I'm not late, Miss Tamara," Princess Twinkle Star said apologetically, fluttering her dainty, glittery wings. "I got here a few minutes ago with Cataline, but there wasn't anyone else around."

Tabby-- a.k.a. Tamara for the day-- walked over to the table Twinkle Star was standing behind. "That's perfectly all right," Tabby assured her. "You're the first one here; that's all."

Twinkle Star smiled. "Would you like to see Cataline now? I haven't gotten her out of her carrier yet."

"Certainly!" Tabby exclaimed. "What breed is she?"

"A white long hair," Twinkle Star explained, lifting the pastel pink cat-carrier up onto the table she was assigned to. "Not exactly like a Persian cat; she doesn't have a flat face."

"A fine example of a show-cat," Tabby commented, peering through the carrier door. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to check on some other details." She turned away and smiled winningly at Tex. "Why don't you go-- err-- check to see if the refreshments are ready?"

Tex bowed slightly and rushed off to do her bidding.

Tabby shrugged. No bother that she hadn't told him where the refreshments would be; he just wouldn't be around to bug her for awhile. Clever thinking on her part, she thought. Now, where had Persian gone off to? Oh, there she was, napping in a windowsill already. "Figures," Tabby muttered.

Tabby glanced up at the clock on the wall and whipped out her list of responsibilities. It was now eight-thirty; the first item on the list was "Make sure the princesses are all in the show room by eight-forty-five."

Where in the world are they? Tabby thought in annoyance to herself. They probably forgot, she figured reasonably.

"Crystal should be arriving from Friendship Gardens soon," Twinkle Star supplied, who seemed to be reading Tabby's thoughts. "I flew, so I got here somewhat quicker."

Princess Starburst sleepily trotted into the room at that moment. "Hello, Tamara. Twinkle Star, what are you doing in Dream Valley?" she yawned.

Twinkle Star giggled. "I brought Cataline for the cat-show," she explained.

"Oh, is it the day of that show?" Pristina questioned in surprise.

I was right! Tabby thought triumphantly to herself. "Yes, Pristina," she said cheerfully. "It starts at ten."

"All right," Pristina yawned again. "I'll be back with my cat then." She turned and walked into the next room.

This is going to be fun, Tabby sighed to herself.

"I wonder what happened to Crystal," Twinkle Star said in alarm. "I hope she's making the trip okay."

Tabby decided to forget wondering when the princesses would show up, and went to the second paragraph on the sheet. "Set up the refreshments on the long table in the middle of the room," she mumbled to herself. Tabby could see the table. "Well, if Tex can find the food, he can set it up," she said craftily.

"What was that?" Twinkle Star called from across the room.

"I was just deciding whether or not Tex would like to set up the refreshments," Tabby explained sweetly.

Princess Sparkle entered the room a few minutes later. "Is the cat show still on for today, Tamara?" she questioned.

"As a matter of fact, yes. Is your cat all ready? I can't wait to see her," Tabby gushed.

"That's right!" Sparkle giggled. "I forgot to bring Lucia down with me. I'll go back and get her." She trotted back out.

Tabby went back to the list. "Make sure the microphone works for opening speech." She glanced around in alarm. She had to make up a speech? Tamara hadn't mentioned that. She hadn't mentioned a lot of things, like having Tex follow you around.

Princess Crystal, from Friendship Gardens, breezed through the main door, being followed by a stocky Russian Blue. "I ran into Clever Clover on the way over," she sighed dreamily. "He's so cute, and he told me all about the dig-site he's working at now. What's that field of work he's into? Arcopology?"

"Archeology," Tabby supplied. "Have you got your cat there?"

Crystal looked behind her in surprise. "Oh! Gwendolyn! I forgot all about her!" she laughed. "I'm supposed to set her up at one of these tables? Which one is mine?"

Tabby looked all over the list Tamara had provided. It didn't list which table each princess should be at. "Just pick whichever one you want," she said distractedly.

Crystal looked around the room as she picked Gwendolyn, her Russian Blue, up. "That one looks nice," she murmured to herself, and trotted over to the large table meant for the refreshments.

Tabby cringed slightly as Tex re-entered the room. "Tamara, I found a bunch of stuff in the fridge. Should I bring it out?"

"That would be so kind of you." Tabby batted her eyelashes some more and breathed a sigh of relief as he trotted off to the kitchen again.

Now it was nine o' clock; the princesses should have been set-up at their tables fifteen minutes ago. There wasn't a sign of any of them. Tabby hadn't even noticed the table Crystal had chosen. Instead, she walked over to the stairs which led to the second level of the Royal Paradise. "Hey, princesses!" she shrieked in her most high-pitched voice. "Get down here! It's the cat-show today!" Then she trotted back over to Twinkle Star's table.

"Was it you making that terrible racket?" Crystal asked, brushing Gwendolyn.

Tabby looked over at the princess and gasped slightly when she saw where Crystal was. "Crystal! That table--"

Tex entered the room, carrying several trays of cheese and crackers. "Which table is for refreshments?" he questioned.

"Well, the long one, but--" Tabby started.

"You said I could have whichever table I wanted," Crystal whined.

"Just set them on that table there-- the one with the "3" written on it," Tabby said sweetly to Tex.

Tex looked at the small table. "It's not that large," he commented.

"You can make it fit, can't you?" Tabby said, lowering her eyes to the ground and looking pitiful.

Tex's heart melted. "Of course I'll make them fit," he said quickly.

Next, Tabby turned her attention to the group of princesses that had just entered the room. "The show's not until eleven," Starburst complained. "We shouldn't have to get ready for another two hours, at least."

"You only have one hour left," Tabby snapped, losing her Tamara voice.

"You're picking of Tabby's voice, Tamara," Tiffany said in disapproval. "But at least your fashion sense is still intact."

Dawn had her nose stuck in a novel. "Oh! Tamara!" she exclaimed. "I've actually been up since six, reading. Do you need my Felicia for the show?"

"That'd be helpful; yes," Tabby said, trying to sound like Tamara.

"You'll be sure to pick Theodora, though, as first prize winner," Tiffany inferred.

Tabby smiled at Tiffany. "We'll see what the other cats look like."

Tiffany pouted. "Theodora is better than all of them."

Tabby sighed again. She couldn't wait for this show to get over.

* * *
Meanwhile, Tamara was sitting on the couch in Tabby's living room, flipping through a magazine, with a box of Kleenexes at her side.

"Where's Tabby?" Tabby's Meowth Pokèmon, Tarquin, suddenly appeared in the doorway.

Tamara looked up. "Oh, you didn't hear yet? She's taking my place as judge at the cat-show since I'm sick."

Tarquin frowned. "That means I have to spend the day with just you and Persian in the house? I'm going over to the cat-show!"

"Don't!" Tamara said in a warning tone. "You'd give everything away if you went to the Royal Paradise. I had Persian go with her, anyway."

Tarquin growled. "You're always ruining everything."

Tamara giggled. "What have I done to you, Tarquin? You're just an un-evolved Pokèmon."

"You stole my room, for one," Tarquin said menacingly.

"Tabby would've given it to me in the end, anyway," Tamara said breezily.

"Now I just have a windowseat to call my own," Tarquin went on.

"I love windowseats," Tamara sighed dreamily.

"I'll trade you," Tarquin suggested hopefully.

Tamara laughed. "Oh, no! What I'd really like is a windowseat in my room. What's yours like?"

"It doesn't have much in it," Tarquin muttered. "Except for a picture of Tess." He smiled and stared out the living room window.

"Who's Tess?" Tamara asked curiously.

Tarquin pawed his way out of the room and returned a little while later, holding a picture frame in his paws. "That's what she looks like," he explained to Tamara, holding it up to her.

"She's a very beautiful Meowth," Tamara agreed. "Where does she live?"

"She belongs to Merry Treat, but I usually see her at the Pokèmon Center when MT volunteers." Tarquin looked downcast. "She hasn't been there for the past couple of days, though."

"Why don't you call over to Merry Treat's house?" Tamara suggested.

"Hey!" Tarquin exclaimed brightly. "Look up her number for me, would you?"

Tamara pulled the phone book out. Maybe Meowths aren't so hard to get along with, after all, she mused to herself.

Tarquin was pondering similar thoughts.

* * *
As ten o' clock rolled around, Tabby had somehow managed to assemble all the princesses who had entered the show and their cats each at a table. Tex had crammed as many food and drink trays onto table number 3 as he could.

Ponies started filing up the walk and coming inside. "I wonder what a cat-show will be like," Flowerbelle giggled to Skyflier.

"Look at all the cats," Skyflier cooed. "I love that Siamese."

In no time at all, it was ten minutes after ten; that's when the sheet said Tabby had to give her speech. Walking up to the microphone displayed at the head of the room, Tabby started talking. "Err... right! Well, this is the first ever cat-show in Dream Valley," she said brightly. "And seven of the princesses are kindly showing off their cats."

"Mine is the best, though," Tiffany declared snobbishly.

"Ha!" Starburst shot back from across the room. "Jewel has a more expensive collar than your Theodora."

"More expensive?!" Tiffany shrieked. "How dare you insult me like that?!"

"Uhh... anyway..." Tabby stuttered after the arguing had died down between the two princesses. "I am going to go around to all the cats and pick which one is the best. All of you on-lookers, you may wander around this room and look at all the beautiful cats as well. If you're interested in purchasing a show-cat of your own, look my number up in the phone-book-- that is, Tabby's number," Tabby finished. "Is that understood?"

The crowd was about to start spreading through the room when Munchy called out, "Why's the refreshment table so small?"

"That's a good point!" Princess Sparkle agreed. "How come Crystal got that huge, long table and all the rest of us just get these puny ones?"

Tabby sighed in exasperation. "Don't ask questions; just look at the cats," she snapped. She was sick of acting like Tamara.

The rest of the ponies took that as a valid answer, and began to mingle. Tex walked up to Tamara. "The food's almost gone already," he said in concern. "The table really doesn't hold much."

"Just put some more out," Tabby said frostily and stomped off.

"You're not mad, are you, Tamara?" Tex pleaded.

Tabby ignored him and walked on into the crowd, silently fuming.

"Tamara!" Sugarberry flagged Tabby down, with Chocolate Chip at her side. "Is Tabby here?"

Chocolate Chip laughed. "We saw you and hoped it was Tabby, but when we saw all that make-up, we knew it had to be Tamara."

Oh, great. Some of my friends, Tabby thought sarcastically. "Oh, Tabby?" she said sweetly. "She's stuck at home with a cold."

"Oh, that's sad," Sugarberry said sympathetically. "I know Thomas was planning on taking her out tonight, too."

Chocolate Chip shook her head. "I had a cold a few weeks ago; I felt really awful."

"We'll have to stop in and see her after we've looked at all the cats here," Sugarberry went on. "Well, see you, Tamara!"

Tabby seethed as she watched them disappear into the crowd. It would serve Tamara right to put up with two of her friends while pretending to be Tabby. On top of that, she'd have to think up of some more punishments to inflict on her cousin. This was not turning out to be a good day.

"Tamara," Tex said breathlessly, running up to her. "I've restocked the refreshment table."

Tabby couldn't look him in the face, for fear of really giving herself away. "That's great," she cooed, using up the last of the energy she had for imitating Tamara. Then she fled into the crowd to start judging the cats.

It didn't take long to glance over seven cats. At this point, Tabby just wanted to get done as quickly as possible. There were Starburst's Siamese, Jewel; Twinkle Star's white Long-Hair, Cataline; Pristina's lilac Burmese, Diamond; Dawn's seal-point Balinese, Felicia; Sparkle's shaded Cameo, Lucia; Crystal's Russian Blue, Gwendolyn; and last, Tiffany's Bombay, Theodora.

"Theodora is simply the perfect cat, isn't she, Tamara?" Tiffany beamed. "You have to pick her! I am the one that invited you to that dinner party, you know," she added quickly.

"I'll pick the one I like best," Tabby mumbled. She had tried to refrain from talking to the other six princesses.

Tiffany looked at Tabby closely, and something dawned on the princess. "You're not Tamara at all!" she exclaimed. "You're--"

Tabby swiftly clamped a hoof over Tiffany's mouth. "Don't say a word to anyone," she hissed, "or I'll tell everyone that you're the pony who took down all the posters advertising the perfume Royal Blue patented."

"It didn't smell good in the first place," Tiffany said reluctantly after Tabby took her hoof away. "But if you're Tabby-- you have to be, because you have Tabby's eye color-- what happened to Tamara?"

"She has a cold and couldn't come," Tabby said in a low tone. "So she made me take her place and doesn't want anyone to know about the switch."

"Just don't tell anyone about the posters!" Tiffany pleaded.

"I won't as long as word doesn't leak out!" Tabby winked and walked back down the row of tables.

On her way back, she stopped and looked at Twinkle Star's cat, Cataline, again. Something about the cat's face was so familiar... that was it! Cataline looked like Callie, both in the face and the long fluffy fur. Of course, Cataline looked rather sweet, and Callie was... well, disagreeable.

Strange, Tabby thought to herself.

* * *
Several minutes later, Tabby was back up at the microphone. "Yes! I've selected the first-place winner, along with the second- and third-place ones."

The crowd gathered around. The seven princesses held their breath.

Tabby quickly want to place the third-place ribbon on Jewel the Siamese and second-place on Felicia the seal-point Balinese.

"Jewel-- in third place?" Starburst seethed.

"My Felicia deserves first-place, not second!" Dawn declared

"First place," Tabby announced, ignoring Starburst and Dawn's outbursts, "goes to Cataline, belonging to Princess Twinkle Star." Tabby placed the blue ribbon on Cataline's carrier.

"Tamara, I can't believe you picked Cataline out of all of them!" Twinkle Star said excitedly, fluttering her wings and making glitter fall to the ground.

"She's an exceptional cat," Tabby commented, and headed towards the door. "I hope you've all enjoyed this cat show!" she called. "And now... tah-tah!" Tabby scooped-up Persian-- who had stayed in the window the whole time, not walking along with Tabby as Tamara had instructed-- and dashed out the door before Tex could catch-up to her.

"Persian," Tabby said in exasperation, "run faster. We have to get home quick, lest Tex find us."

Persian obligingly hurried-up. "Per-r-rsian," she said agreeably.

Tabby was taken by surprise. Persian had actually sounded friendly in that last statement.

"Persian." Persian shook her head in distaste.

Tabby got the feeling that Persian wasn't directing the head-shaking at Tabby herself, like she did all the other times. "You don't like Tex, either?" Tabby said in disbelief."

"Per-r-r. Persian," Persian said, growling at the mention of Tex.

"Persian, maybe you're not as bad as I thought you were," Tabby said happily.

"Persian." Persian seemed to say fairly much the same thing.

And when we get home, Tabby thought, Tamara is really going to get it...

Of course, Tabby had forgotten one thing...

* * *
"Tabby!" Sugarberry exclaimed as Tamara opened the door. "We heard from Tamara at the cat-show that you were home with a cold, so Chocolate Chip and I came to see how you were doing."

Tamara's mind raced. She hadn't counted on having visitors for Tabby. What would Tabby say...?

"And we brought chocolate chip cookies for you!" Chocolate Chip said brightly.

"How thoughtful of you!" Tamara said sweetly, and recoiled in terror inside. No, that wasn't what Tabby'd say at all...

Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip exchanged glances. "How have you been passing your time?" Sugarberry asked.

"Oh... watching... the My Little People shows!" Tamara exclaimed.

"You watch those a lot, don't you, Tabby?" Chocolate Chip giggled. "May we come in? I actually haven't tasted any of these cookies we baked yet."

"I suppose," Tamara sighed, getting into Tabby's lines. "Just don't disturb Tarquin. He's on the phone."

The three ponies filed into the living room, where Tarquin was still chatting away with Tess via the telephone. "I didn't know he was into using the phone," Chocolate Chip whispered.

"Just calling Tess," Tamara explained. "But these cookies are actually pretty good."

"Been reading fashion magazines, too?" Sugarberry raised an eyebrow as she looked at all the slick magazines spread out over the couch.

"Oh, those are just some of Tamara's things," Tamara said quickly. "I couldn't find anything else to read, and I was deathly bored."

"You must have been, to touch fashion magazines!" Chocolate Chip giggled.

And then all three perked up their ears when they heard a slamming door and hoof-steps stomping around.

"Is that Tamara getting home from the cat-show?" Sugarberry questioned.

Tamara giggled. "Well, I don't know... umm... err..." She glanced around nervously.

"TAMARA!" Tabby's voice could be heard plainly now. "YOU ARE NEVER GETTING ME TO IMPOSTER FOR YOU AGAIN!! DO YOU HEAR THAT?!?!?!" She appeared in the living room doorway, and was a very intimidating sight.

Tamara laughed nervously. "Err... Tab-- Tamara, you have our names mixed up..."

"Have you any idea how infuriating it is to put up with Tex all day long?!" Tabby demanded, oblivious of Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip. "Or getting all the princesses assembled by ten o' clock?!?!"

"Hmm, did you two switch places?" Chocolate Chip questioned.

"Yes!" Tabby hissed. "And it's all her fault!" She pointed at Tamara.

Tamara finally found her voice again. "I guess we can't make a secret of it anymore," she sighed dejectedly.

"So Tamara's actually the sick one and made Tabby go in her place," Sugarberry pondered. "Why didn't you just come out and explain it in the first place, Tamara?"

"It would've looked bad if I wasn't the judge for my first cat-show," Tamara explained.

"You'll never believe what I endured doing that thing!!" Tabby said menacingly.

"Your reasoning makes sense, somewhat," Chocolate Chip admitted to Tamara. "Tabby, what in the world did happen?"

"And where's Persian?" Tamara demanded.

"Where's Tarquin?" Tabby retorted.

"He's right here on the phone, Tabby." Tamara rolled her eyes.

"...sorry about the noise, Tess; Tabby got home..." Tarquin was saying into the receiver.

Persian entered the room after Tabby. "Persian!" she exclaimed gleefully and leaped into Tamara's lap.

"Such a sweet cat," Tamara murmured as she stroked Persian.

Tarquin hung up the phone and jumped off the couch to Tabby. "That was Tess," he explained. "And it's after noon. Let's have cherry pie filling for lunch."

Tabby's heart was softened at seeing Tarquin. "Of course," she said as her Meowth jumped on her back. "Come into the kitchen, everybody, and I'll see if I can find anything for those of you who don't have a taste for that delightful cherry pie filling!" She sniffed.

After Tabby finished telling her story to everyone at the kitchen table, everyone was laughing... even Tabby. Persian seemed to be smiling.

"Oh!" Tamara giggled. "What a terribly arranged cat-show!"

"It was a positive failure," Tabby tittered. "And I had to put up with Tex on top of it all!"

"I think," Sugarberry stated over the laughter, "that we should all just forget about this show and never mention it again."

"What a great idea!" Tamara beamed. "And you won't even give away that we switched places?"

"Of course not!" Chocolate Chip exclaimed. "It wouldn't be nearly as funny if everyone knew about it!" She cracked up.

"But of this moment," Tabby declared, "I have made a miraculous recovery, but Tamara has come down with the same virus that I was so stricken with." She posed with the most sorrowful face she could muster. "How long it will linger on in my dear cousin, we don't kno--" And then she couldn't keep a straight face any longer, and burst out laughing.

"And I won't be able to see Tex at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe this evening," Tamara sighed.

"He'll think you're pretty strange after hanging around with Tabby as Tamara all morning!" Sugarberry giggled.

And as the ponies' merry-making went on, Tarquin and Persian got into discussing Pokèmon battle tactics. Maybe they'd just learned to get along, too.


Rainbow Of Hope: Lastly's Story
by North Star (
© All Rights Reserved

A cold, bitter wind iced the air as Melodic began her long trek through the canyon. The purple unicorn with silver hair walked quickly, her shawl wrapped tightly around her. Her purple face and white hooves felt the freezing chill.

I wonder how Lastly is, she thought. Melodic's one thought was to get home to Star Valley. At least there is no snow there. Lastly is safe in Star Manor with the royals.

Just then, Melodic heard a rumble overhead. When she looked up, snow was rolling down the canyon walls and blocking the tracks. Which way was I going? she thought. Must have been that way.

She set off in her chosen direction. How she longed to feel the warm sunshine of Star Valley and see her beloved daughter.

A week later...

"Sire, I received word from the Royal Guard. They found no trace of Melodic in the canyons. Snow has covered the entire area there," Sunset said, rushing into the throne room.

"No, it cannot be! Melodic is not de--" King Knight Light could not bear to finish the sentence.

Sunset, his childrens' nurse and one of the king's loyal servants, shook her head sadly.

"We must not stop looking! Lastly's mother is out there... somewhere!" Queen North Star cried.

"Yes, the queen is right," Knight Light replied. "She has just taken a different route home, that's all. Lastly would be devastated if she knew."

Queen North Star sighed. "I guess we have to tell her. Sunset, please go get the girls; would you?"

Sunset nodded and went upstairs. There, in Ember's room, Ember and Lastly gossiped. "So, anyway, you would not believe what was on Dawson's Creek last night..." Ember trailed off as she saw Sunset in the doorway. "Oh! Come in, dear Sunset. How does the day find you today?" she asked.

Lastly smiled; Ember had such a unique way of speaking.

"Not well, sweet princess. I am afraid that your parents have bad news," Sunset said.

The two ponies looked up. "I really hope it is not about the window Lastly broke..." Ember replied.

"No, we took care of that; it did not cost much. Your parents request your appearance immediately."

Ember and Lastly walked downstairs and into the throne room. A rich, thick, red carpet covered the floor. Ember laughed. She remembered playing on it when she was a baby pony. Back then, she could build imaginary cities. She quickly stopped laughing when she saw the looks on her parents' faces.

"What is it?" Lastly asked, shaking her silver mane.

Queen North Star's face was filled with sorrow. "Sweetie, your mother is... your mother is..." She couldn't bear to say it.

King Knight Light cleared his throat. "What she is trying to say is your mother is lost. The Royal Guard could not find her."

Lastly was silent; her mind was filled with thoughts of her mother. Melodic was all she had left. She had never known her father, Harmonic.

Ember looked at her friend. Poor Lastly.

"You are welcome to stay at Star Manor with us-- or you could stay with your aunt, Shadow," Queen North Star told Lastly.

Lastly looked up. Her aunt? She did not know she had an aunt. "My mother never told me she had a sister," she said.

"They had a disagreement, and have not spoken to each other since then," King Knight Light said. "Your mother told us about her in case it ever came to be that she couldn't care for you-- we agreed that you would live here, or with Shadow."

Lastly sighed. "I want to live with my aunt, if you do not mind. I would like to be with family."

Ember nodded. She understood. "Let's go help you pack."

And so, it was decided. Lastly would leave that day to go live with her Aunt Shadow.

As Sunset and Lastly rode in the Royal Carriage to Shadow's house, Lastly was filled with apprehension. Would Shadow like her? What had the disagreement been about?

The two approached Shadow's house. A dark, mist-covered manor loomed over them. This was where Lastly would live?

The stone door opened, and Shadow stepped out. She was a cold and mean-looking gray unicorn with black hair. "Welcome, my darling!" she cried, wrapping Lastly in an embrace.

Lastly hugged her back, rather reluctantly. She just wanted to get up to her new room and cry.

"The king requested that we make sure Lastly will be provided well for here," Sunset said, climbing out of the carriage.

Shadow smiled warmly. "Of course! I understand completely." She opened the door further, and Lastly looked around. Rich tapestries hung on the walls. A stone fireplace stood in a corner, giving the room a friendly atmosphere.

Maybe it will not be so bad, Lastly thought.

Shadow led them upstairs to a bright and cheery room. "This is my daughter's room."

"Your daughter? I have a cousin?" Lastly asked.

Shadow nodded. "Her name is Lightening. Lightening!" she called.

A dark blue unicorn came prancing up. "Sorry, Mother; I was just in the other room."

Lastly looked at her cousin. White hair cascaded down Lightening's shoulders. A silver lightening bolt glittered on her side. She was gorgeous.

"Well, Lightening, say hello to your cousin. This is Lastly; she will be living with us from now on," Shadow said.

Lightening eyed Lastly with an icy glare. "Hello, Lastly," she said, faking a smile.

Shadow patted her daughter's head nonchalantly, and ignored Lightening's grimace. "Yes, I am sure you girls will get along fine. Now I will take you to see Lastly's room."

They walked down the hall into a beautiful and happy-looking room. A canopy bed, covered in pink lace and satin, sat in the middle.

Lastly drew in her breath. This was not as nice as the room she'd had at Star Manor, but it was still wonderful. "I love it!" she cried, flopping on the bed.

Shadow smiled. "See, she will be very happy here," she told Sunset.

Sunset nodded and went downstairs. Lastly followed her. There, the two said goodbye.

"Lastly, if there is anything you need, just call. Okay? You can visit Ember anytime," Sunset instructed.

Lastly nodded, her throat hot with tears. "Yes, I know. Goodbye, dear Sunset-- and thanks."

Sunset climbed into the carriage and waved goodbye. And then she was gone.

Shadow clapped her hooves. "Lastly! We have a lot to do around here."

Lastly looked up, startled. " ‘Do'? Why what do you mean?"

Shadow smiled. "Oh, come now, Lastly; did you really think that I would let you live in my house for free? You are our new servant!"

Lastly's eyes were wide. "Servant?"

Shadow nodded. "Yes; let me show you to your room."

"Oh, you already did. I know where it is," Lastly replied. But as Shadow's last line sunk in, she began to think that the room with the pretty canopy bed was not her room, after all.

Shadow laughed. "That one? That was my room! You will see your actual new room soon enough!" She led Lastly further into the house. Next to the entrance to the kitchen was a massive metal door.

Shadow pulled out a key and opened it. "THIS is your room. Home sweet home."

Lastly was speechless. "Here?" she managed to say. She looked around. The room was cold and dank. Instead of a bed, there was just a pile of straw-- filthy and matted with dust. A squeaky sound echoed through the room. Lastly was sure it was rats.

"Yes, here," Shadow said coldly. "Now, come here," she said, pulling an odd-looking device off a battered, rickety shelf.

Lastly came forward, shaking from the cold.

Shadow showed the device to Lastly. "This will prevent you from sending out any little messages to the royals." The device that lay in Shadow's hoof was a combination lock with lights glittering on it.

"But... why? What are you going to do with... that?" asked Lastly.

"This," Shadow said, snapping the lock onto Lastly's white horn. "I bought it from a magic-maker awhile back. It used to keep my servants in order. Now it will keep you under my power."

Lastly shook her head. The lock would not come off. This was getting worse and worse.

Shadow pulled out a roll of paper. "These are your chores. Enjoy!" she said as she left the dingy living-space.

Lastly unrolled the paper. She moaned as the paper rolled all the way to the floor. She curled up on the straw bed and began to cry. Finally, Lastly fell asleep.

* * *
The next day, she was awoken to the sound of someone screaming, "Las-tly! Where is my breakfast?!"

Lastly groaned and pulled herself up. She wished she was still in Star Manor.

"Where is my breakfast, child?" yelled Shadow.

Lastly trudged into the kitchen. Whipping up a plate of French toast, she carried it into the dining room.

"Good, child; but next time, make it snappy!" Shadow barked.

"Yes, Shadow," Lastly replied meekly.

"It is not Shadow to you any more, but ‘Mistress'," Shadow snapped.

Lastly curtsied. "Yes, Mistress," she said.

Shadow frowned. "Mistress doesn't sound right... hmm... Master. Yes, you shall call me ‘Master'," she told the timid unicorn. "No, that's too egotistical. Call me ‘My Lady'."

Lastly rolled her eyes. Too egotistical? Hmph! "Yes, My Lady."

Shadow smiled. "Ah, yes; I like the sound of that. Now, go fetch my slippers."

Lightening, who had just entered the room, laughed at Lastly. "You look like you have been sleeping in the fireplace. Oh, that's right, you have. Poor Lastly," she said sarcastically. "What kind of name is ‘Lastly'?" she mused. "I am not going to call you that, but instead... something more fitting..." she finished.

Lastly rolled her eyes again and growled under her breath. Wonderful way with words Lightening has, she thought to herself.

Lastly wouldn't let these two get to her. She left the room to get Shadow's slippers. Bearing them in her teeth, she carried them back to the dining room, pausing to look in the mirror. A dust-covered unicorn with a sorrowful face stared back at her.

"Lastly! We mustn't dawdle now, should we?" Shadow called from the other room.

"Coming, My Lady!" Lastly called. She brought the slippers in and sat down in a chair, weary already.

"Now, go clean the kitchen up," Shadow ordered.

"But, My Lady, I have not had breakfast yet," stammered Lastly.

"But, My Lady, I have not had breakfast yet," mocked Shadow. "Well, why not?"

"I had to fix yours, then throw the scraps away..." Lastly stopped, realizing her mistake.

"The food you call ‘scraps' is your breakfast. Too bad!" Shadow laughed. "Now go clean the kitchen!"

Lastly left and went to cleaning the kitchen. She scrubbed the floor until it shone. As she was finishing, Lightening pranced in, leaving hoofmarks all over the floor.

"Oops! Guess you have to clean it again," she laughed, as Lastly frantically cleaned up the marks. Lastly didn't reply to Lightening, but continued cleaning.

"I know! I can call Ember with my horn!" she whispered to herself. She concentrated, making her horn glow. When it had reached a satisfactory state, she tried to send out a thought to Ember. As she did so, the lock buzzed and she was shocked by a bolt of electricity that knocked her unconscious.

When she awoke, Shadow was standing over her. "So, we learned not to call for help, did we?" she asked.

Lastly nodded.

"And I bet it hurt, didn't it? Now you know not to do it again." Shadow walked towards the door. "Oh, and another thing, every time you try to use your horn, the lock sends a worse shock than before. I warned you," she said as she closed the door behind her.

Lastly groaned. What could she do now? She would be really good, and maybe one day she could run away, she decided.

Shadow peeked her head in the door. "By the way, I can read your thoughts, so I would be VERY careful what you think. By that I mean, don't plan on running away. That lock is a homing device. You know what that means, right?"

Lastly nodded. That meant that she could not leave without being stopped; and if she somehow did manage to leave, Shadow could track her.

"Good, now go make some dinner for us," Shadow ordered.

Lastly left and did as she was told. That night, as she went to her room, she nibbled on some bread and cheese she had managed to steal. Sobbing, she ate quietly and went to bed. When she could not cry anymore, she fell asleep.

* * *
The next morning, Lastly had a plan. They would be going to market today.

"Lastly!" Shadow bellowed, her voice in a shrill pitch.

Lastly winced; she hated that witch's voice. Humming to herself, she started downstairs; but then she decided against it. She stopped in Lightening's room, and stole a comb. Slowly working it through her snarled mane, she made her way downstairs.

Shadow sneered when she saw the white mane, once again glistening. "Made yourself all pretty, did we?" she scoffed disdainfully.

Lastly ignored the comment. Today they would be going to market, and she could escape. She knew Sunset would be there, buying fresh produce for Star Manor's chef.

Shadow opened the door and they went over to the carriage. Lastly tried to climb into the carriage, but Shadow stopped her. "No, no. This isn't your place."

Lightening stood at the front of the carriage, holding a harness. "Here is where you go," she said, handing the contraption to Lastly.

Lastly sighed. There was no way she could breathe in that thing. Pulling it over her head, she snorted. Who cared what they put her through? Soon, she would be back in the castle.

Shadow picked up a whip and cracked it. SNAP! Lastly growled to herself, and reluctantly began to trot forward.

Soon, they arrived at the market. Shadow had Lastly pull in behind all the bustling stands, for fear that someone would see her abusing Lastly.

Unhitching herself, Lastly tried to trot off, but Lightening stopped her. "No, cousin," she sneered. "Stay with us."

The three of them walked through the market. Lastly's face looked crestfallen until she saw Sunset. Kicking a chicken, Lastly called Sunset's name. "Sunset! Sunset!"

Sunset looked up at the sound of her name. The chickens were making so much noise, she could barely hear. Feathers flew everywhere, but she made out the image of Lastly. "Dear me! She looks horrible," she said to herself.

Shadow beckoned to her daughter and Lastly. They went back to the carriage, Lastly in the front, and were on their way.

* * *
Back at the castle, Sunset was pacing in the throne room. "Your Majesty, Lastly has no place in that home!" Sunset explained to King Knight Light.

He nodded. "Yes, we must send the Royal Guard there at once." He turned to the head of the Royal Guard. "Go get Lastly," he commanded.

The guard nodded, and left the room.

* * *
Lastly's tears hit the tile floor as she began to scrub. "Why me?" she wailed.

Suddenly, she head the whinny outside. "Lightening! Shadow! Come out at once!" the voice demanded.

Shadow and Lightening looked up, bewildered. "What did you do, you ungrateful little thing?" Shadow demanded.

Lastly shook her head. "Nothing."

The Royal Guard charged through the house, and took Lastly out to their awaiting carriage.

Lastly sighed with happiness as Lightening and Shadow were locked away, never to be seen in public again.

* * *
Back at the castle, Lastly ran and embraced Ember. "Emb! I thought I would never see you again!"

Ember smiled through her tears. "Well, you were wrong!"

Knight Light looked at the Ponies. "I declare that Lastly officially has a place in the royal home," he said; his wife nodded.

Lastly smiled. "Come on, Ember! Let's go share the news with Sunset and the rest of the castle!"

The two ran; a silver and white tail disappeared behind the door.


The History of Twinkle Hearts
by Windy

Twinkle Hearts was on her way to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe when she came across Baby Lofty, Baby Heart Throb, Baby Blossom, Baby Cotton Candy, and Baby Surprise.

"Hi, babies," said Twinkle Hearts, staring down at the baby ponies who were staring up at her with tiny eyes.

"Cwan you twell us a story? Pwetty pwease?" asked Baby Blossom.

"All right," said Twinkle Hearts, after what seemed like an hour, but was really just a minute. "As soon as we're at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe."

"Ya-a-a-a-a-a-ay-y-y-y-y!" yelled the babies, kicking up their heels for joy and rearing.

"Now, off we go!" said Twinkle Hearts, trotting off to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

"Hee hee!" laughed the babies, and they ran after her.

Twinkle Hearts ordered a vanilla sundae for herself and a giant chocolate milkshake for the babies. Then she got five straws (one for each of the babies) and walked to a table with her order.

"Swo, can you twell a story nwow?" asked all the babies together.

"Yes, and it's my history," Twinkle Hearts replied. Somehow, the baby ponies liked Twinkle Hearts, and they always wanted her to tell them a story. So, while the five babies were drinking their milkshake (with a few eavesdroppers listening in from nearby tables) Twinkle Hearts told her tale:

* * *
Baby Twinkle Hearts was playing tag with her little brother, Baby Tex.

"Mwe gonna cwatch you!" warned Baby Tex as he fell over a log.

"Not if you fall!" said Baby Twinkle Hearts.

"Lwittle sister!" came Baby Fizzy's voice. "Dat's not fair. Lwet me play!"

"Wokay," said Baby Twinkle Hearts, who was Baby Fizzy's little sister. "Me lwet ywou play."

So the three babies played tag until Baby Twinkle Hearts got the brilliant idea of going to the nearby river.

"Sounds pwetty good," said Baby Fizzy.

"Yweah, yweah; lwet's go there!" said Baby Tex. "Where's Bwaby Bwarnacle?" he asked.

"Hwe's alright," said Baby Twinkle Hearts, and she led her siblings over to the river. Baby Barnacle was boating on it happily.

"Baby Bwarnacle, can I play with you?" asked Baby Tex.

"Swure." said Baby Barnacle, paddling his raft over to his siblings.

"Yweah!" cheered Baby Tex as he ran down the shore and jumped on the raft.

Meanwhile, Baby Fizzy and Baby Twinkle Hearts tried to see if they could swim. "Mwe can swim, ‘n you can't!" teased Baby Fizzy.

"Cwan two!" an angry Baby Twinkle Hearts replied. "Mwe prove it!" So, she dove into the river.

I hope I can turn into a baby sea pony, she thought as she dove. Baby Twinkle Hearts struggled to turn herself into a sea pony. Suddenly, her back legs disappeared and a curly tail took their place. Her front legs turned into fins. Around her waist was a pink and blue striped turtle float. "You cwan't dwo that!" teased Baby Twinkle Hearts, bobbing up to the surface.

"Mmmmm..." said Baby Fizzy. As all ponies are unique, Baby Fizzy couldn't change shape-- but she did have talents of her own.

"Me cwan see cool stwuff you cwan't," continued Baby Twinkle Hearts.

"Mwe can swim, too!" cried Baby Fizzy. She dove into the water, and would have drowned if Surf Rider hadn't been there.

"A pony that lives on land can't-- no matter what-- live in the water. Now, run along, and be a good baby pony," the sea pony warned, setting Baby Fizzy on the ground.

"Yes, Swurf Rider," sobbed Baby Fizzy, her mane dripping water and tears forming in her eyes.

"Me sworry, Baby Fwizzy. I jwust wanted two show off. Swerves mwe right. Mom's gonna spank me," said Baby Twinkle Hearts sadly.

Baby Twinkle Hearts then used her fins to pull herself out of the water. "Now I turn back into uwnicorn," she said, and swiftly changed back to her normal form.

"I love you," said Baby Twinkle Hearts to Baby Fizzy.

"And I love you, too," said Baby Fizzy.

To be continued...


Baby Firefly's First Day of Work
by Tabby

"Emilio still throws a fuss whenever you're not there to check him over," Thomas commented to Tabby as they walked together to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe after work.

Emilio was Tex's pet tarantula, but he was unusually intelligent for being... well... a tarantula. "If he didn't have such a despicable owner," Tabby said with scorn, "I might consent to give house calls." Tex was known as her arch-enemy.

"If you ever want to come back to work at the vet clinic..." Thomas continued teasingly.

Tabby sniffed. "Hmph! You know full well I wouldn't give up being nurse at the Pokèmon Center for anything, Thomas!"

"And superglue or those potions can fix any Pokèmon ailment?" Thomas prodded. "How does that superglue work?"

"It's a secret known only by--"

"Tabby! Tabby! You're just the pony I want to see!" Firefly came dashing up, cutting Tabby off in mid-sentence.

Tabby frowned. She didn't like being cut off in mid-sentence. "What?" she questioned in annoyance.

"Well, you know tomorrow is Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day," Firefly continued.

"Actually, I didn't know that, and--"

"Anyway," Firefly went on, once again cutting Tabby's line short, "my Baby Firefly is so set on being a Pokèmon nurse when she grows up."

"And just what," Tabby said in exasperation, "does that have to do with me?"

"You would take her to work with you tomorrow, wouldn't you?" Firefly implored, smiling winningly. "It would mean the world to my daughter if she could be at the Pokèmon Center for a whole day, working right next to you on all those injured Pokèmon so in need of healing--"

"Cut the description," Tabby snarled. "I don't want any baby pony getting in my way all day."

"Please, Tabby," Firefly pleaded. "She'll be a perfect angel."

"How much does she know about Pokèmon, anyway?" Tabby countered.

"Everything," Firefly assured her. "In fact, she can name all one hundred fifty in one minute."

"Well, anybody can do that easily enough," Tabby sniffed.

"Let's hear you do it," Firefly suggested.

"Hmm... Bulbasaur, Ivysaur, Venusaur... there's the first three..." Tabby paused. "Meowth, Persian, Pikachu, Raichu, err..."

Firefly smiled snobbishly. "Baby Firefly can do much better than that. But you can hear that for yourself tomorrow."

"What?!" Tabby shrieked. "I'm not allowing that baby pony in the center!"

"It's not against any laws," Firefly said airily.

"Wouldn't she much rather be a veterinarian instead?" Tabby prodded. "I'm sure Thomas would be glad to show her around the clinic tomorrow."

"She's only going to settle for going to the Pokèmon Center," Firefly explained. "Baby Firefly adores Pokèmon so much more than ordinary animals."

"Sorry, Tabby," Thomas chuckled. "You can't get me into it that easily."

Tabby sniffed. How else could she wheedle her way out of it? Hmm...

"Now, what can I bribe you with..." Firefly was pondering. "Tabby, what's the eighties' toy you want most in the world?"

"The plush Proud Heart Cat," Tabby said smugly. It was a rare, proto-type Care Bear Cousin, and there was no way Firefly would be able to get her hooves on one.

Firefly paused for a second. "Plush Proud Heart Cat? I should be able to get that one-- would you take Baby Firefly to the center with you if I got you that?"

Tabby choked back a gasp. What kind of connections did Firefly have, anyway? Well, if Firefly was able to get Proud Heart, she might as well try to get as much out of this deal as possible. "I'd want the poseable version of Proud Heart as well," she continued. "As well as plush and poseable in Loyal Heart Dog."

"Perfect!" Firefly beamed. "Those will be simple enough for me to find. I have a friend that works in the toy business..."

"Of course, if you're really serious about having Baby Firefly at the center all day," Tabby went on, "I'd need both versions of all those rare Care Bear Cousins. If you can do that... I might agree to taking Baby Firefly with me."

"Great!" Firefly exclaimed. "It's a deal. All those toys will be delivered to you by tomorrow evening. My friend has never let me down yet!"

"You can drop Baby Firefly off at the center at eight o' clock tomorrow," Tabby figured. "I'll expect all those Cousins on my doorstep by six o' clock that evening."

"Wonderful! You don't know how much this will mean to Baby Firefly!" Firefly gushed. "I can't wait to let her know-- and to contact my friend in the toy business, that is." She smiled brightly at Tabby and flew off again.

As Thomas and Tabby continued their walk to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, Tabby was muttering figures to herself. "If there're six different Care Bear Cousins, and two versions each... they're each worth several thousand jangles, I'm sure... that would make their total-- well, a lot-- and that just might make having to put up with Baby Firefly for a day worth it. And then there's..."

* * *
Tabby skipped out her door the next day, with Tarquin running along behind her. "Just one day with Baby Firefly, and I'll have all those Care Bear cousins!" she sighed dreamily to her Meowth.

"Just don't make me show the kid around or anything," Tarquin said promptly.

"If we're lucky, we can just get Baby Firefly to surf the internet all day," Tabby suggested. "A baby pony can't be that interested in being a Pokèmon nurse. She'll be glad to use the computer instead."

"You're about to find out how interested she is, ‘cause she's up ahead waiting outside the center." Tarquin suddenly halted.

"She got here this early?" Tabby said in dismay. "I though Firefly might wait until ten, at least." Up ahead was the Pokèmon Center, and Baby Firefly was patiently waiting at the door. When she saw Tabby, she trotted down the stairs to join up with her instructor for the day.

"It's two minutes past eight," Baby Firefly said critically. "The center ‘sposed to open at eight." She eyed Tabby suspiciously.

Tabby brushed past Baby Firefly. "Two minutes isn't going to make any difference," she said in exasperation. "Now, where's your mother?"

"Mommy let me wait for you all by myself," Baby Firefly said proudly. "She says me a very responsible baby pony. See? I even packed my own lunch!" She held up a brown paper bag.

"Responsible. Yeah, right," Tabby muttered to herself as she unlocked the door and shooed Baby Firefly and Tarquin inside.

"And what if a poor, sick Pokèmon showed up at eight, and you not here?" Baby Firefly demanded sternly. "They be in pain longer than they would need to be! Speakin' of sick ones, that Meowth following you look very, very sick."

Tarquin bristled. "I'm in perfect health," he informed Baby Firefly, rather annoyed.

"All the pictures I've seen of Meowths don't look nothin' like you do," Baby Firefly scoffed. "You a strange one."

"Tarquin is one of the most handsome Meowths of all time," Tabby retorted.

"Just ask Tess," Tarquin countered.

"Where you care for Pokèmon?" Baby Firefly went on, ignoring the past statements. "I must know how to work with them if someone is brought in."

"Hey!" Tabby jumped ahead of Baby Firefly, blocking the entrance to the examination room. "I do the work around here; you can only watch!"

Baby Firefly looked downcast. "Mommy said you let me do things," she said sadly.

"You'd screw it up, and do more harm than good to the poor Pokèmon," Tabby scowled. "Come on, you can just surf the internet." She pushed Baby Firefly towards the computer behind the main counter.

"That ain't what Pokèmon nurses do," Baby Firefly said stubbornly. "They take care of Pokèmon, not use computer."

"You'll have to use it while I check on the overnight patients," Tabby informed the baby pony. "Tarquin, let me know if anyone comes in with a Pokèmon."

"Yep, Tabby," Tarquin said distantly. He was busy writing a letter to Tess.

"Overnight patients?" Baby Firefly's face lit up. "Please let me see, Tabby! I promise to be good!"

"You can... watch," Tabby reluctantly agreed. "Just don't touch anything."

"Won't you let me do anything?" Baby Firefly pleaded. "Mommy did tell me I could do stuff."

Tabby ignored Baby Firefly as she led the way to the overnight room.

"I wanna be just like you when I grow up, only nice," Baby Firefly said exuberantly. "I'll have a Pokèmon Center, and all the Pokèmon in the world will like me, and I'll let baby ponies work there, and I'll have two million Pokèmon of my own, and I'll get paid a lot, and I'll live in a castle--"

"I don't live in a castle," Tabby suddenly interrupted Baby Firefly's prattling as she opened a door in the hallway.

"That's because you don't like baby ponies," Baby Firefly explained. "But I will, so I'll get a castle..." Her eyes opened wide as she walked through the door. "Ooh! Wook at all the sick Pokèmon!"

"And they'll feel a lot better if you don't do anything to them," Tabby said briskly as she lifted the glass dome covering a Psyduck.

Baby Firefly pouted. "You won't let me have any fun today," she sniffed.

Tabby lifted the Psyduck up into the air. "My, you're looking much better this morning, Psyduck!" she exclaimed. "That Diglett certainly did give you a beating, didn't he?"

"Psy," Psyduck agreed, holding his wings up to his head.

"Me make Psyduck feel better!" Baby Firefly called out, and ran over and attempted to grab Psyduck from Tabby's hold. Unfortunately, that made Tabby lose her grip on the poor duck, and Psyduck fell to the floor.

"Psyduck," he sighed.

"Look what you did!" Tabby shrieked angrily at Baby Firefly. "Just look what you did!" She set Psyduck back on the counter.

Baby Firefly cowered. "I didn't mean to," she whimpered. "Please don't be mad."

"I told you not to interfere," Tabby muttered.

"He looked so sad; me just wanted to console him!" Baby Firefly exclaimed, her spunk returning. "It's your fault you dropped him!"

"My fault?" Tabby's eyes swerved to meet Baby Firefly's. "How dare you--"

"Chansey?" One of the center's Chanseys entered the room. "Chansey!"

"Yes, Chansey, I have everything under control here-- pretty much," Tabby informed Chansey. "You say someone just brought a bruised Pokèmon in? You can spray a potion on it. And, take this baby pony back to the main counter-- make sure she doesn't get into any trouble."

"Chansey!" The pink Pokèmon obediently went over to Baby Firefly, and pointed towards the door. "Chansey!"

"Me can't help you here, Tabby?" A tear rolled down Baby Firefly's face. "I wouldn't mess up again."

"Oh, yes you would!" Tabby exclaimed. "Go now! Shoo!" With Baby Firefly temporarily in Chansey's care, Tabby closed the door of the overnight room. Now she could look over the Pokèmon without an interfering baby pony.

"Psy." Psyduck was getting restless.

"Yes, Psyduck, you're okay." Tabby stroked him gently. "In fact, you'll be able to go back to Starshine today."

"Psy! Psyduck!" Psyduck said excitedly. It obviously put him in better humor.

"I'll just make sure everyone else here is doing okay." Tabby went over to the next case, where a Butterfree was resting.

"Freee..." Butterfree said weakly.

"Still not feeling the best?" Tabby said sympathetically-- she really could be rather kind, to Pokèmon, at least. "No bother; another potion and you'll be fully healed by tomorrow."

Around the room she went, checking on everyone. Starshine's Psyduck and Patch's Vulpix were both in good enough condition to go back to their homes. "Come along, you two!" she called out to the two Pokèmon. "I'll call your trainers now."

"Vulpix!" Vulpix said exuberantly, and bounded after Tabby, back down the hallway. Psyduck waddled behind.

"Psy," he said.

"Tarquin-- Chansey-- Baby Firefly-- did anything happen out here while I was gone?" Tabby inquired upon reaching the main counter.

"Chansey!" Chansey responded.

"Chansey sprayed a potion on someone's Charmander," Tarquin translated. "I made Baby Firefly shut-up and use the computer." He nodded towards the computer desk.

"Good," Tabby said in satisfaction. "Keep an eye on her while I make a few calls, Tarkie--"

"Calls?" Baby Firefly said brightly, pushing her chair away from the computer. "Let me help!"

"You wouldn't know what to say," Tabby said simply and picked up the phone receiver.

"Tell me what to say, and I'll do it right," Baby Firefly pleaded.

"That's what you said last time, and you ended up having Psyduck fall on the floor," Tabby said sharply.

"It was your fault he fell," Baby Firefly explained. "I make phone calls; my Mommy lets me use phone at home."

Tarquin glanced at them both in annoyance. "Tone it down, would you? I'm trying to write a letter."

"I can write, too," Baby Firefly said promptly. "I'll write it for you, silly-lookin' Meowth."

"I am not silly-looking," Tarquin retorted, snatching up his paper and pen. "I'm going back to the emergency room, where this baby pony won't be bugging me." He jumped down from the counter and walked away.

"It's highly unhealthy to make Tarquin mad at you," Tabby informed Baby Firefly. "His claws are extremely sharp."

"He must be a really badly-trained Pokèmon if he'd use his attacks on an innocent baby pony," Baby Firefly commented.

"Stop insulting Tarquin!" Tabby commanded.

"Just statin' facts," Baby Firefly said innocently.



Tabby looked down at the two bored Pokèmon. "Now you've made me forget about these two," she scolded Baby Firefly. "Get out of my way while I make those calls."

"Wokay," Baby Firefly said, and scurried back to the computer. "Me just sit here like a good baby pony."

Tabby nodded in satisfaction... but she wondered just how long Baby Firefly would stay out of her way.

* * *
Finally, lunch break came along. Tabby breathed a sigh of relief. At least she'd survived this far. Maybe she would make it to the end of the day.

"It's time to go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe for lunch," Tabby announced to Baby Firefly.

Baby Firefly stared at her. "Why not eat lunch here?"

"Because," Tabby said impatiently, "it is easier to go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe."

"And just what if someone brings in a Pokèmon while you're gone?" Baby Firefly demanded.

"They'll know that I'll be back in a little while," Tabby sighed.

"That's not a good way of looking at it," Baby Firefly said in disapproval. "Me stayin' right here. I did pack a lunch, you know."

"Then you stay here, and I'll go to the Sweet Shoppe," Tabby snarled.

"If you like it that way," Baby Firefly said simply, and pulled out her brown paper bag.

"No one will come while I'm out, anyway," Tabby retorted. "You'll be bored stiff." After finding Tarquin, she trotted defiantly out of the center with her Meowth behind her. Baby Firefly was left at the center alone-- besides the Chanseys.

* * *
"And did Firefly come to pick up Baby Firefly already?" Sugarberry questioned Tabby at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. "I see she's not with you."

"Oh, Baby Firefly." Tabby waved her hoof in dismissal. "She wanted to stay at the center, so I just let her. She has a lunch with her."

"Tabby!" Sugarberry looked shocked. "It's not good leaving a baby pony on her own!"

"She has the Chanseys to look after her," Tabby said simply.

"It is impossible to write letters with that baby pony around," Tarquin sighed. "I could hear you two arguing even in the back room. I wish Merry Treat had volunteered today."

Sugarberry still looked disapprovingly at Tabby. "I'm sure Firefly won't be pleased about it."

"Hmph!" Tabby stuck her nose in the air and refused further comment.

* * *
Returning back to the center, Tabby didn't notice anything amiss... until she realized that Baby Firefly wasn't at the computer, where Tabby had left her when she went out.

"Perhaps she ran home," Tarquin suggested.

"We can always hope," Tabby agreed. "Let's question the Chanseys." She peered into the examination room. "Uh-oh," she groaned.

There, a Squirtle lay on the table. Chansey was attending to the Squirtle's wounds, but Baby Firefly was there as well.

"You'll let me spray the potion, won't you?" Baby Firefly pleaded to the Chansey. "I'm sure you're nicer about it than Tabby."

"Chansey!" Chansey paused for several seconds, but handed the potion bottle over to the baby pony.

"You're a very nice Pokèmon," Baby Firefly said. "I like you." She began to spray the potion, but not in the right direction. It squirted Tabby, who was still standing in the doorway, directly in the face.

Tabby shrieked, wiping away the liquid solution. "How dare you do that to me?! That's why I didn't want you to do anything!"

Tarquin scurried away again. He didn't want any part in this "Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day" thing.

"I'm sorry, Tabby," Baby Firefly said earnestly. "Me didn't mean to. I'll put it on the Squirtle this time." She posed the bottle over the Squirtle.

"Oh, no you don't!" Tabby ran over and grabbed the bottle from Baby Firefly. "I'm taking care of it this time!"

"Chansey, chansey." Chansey looked undecided.

Tabby handled the potion with ease, and within minutes, the Squirtle was looking much happier. "That's how you do it," Tabby said sharply to Baby Firefly.

"Squirtle!" Squirtle jumped up on his hind legs on the table. "Squirtle squirtle!"

"Oh, he's so cute!" Baby Firefly squealed. "Mr. Squirtle, I almost got to be the one to heal you!"

"Squirtle." Squirtle looked up at Tabby imploringly.

"He wants to get back to his trainer now," Tabby explained, picking Squirtle up. "Chansey, who brought him in? When are they coming back?"

"Chansey. Chansey." Chansey nodded vigorously.

"Soon, you say?" Tabby questioned. "Well, Squirtle, you'll just wait at the front desk until they come back."

"I still didn't get to do anything," Baby Firefly whined, running along beside Tabby up to the main counter.

"You got to hold a potion in your hoof; that should be enough," Tabby declared.

"No, no!" Baby Firefly shook her head. "I should--"

Just then, the doors opened. In walked Surprise... behind her trotted Baby Surprise. "Hello!" Surprise called out merrily.

"Does Squirtle here belong to you?" Tabby questioned.

"Yes, indeed!" Surprise giggled. "Is he alright now?"

"Uh-huh," Tabby confirmed. "Ready to take home."

"Squirtle!" Squirtle happily ran over to Surprise, who embraced him.

"You're so sweet, Squirtle," Surprise said affectionately before turning her attention back to Tabby. "Did you hear the latest gossip, Tabby?"

"Depends on what it is," Tabby said absent-mindedly.

"It's the most interesting thing!" Surprise raved, forgetting about her daughter. "Buttons told me that Tiffany was seen..."

Tabby glanced at the clock, not really listening to Surprise. She hoped this day would get over with quickly, and there would be no more Baby Firefly to worry about.

"...I've got to find out if it's true or not," Surprise finished, after about five minutes. "I should be going now. Baby Surprise, come here! Time to leave!"

Tabby gasped at a sudden realization. "Baby Firefly's gone! I hope she isn't messing around with anything, because if she is--"

"Baby Surprise has gone off, too," Surprise said. "They must have wandered off together to play." She laughed. "Always playing, Baby Surprise is."

Tabby marched resolutely down the hallway. She heard giggling coming from the overnight room. Throwing open the door and standing in the doorway, she made a foreboding sight to the two baby ponies.

Baby Surprise had been hiding under one of the beds. Baby Firefly had pulled the sheet off one and had it draped over her head, obviously pretending to be a ghost. She stumbled blindly around; but when she heard the sudden gasp from Baby Surprise, she stumbled over, nearly knocking over the table with the resting Butterfree inside.

"What are you two doing in here?" Tabby said menacingly.

Surprise looked over Tabby's shoulder. "Tee hee!" she giggled. "Just look at the fun they were having."

"You've made an awful mess," Tabby scolded, pulling the sheet off of Baby Firefly. "Shoo! Out of here! Both of you!"

"Let's go home, Baby Surprise," Surprise said, and mother and daughter merrily trotted out the main doors.

"Baby Firefly," Tabby growled, after they got back to the main counter, "you have been nothing but a nuisance all day."

"I'm sorry," Baby Firefly whimpered.

"You have disrupted the lives of many Pokèmon," Tabby continued.

"Me didn't mean to..."

"Go back to the computer," Tabby ordered. "You're not to get out of that seat until your mother comes back for you."

Baby Firefly sniffled a bit as she sat back down in the chair, but she was soon ready to put Tabby down again. "I'll be a much better nurse than you are," she declared cheerfully.

"Why, you little..." Tabby muttered under her breath. How was she going to endure these last few hours of having to deal with this baby pony?

* * *
Tabby could hardly contain her joy when Firefly entered the Pokèmon Center. "Here's Baby Firefly for you," she said gleefully, pushing Baby Firefly forward.

"Thank you so much for doing this with her," Firefly gushed. "I'm sure it meant a lot to her."

"Tabby didn't let me do anything," Baby Firefly complained.

Firefly laughed. "Now, now, don't say that!" Turning to Tabby, she continued, "Oh, and about those Care Bear Cousin toys--"

"Yes, they'll be waiting for me when I get home, won't they?" Tabby said eagerly.

"Of course," Firefly said, smiling winningly. "They should have been delivered this afternoon."

"She don't deserve nothin'," Baby Firefly scoffed. "Tabby no fun."

"Thanks again!" Firefly said cheerfully. "It's so honorable of you to do this for just getting a few toys in return."

"Buh-bye!" Tabby waved happily as Firefly and Baby Firefly walked out of the center.

"That baby pony's gone?" Tarquin walked up to Tabby. "Is it time to go home? Will Tess be at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe later?"

"Yes, let's get home, Tarkie." Tabby quickly shooed Tarquin out the door. "Hurry! Hurry! We have to get there as soon as possible!"

"Is Tess visiting?" Tarquin asked eagerly.

"No, but it's just as good," Tabby continued. "Those Care Bear Cousin toys will be waiting for me!"

"Oh," Tarquin said distractedly as he stared at the display in the window of the floral shop. "Do you think Tess would like that bouquet?"

"No time for that now!" Tabby said briskly.

"I suppose," Tarquin said reluctantly.

"Keep walking!" Tabby urged. "I simply cannot wait to get those Care Bear Cousins!"

* * *
"There's no box on the porch!" Tabby exclaimed in alarm.

"Perhaps Tamara was home and took it inside," Tarquin said, coming out of Tess-land and returning to the real world.

"Wait, there's something taped to the door!" Tabby bounded up the porch steps. "The delivery man probably stuck it in the shed out back."

"Let me read it." Tarquin jumped ahead of Tabby and managed to grab the paper off the door. " ‘Dear Tabby,' " he read aloud, " ‘I am so sorry, but I just found out I'm not able to get those Care Bear Cousins after all. Thank you again for having--' "

"What in the world does that say?" Tabby shrieked, snatching the note from Tarquin's paws.

"That's what's written," Tarquin said, bracing himself for one of Tabby's rages.

Tabby finished reading. " ‘--Thank you again for having Baby Firefly at the center; since I'm sure she wasn't a problem for you, you won't mind no getting anything in return. Baby Firefly enjoyed the day, but has decided she wants to be a vet instead of a Pokèmon nurse. Bye! Firefly.' "

Tabby viciously crumpled the note. "The nerve of that pony," she said menacingly. "How dare she not follow through on getting me those toys?! Ha! ‘I'm sure she wasn't a problem.' She's right! Baby Firefly was worse than a ‘problem'! She was-- she was--"

"You should get something for watching that brat," Tarquin muttered. "I didn't have any peace the whole day."

"Those two ponies shall fear my wrath!" Tabby declared. "I'm going to-- I'm going to-- well--"

"What is all this screaming about, Tabby?" Tamara demanded, suddenly opening the door with a feather-duster in her hoof.

"Do you know what I had to live through today?!" Tabby shrieked. "I had to watch over a-- a--"

"And you've let the living room get terribly dusty," Tamara went on, ignoring her cousin. "What are these strange knick-knacks, anyway? I was just about the throw them away."

"She was-- she was--" Tabby suddenly stood still and forgot about describing Baby Firefly as she saw what Tamara was holding in her other front hoof: two small red-and-white balls. "Why, they're my--"

"PokèBalls!" Tarquin said indignantly. "Those are PokèBalls, not knick-knacks, Tamara!"

"I wondered where they'd went!" Tabby exclaimed gleefully, grabbing the two balls from Tamara. "I couldn't find them for the longest time. I hope Jigglypuff and Oddish are still okay."

A look of realization suddenly dawned on Tamara's face. "Oh! That's what those look like!" she giggled. "Clever Clover gave me a PokeBall for my Persian, but I never even thought of using it. Funny, I entirely forgot what they looked like."

Tabby pressed the white button on one of the PokèBalls, and a round, pink creature with large eyes appeared on the porch-- her Jigglypuff!

"Puff!" Jigglypuff turned to Tarquin. "Puff! Jigglypuff!"

"Jigglypuff wants to know why you forgot about her," Tarquin translated to Tabby.

Tamara looked down at Jigglypuff in disdain. "Be sure those creatures of yours aren't running around the house tonight, Tabby," she said. "I've invited Tex over for dinner, and the house must look positively nice."

"I didn't mean to forget you," Tabby was explaining to Jigglypuff. "I just-- well, I lost your PokeBall, actually... but don't tell anyone, would you?" Tabby suddenly perked her head up at her cousin's last statement. "What did you just say?" she hissed. "You've invited Tex over?!"

"I don't see why you don't like him," Tamara said in annoyance. "I'd invite you to join us, but I know you'd ruin the evening."

"Hmph!" Tabby clenched the other PokeBall tightly in her hoof. "Don't worry about having me ruin it! I'm going to be in my room with my Pokèmon until it's time to go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe!"

Tarquin looked over at Jigglypuff and sighed. It was rather boring having to listen to another argument between these two.

"I'm glad," Tamara retorted. "I can't stand the way you insult Tex all the time."

"Tarquin, Jigglypuff, come with me," Tabby directed, and brushed past Tamara into the house. This was turning out to be a rather bad day. First, having to put up with Baby Firefly... and then having Tex in her house! She shuddered at the thought. At least she'd found her PokèBalls, after all this time.

Tabby flounced up the stairs, with Jigglypuff and Tarquin following her. Seating herself in the chair in front of the computer in her room, Tabby squealed. "Now for Oddish! Come on out!"

In a beam of reddish light, Tabby's second PokeBall opened, and there was Oddish: a small blue Pokèmon with bright green leaves on her head. "Oddish?" The Pokèmon looked questioningly up at Tabby.

"Yes, I'm sorry I lost your PokèBalls," Tabby apologized again. "I'll be sure not to do it again."



Tabby's last statement was obviously met with approval. All three of her Pokèmon looked cheerful and healthy. They were wonderful friends, and Tabby deeply regretting losing Oddish and Jigglypuff.

The three fellow Pokèmon appeared to have gotten into a lengthy discussion. "That's right", "Puff", and "Oddish" were frequently heard by Tabby.

Tabby sighed contentedly as she set to work playing the latest computer game programmed by Friendly. Perhaps the day hadn't turned out that bad, after all!


The Merry Treat and Tabby Gossip Hour!
by Merry Treat and Tabby

Tabby: Here we are again!

Merry Treat: Hello-o-o-o-o-o!!!!!!!!! So-o-o-o-o...

Tabby: Have your Pokèmon improved since last month, MT?

Merry Treat: A little... but they are still pretty weak... and having Steamer beat me in a match didn't help any.

Tabby: How evil of him! *mutters*

Merry Treat: Yeah! ~grumbles~

Tabby: The summer garage sale season is starting all over Dream Valley!

Merry Treat: Garage sales! Oh, I love those! ~starry eyes and excited tone~

Tabby: Tiffany is hoping to find some good jewelry. I, of course, want more eighties' toys for my collection!

Merry Treat: I'd love to find more My Little Persons around! And some Sailor Moon and Pokèmon stuff!

Tabby: I'm in dire need of the rare Tweeg puppet.

Merry Treat: ~waves around her Sailor Moon Memorial Album~ I've never seen Tweeg... but I'm in dire need of a Sailor Mars doll!

Tabby: And, of course, there's a zillion other things I need as well...

Merry Treat: Yeah... hey, the seventh grade Night of Notables was last month!

Tabby: Did you go to see it? How'd the night go?

Merry Treat: Well, the students went all out with some of those costumes! But they looked bored stiff! The best costume there was Sacagawea. Melody acted as her-- she got the costume perfect.

Tabby: I suppose Melody would be good at coming up with a costume. Clover gave a reading on ballet, didn't she?

Merry Treat: Well... I don't recall anybody being a ballet dancer...

Tabby: I did hear someone tripped and fell on stage, and ended up with a broken foot.

Merry Treat: Huh? Well, somebody tripped over their dress, but didn't break their foot-- just twisted an ankle.

Tabby: Odd. Tiffany told me about the broken foot part, though; she's probably the one that spread the rumor.

Merry Treat: ~rolls eyes~ Well, the broken foot didn't happen. Tiffany loves to spread rumors. I went to the Night of the Notables because Baby Cuddles invited me.

Tabby: And Tamara likes to spread rumors, and Primrose, and Dawn, and Royal Blue, and... *rambles on*

Merry Treat: Do you think Tamara would mind if I started calling her Tammy? I have an aunt named Tammy.

Tabby: She probably would mind... *evil grin* Why don't you try it out on her?

Merry Treat: ~evil grin~ Tee hee! Okay! Is she downstairs?

Tabby: ...I don't see why Tiffany and Tamara are so obsessed about going by full names... oh! Yeah, I think she's putting on makeup for her date with Tex tonight.

*several minutes later, in the downstairs level of Tabby's house*

Tabby: *nods to Merry Treat* There she is, looking at herself in the bathroom mirror.

Merry Treat: ~tries not to laugh~ Hey, Tammy, what's up?

Tamara: *swerves her head around* Tammy? Excuse me, you must have the wrong pony. Tabby, why do you keep inviting your friends over? It's disrupting when I'm trying to put makeup on.

Merry Treat: ~looks shocked~ Uhhh... well... errrr... you don't have to get upset about it.

Tabby: *sighs* What are you doing with Tex tonight, anyway?

Tamara: *brightens* Oh, I've just invited him over here for dinner!

Merry Treat: Over here? Tabby, you can come to my house tonight for dinner.

Tabby: *gasps* Over here?!?! Tamara! How could you?!?!

Tamara: *giggles* Tabby, you must join us. It'll be fun.

Merry Treat: I'm sure Tarquin would love to see Tess and Spearow.

Tabby: Well, I believe I'll be hanging out at MT's house tonight, Tamara... oh, yes! Tarquin is always writing letters to Tess in his spare time.

Merry Treat: Yeah, she has a whole drawer full of them.

Tabby: Dried flower bouquets, too, right?

Merry Treat: Yup. I think you and Tex should be alone tonight, Tammy. ~winks~

Tamara: You have my name wrong-- it's Tamara, not Tammy.

Merry Treat: Well, Tammy sounds so kawaii! Don't you think so, Tab?

Tabby: *nods vigorously* Yes, Tammy, I think that's a much better name for you than Tamara.

Tamara: Hmph! *goes back to her makeup*

Merry Treat: ~thinks~ Those two act so much alike! You'd think they were sisters or something! ~laughs like a hyena~

Tabby: *glances around* What's so funny?

Merry Treat: ~stops laughing, but grins mischievously~ Oh... nothing.

Tabby: *sniffs impatiently* You're hiding something from me.

Merry Treat: Huh? Oh, why would I ever do that? ~says this innocently, but is secretly thinking~ You have no idea!

Tabby: Because it sounds like something you'd do...

Merry Treat: ~changes subject~ And Tess gets this love-sick bullfrog look every time she thinks about Tarquin! ~giggles~

Tabby: Tarquin does the same thing when thinking about Tess... *breaks down laughing* Say, have you gotten any more roses from Salty lately?

Merry Treat: Oh, yeah... he also gives me Pokèmon. ~sighs dreamily~

Tabby: He just goes out and catches Pokèmon and gives them to you?!?!

Merry Treat: Not exactly...

Tabby: I've really got to catch more of my own.

Merry Treat: Oh, have fun tonight, Tammy! Say hi to Tex for me!

Tamara: Hmm? Do you think my eye shadow is a good color?

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... ~gazes at Tamara's face for a minute~ It's perfect!

Tamara: Thank you. *goes to staring at herself in the mirror again*

Tabby: *wanders to the living room* Tiffany thinks that she's the most beautiful pony of all time.

Merry Treat: ~snorts~ Go figure, with her! ~sits down on the couch next to Callie~

Tabby: She stares at herself in the mirror all day, a lot like Tamara is doing now... ah, hello, Miss Callie!

Merry Treat: ~scoops Callie up and hands her to Tabby~ Tamara and Tiffany are both very vain, don't you think?

Tabby: Such a sweet kitty... *strokes Callie* Yes, incredibly vain. How anyone can be so obsessed with beauty, I don't know.

Merry Treat: Hmmmmm... me either. Tee hee!

Tabby: There's so many other things in life to do than plan what makeup to wear. *yawns*

Merry Treat: ~wails~ My cat, Smokey, hates meeeeee!

Tabby: He hates you?!?! Whatever for?!?!

Merry Treat: I brought two tiny kittens in the house... now he throws a hissing and spitting fit whenever I try to go near him-m-m-m-m-m... ~wailing and sniffling~

Tabby: Sounds a lot like what Callie would do with kittens around. Isn't that right, Miss Callie? *sets Callie back on the couch*

Merry Treat: My other cats are bad about it, too... Whimsey, Winston, and Twinkle... only they do it to the kittens, not me.

Merry Treat: ~strokes Callie's soft fur~ Sweet kitty.

Tabby: You should see her when Sugarberry brings Fluff over to visit... there're hairballs flying left and right!

Merry Treat: Tee hee! That must be fun to watch!! ~laughs~ Did you ever find out why Callie and Fluff and Fuzz wandered off like that?

Tabby: I think she has a crush on Fuzz, though... oh, yeah, that time when all three wandered off! Nope, I have no idea on that.

Merry Treat: Hmmmmm... very strange...

Tabby: But remember the first time when that rat singing group performed?

Merry Treat: Oh, man! They were so cute to watch!

Tabby: They're planning another performance next week.

Merry Treat: Cool!

Tabby: Are you going to go see them again?

Merry Treat: Eh... I might. ~shrugs~

Tabby: I think they're cool. Especially with that cute Marlfox singer!

Merry Treat: Yeah, that fox is so pretty! For some odd reason, I wanna hear Faith Hill...

Tabby: Their last concert was a big hit. They made almost a thousand jangles.

Merry Treat: One thousand jangles!? Cool! ~messes with something in her pocket~

Tabby: They donated a portion of it to help feed poor ponies, though.

Merry Treat: That's cool! Very generous of them.

Tabby: I should get my Jigglypuff and Oddish out of their PokèBalls.

Merry Treat: Why? Do ya wanna match or something?

Tabby: I haven't gotten them out for weeks. *looks apologetic, and reaches for her PokèBalls* Jigglypuff, Oddish, come on out and say hi to the readers!

Merry Treat: Hey! I should let out my Jigglypuff; and Kittyhawk, Vulpix, and Eevee!

Oddish: *walks around the room* Oddish. Oddish.

Merry Treat: ~tosses the PokèBalls~

Tabby's Jigglypuff: Puff! *sits down on the couch*

~all Merry Treat's Pokèmon pop out~

Tabby: Hey, Kittyhawk! Vulpix! Eevee! Jigglypuff!

Merry Treat's Jigglypuff: Puff! ~sits next to Tabby's~

Vulpix: Vulpix!

Tabby's Jigglypuff: *eyes light up* Puff! Puff! *looks at Merry Treat's*

Oddish: Oddish? *cautiously walks toward Vulpix*

Merry Treat's Jigglypuff: ~grins~ Jiggly!

Vulpix: Pix? ~eyes the Oddish~

Kittyhawk: ~walks up to Callie~ Kittyhawk?

Oddish: *waves leaves in air* Oddish? *is afraid of Oddish, as she's weak to fire Pokèmon*

Callie: *lets out a low growl*

Tamara: *enters the room in that instant, and shrieks* TABBY! WHAT ARE ALL THESE CREATURES DOING IN HERE?!?!?!

Kittyhawk: Kitty! ~jumps into MT's lap~

Eevee: ~does the same~ Eeeeeveeeee!

Tabby: *looks indignant* Tamara, if you've invited Tex over, it's only fair that MT and I can get out all our Pokèmon.

Merry Treat: Tamara! You scared Eevee and Kittyhawk! Apologize to them right now!

Tamara: Well! Just be sure they're not running around when Tex is here! *sniffs at the two Pokèmon in Merry Treat's lap* I don't need to apologize for anything. *flounces back out of the room*

Tabby: That cousin of mine... *mutters*

Merry Treat: ~scowls at Tamara, but says nothing~ It's okay, you two... ~coos and hugs Kittyhawk and Eevee~

Oddish: *talks energetically to Vulpix* Oddish! Odd! Ish! Ish!

Merry Treat: Where is that Persian of Tamara's, anyway?

Vulpix: Vulpix vul! Pix pix vulpix!

Tabby: I think she took Persian over to the Perm Shoppe, to get fixed up for tonight. That pony goes all out when she invites Tex!

Merry Treat: ~rolls eyes~ I thought that Pokèmon didn't like Tex

Tabby: I know Persian doesn't like Tex any more than I do, but Tamara hasn't picked up on that fact yet.

Merry Treat: ~scowls again in the direction that Tamara went~

Tabby: She simply can't be nice to Pokèmon... except for snobby Persian.

Merry Treat: Errrrrrr... she's heartless towards them!

Tabby: At least she doesn't stop by the Pokèmon Center anymore.

Merry Treat: Das ist gut! Heaven forbid her to come to the gym!

Tabby: She wouldn't dare want Persian to fight, anyway.

Merry Treat: Hey! Where's Tarquin?

Tabby: I think he's in the kitchen... or else out shopping for more cherry pie filling.

Merry Treat: Okay. Tess was asking about him last night.

Tabby: And if he's out, he'll probably pick out some jewelry or flowers for Tess, of course.

Merry Treat: Tee hee! Well, of course!

Tabby: She's all Tarquin ever thinks about! *giggles*

Merry Treat: Same thing with Tess! ~giggles~

Tabby: And... *brightens* ...Friendly finished playing Monkey Island 3 yesterday afternoon! Guybrush and Elaine finally got married, after three games.

Merry Treat: It took them three games to get married?

Tabby: Yep. ‘Tis the sad truth.

Merry Treat: ~sighs and shakes head~ Poor dears.

Tabby: It's quite a long story, and I believe it would bore you poor readers to death.

Merry Treat: It would bore ME to death, Tabby.

Tabby: *nods vigorously* You're right. So, it all started on the island of Mêlee... *rambles on about Monkey Island*

Merry Treat: Oh, no! ~slaps forehead~

Tabby: *concludes the story, after about half an hour* Now, isn't that the coolest story of all time?!

Merry Treat: ~fell asleep, it was so boring~

Tabby: *looks annoyed* MT, that was a thrilling story! How dare you fall asleep?!?!

Merry Treat: ~wakes up~ THE CAPITAL OF ALABAMA IS TEXAS!!!!!

Tabby: Wow-ee! Never heard that before.

Merry Treat: Huh? Ohhhh... hehe... sorry... taking up Serena's study habits... ~sweatdrop~

Tabby: ...anyway, if any of you ponies have never seen the Monkey Island games, just stop by Friendly's Bushwoolie hole and watch him. And he's got lots of other computer games, too. *rambles off a list*

Merry Treat: From the way you just described them, I doubt they would be very much fun. ~sighs and picks up her Pokèmon comic, ignoring Tabby~

Tabby: W-e-e-ell! *sticks her nose up in the air and closes her eyes* BUT I SHALL GAIN MY REVENGE ON THOSE WHO OUTBID ME ON EBAY!!! I think I'll go for a vacation at Tweeg's tower someday, MT.

Merry Treat: I wanna visit Crystal Tokyo! ~claps front hooves together~ A beautiful city made of crystal...

Tabby: *daydreams about Tweeg's Tower*

Merry Treat: ~daydreams about Crystal Tokyo~

Tabby: Ah, a wonderful, dingy stone tower...

Merry Treat: A beautiful crystal palace...

Tabby: I hear Sugarberry's really going to take a vacation! She's getting a few days off from work.

Merry Treat: Cool! Where's she going?

Tabby: She hasn't decided yet, but she wants to do a lot of bird-watching. Chocolate Chip will be filling in for her at the vet clinic as secretary while she's gone.

Merry Treat: ~sits in silence~

Tabby: *settles back down* Okay, anyway. What else has gone on or will be going on? Any parties? Anyone moving away? Anyone moving in? Hmm? Hmm?

Merry Treat: Berry Bright moved away!!!!!!! ~wails over the loss of her friend~

Tabby: Moved away?!?! What city does she live in now?

Merry Treat: BERRY BRIGHT, IF YOU'RE READING THIS, I MISS YOU!!!!!! ~calls loudly~

Tabby: ME, TOO!!!!!

Merry Treat: She's somewhere in Nebraska... WE MISS YOU!

Tabby: *wails* It's so heart-breaking. If only Tex would move away!!! *wails even harder*

Merry Treat: He's not so bad Tabby

Tabby: Hmph. That's what everyone says. *sticks her nose up in the air again*

Merry Treat: ~makes a face and rolls her eyes~ Whatever you say, Tab.

Tabby: *yawns* I'm so bored out of my mind, MT.

Merry Treat: Me too... ~mumbles~ ...whatever you say...

Tabby: There are to be no more new Pokèmon episodes until this fall. *sniffles*

Merry Treat: You say I'm always making somethin' out of nothin'... ~continues mumbling~

Tabby: And why doesn't Ash show his Charizard anymore?!?!

Merry Treat: Hey! Wanna go to the mall?

Tabby: Uhh... sure!!!

Merry Treat: We can check out the guys.

Tabby: Hmph! Who cares about that?

Merry Treat: Well... if we run into Tiffany, she might care.

Tabby: True. And then we can tease her afterwards.

Merry Treat: ~evil grin~ Tee hee hee hee hee heeeee! ~rubs front hooves together evilly~

Tabby: Come on! Let's get goin'! *runs towards the door*

Merry Treat: ~dashes after Tabby~ BYYEEEEEEEE!!!!

Tabby: *calls out one final line...* And what IS the secret of Monkey Island, anyway?


New Beginnings
Shining Story #9
by Shining (

Author's Note: Well, it's been two fantastic years since the MLP Monthly was created, and exactly a year-and-a-half since the Shining series started. I love reading all of the stories in the newsletter each month, watching the contributors' stories evolve. You can always tell when authors find new topics that inspire them (Redwall?). ;-) I think it is so spectacular to read every writers' works over time; I feel as if I actually know them better through their writing. Anyway, before I get too poetic, let me just say congratulations to Tabby and everyone else who has made MLP Monthly such a success for so long! Keep up the good work everyone! Hugs and slurps!

"Okay," the delicate bay mare called to the group of three-year-olds, "the secret to dressage is to be light on your hooves. Be dainty like a ballerina." Blowing the thick black forelock out of her eyes, On My Honor watched as her gangly students jogged around the Olympic-sized indoor arena at Glorified Acres. Winter that year had been harsh, and Honor had had to resort to the stuffy arena inside.

She leaned wearily against the rail and watched as her students attempted to be graceful. Honor turned her finely-shaped head toward the bleachers that had been constructed in the arena where a small Little Pony and a young steel gray filly were conversing about innocent events of their worlds.

Honor smiled at her small daughter. Her two-year-old daughter, Mira, short for Expect A Miracle, reminded Honor of her father even more every day. Caesar, Mira's father, had been killed in a tragic automobile accident, and had never met his precious daughter. But the small gray filly reminded her mother of Caesar more every day.

A rangy bay strode fluidly up to Honor, pulling her out of her daydream. "Honor, can you show me how to do a capriole?" Her handsome young student, Adagio, had every sign of being a star.

Honor raised a refined eyebrow skeptically. "Are you sure you're ready for ‘Airs Above Ground?'"

Adagio nodded enthusiastically. "I've been working on it for a month, but I just don't know how to get high enough." He trotted easily out to the center of the ring to demonstrate. Executing an almost-perfect capriole, Adagio landed gracefully and loped back to his instructor.

Honor nodded thoughtfully. "That looks pretty good, Adagio," she praised. "To get a few more inches, try inhaling a deep breath right before you take off and then exhale it as you take off. That will give you more time to get your hind legs behind you."

A grin broke out on the bay colt's face. "Thanks, Honor," he said. Adagio dashed off to try his new move.

"Hello, love," a voice called behind Honor. Turning, Honor saw her best friend, Smooth Movin', approaching her with a grin on his face.

"Hey, Smoothie," Honor replied as the roan stallion joined her on the arena rail. "How's it going?" Honor had met Smoothie on her honeymoon in England with Caesar. He had decided to migrate to Glorified Acres when Honor had abruptly returned home, and had been a strong shoulder that the distraught mare had used time and time again to cry on.

Smoothie shrugged. "Not bad," he evaluated. "Signature is on the phone in the office," he added. "Moment's talking to her right now."

Honor frowned thoughtfully. Her father, Signature Required, and her mother, Shining, were world-class performers, but had left the show arena a few years earlier. Now, the famous couple traveled the world, giving clinics to show-circuit hopefuls. "Will you take over for me, Smoothie?" she asked the roan. "I'll be back in ten minutes, tops."

Smoothie shrugged again, agreeably. "Take all the time in the world, love," he replied with a grin, enhancing his British accent.

The bay mare turned to the bleachers. "Mira, honey, Grandsire is on the phone!" she called to her daughter. Mira scampered along after her mother to the barn office.

When Honor stepped into the office, she inhaled deeply. She had always loved the smell of the barn office. It was a scent of leather, hard work, love, and success. When she had been a foal, she used to sneak into the office and fall asleep in her father's lap as he studied show bills. Trophies, photos, and ribbons covered the walls of the small room. Many of them belonged to Honor.

After her refreshing breath, she waved to her twin brother, In A Moment, who was chatting animatedly on the telephone. Moment and Honor had always been close, although they were extremely different characters. Moment was jet-black like their father with a wide blaze that embellished his handsome face. Although the twins had grown up under the spotlight, Moment tended to shy away from the media attention, and had just recently returned from his "escape" in Paris where he was free to delve into his passion of artistic creativity.

"Dad, you'll love her," Moment enthused into the phone as his silvery-gray niece clambered into his lap. "She's perfect."

Honor smiled as she lowered herself wearily into a chair. Moment, no doubt, was telling Signature about his new mate, Eva. Eva, an evolved nickname from Happy Endings, was a best-selling novelist. Moment had rescued the fiery chestnut Arabian in a freak accident involving a hyperactive foal and the Eiffel Tower, and the two had fallen in love. Upon returning to Glorified Acres, Honor had immediately taken a liking to her new sister-in-law.

"Oh, Honor's here," Moment observed. "I'll let you talk to her now . . . okay . . . say ‘hi' to Mom for me . . . ‘bye." Moment said with finality, handing the telephone over to his sister.

"Thanks," Honor smiled. She brought the telephone up to her ear. "Hi, Dad!" she said cheerfully.

"Hi, Honor," Signature replied over the phone. Honor noted that he sounded tired.

"How's your tour going? Where are you guys?" Honor inquired.

"Well, that's the reason we called," the stallion said with a hint of solemnness. Honor felt her stomach sink. "We're in Kentucky right now, but Shining tripped the other day, and has a hairline fracture in her canon bone."

"Oh, no!" Honor exclaimed. Years before, Shining had been in a life-threatening accident which had shattered her right foreleg. The doctors predicted that she would never walk again, but Shining's determinateness had proved them wrong, and she had gone on to compete on the show circuit.

"She's fine," Signature assured his daughter. "But we're on our way home. I don't want to risk anything happening, so we'll come back to Glorified Acres and teach there."

Honor breathed a sigh of relief. She still had nightmares sometimes about her mother's accident. Bit A Lace, an old acquaintance of the family, had convinced Honor that the accident had been the twins' fault, and it had taken much persuasion to make them believe otherwise.

"I know you've done a wonderful job of taking care of the farm while we've been away," Signature praised. "I hope you don't mind us coming back."

"Oh, no! Not at all," Honor said. "It will be so nice to have you back." But as much as she looked forward to having Shining and Signature back on the farm, she wondered what she would do. With the two older horses teaching, there wouldn't be much for her, for she had vowed when Caesar died that she wouldn't show again. She chewed on her lip as her father continued.

"We'll be home in a few days. Shining needs to get a doctor's certificate before she can travel and I want her to get some more x-rays," Signature explained.

"Okay," Honor agreed. "I can't wait for you to get back!"

The bay mare could almost picture her father smiling over the phone line. "Give Mira my best wishes," he said fondly. "Good-bye, Sweetheart."

Honor hung up the phone and plunked into a leather chair. Moment raised a quizzical eyebrow in her direction. "What are you going to do once Mom and Dad get back, Honor?" her twin asked.

Honor shook her head as Mira clambered into her lap. "I don't know," she sighed, absent-mindedly running her small hoof through Mira's silvery mane. "I guess I'll just wait until they get back to figure it out."

"I say follow your heart, Honor. Chase your dreams," Moment suggested.

Grinning, Honor ruffled Moment's thick black mane. "Don't go poetic on me, Moment," she warned. "Make any more cheesy comment's like that, and I'll have to take away your poetic license."

With a mischievous glint in his eye, Moment winked at his niece. "A rose is a rose is a . . ." he cried dramatically, but was cut off by Honor's peals of laughter.

* * *
"That's great!" Honor cried encouragingly as Adagio sailed effortlessly over a five-foot vertical. "Let's end on a good note."

The bay colt jogged over to the rail looking tired, but satisfied. "Thanks, Honor," he smiled.

"We'll have to find a show for you pretty soon, Adagio," Honor predicted. "You're going to be brilliant." Honor smiled as she watched the young horse's face light up. "Let's take a winter trail to cool down," she suggested.

"Sure," Adagio agreed.

For a while, the two bays walked in easy silence, content to enjoy the winter scene without commentary. The snow was deep, almost to Honor's knees, making it slow going.

It was Adagio who finally broke the silence. "It's so pretty out here," he breathed.

"I know," Honor said quietly. "I come out here when I need to think." Her slender black legs punched through the powder, making a muted whisper.

Adagio turned with dark eyes to face his mentor. "What are you thinking now?" he asked.

Honor sighed. "I'm wondering what I should do now that my parents are coming back. And I'm thinking that I need to get away from Glorified Acres," she admitted.

The colt's breath puffed out of his finely-shaped nostrils like tendrils of smoke that curled around to kiss his muzzle again as he sighed. "It's going to be a lot harder to run away again, now that you have Mira," he said realistically.

"I know," Honor said miserably. "And I don't want to run away. I want to find a stable home, but I don't want to stay at Glorified Acres. This is my parents' farm; it was built using their dreams. Mine were shattered when Caesar died, and it's just not the same any more."

Adagio was quiet for a moment, mulling over Honor's distress. "What place makes you the happiest, Honor?" he asked.

"England," Honor replied automatically.

"Then go there," Adagio said simply.

"Oh," Honor said softly. It seemed so clear now. Though before, going back to England hadn't appealed to Honor, she realized that it was far enough past Caesar's death to return. After all, Mira had been born there. "Thank you, Adagio," she whispered, hugging him fiercely.

Once again, they resumed their winter walk in silence, but this time, there was a lighter atmosphere surrounding the two horses. However, now that Honor was cheered, she couldn't keep the stillness for long. "You'll come with me, won't you, Adagio?" she asked. "Do you have family here?"

Adagio made a face. "Nobody I want to be associated with," he replied with a grimace.

Honor shot him a quizzical look. "Who are you related to?" she asked curiously.

Adagio nearly spat out the name, his face contorted in dislike. "Sheza Classic Jewel," he growled. "Classy's my aunt."

Honor cringed, hearing the name of the palomino mare that had tried to sabotage her parent's success. Out of jealousy, Classy had her brother kidnap Shining and Honor. "How is she?" Honor asked politely.

Adagio snorted. "She's still training with Lacey at a barn in California called ‘Champions' Farm.' I think a better name would be ‘Cheaters' Farm.' "

Honor smiled. "Well, if it's any consolation, you're nothing like her," Honor chuckled.

Shooting Honor a wry smile, Adagio rolled his eyes. "Thanks," he said dryly. "Oh, and I'd love to go with you," he added.

"Great," Honor said with a smile. She shook her head, making her silky black mane fly back and forth, dislodging the thick snowflakes. "I'm going to head back to the barn. I have a lot of phone calls to make now," she winked. "Walk for fifteen more minutes and do some stretches," Honor ordered.

And with a flick of her thick black tail, Honor was off, bounding through the snow, leaving a mist of white in her wake.

* * *
"Yes, Mom, I'm sure that this is what I want to do," Honor said patiently.

"Okay, Sweetheart," Shining said in her soft-spoken way. "I understand the way you feel." Shining, a dark bay beauty, hobbled along beside her daughter, a cast encasing her right foreleg on their way to the arena.

Shining and Signature had arrived home a few days earlier, and since Honor had broken the news of her departure, everyone wanted to make sure that she was not making a mistake. Everyone, that is, except Mira. The precocious fuzzy filly was almost as excited about leaving as Honor was.

When Honor had told her small daughter about their impromptu departure, Mira had flung he forelegs around Honor's sleek neck. "I can't wait to go!" Mira said with childlike delight. And that's how Honor knew she wasn't doing the wrong thing.

"You'll be really impressed by how much Adagio has learned since you left," Honor said, changing the subject. Her excitement could be detected in her voice, making her mother smile.

"You always were so good with the students," Shining said admiringly. "I think you can relate to them more than I can. I was always so quiet and timid."

Honor beamed at the comment as she entered the dirt arena. Quickly, she scanned the area, finding Moment hunched over a drawing pad and Eva writing furiously on a manuscript, Smoothie occupying one half of the large arena doing a dressage pattern, and Adagio in the other half practicing flatwork.

The roan stallion paused and waved to Honor, a grin lighting up his roan face. "Hello, love!" he called. "Nice of you to join us."

The bay mare chuckled and strode purposefully over to Adagio. "Try relaxing your back a little more, Adagio," she called. The bay colt bobbed his head slightly to acknowledge and visibly relaxed, making his stride more fluid.

"That's good," Honor called. "Stop a minute so I can talk to you."

Gracefully, Adagio halted his performance and walked to the center of the ring, facing Honor and Shining. He bobbed his head politely in Shining's direction.

"Hello, Adagio," Shining spoke up. "You've made quite an improvement since I'd seen you last."

Adagio grinned at the compliment. "Thank you, Shining," he replied. "Honor's a wonderful teacher."

Honor blushed and cleared her throat. "Well, I have to go make some phone calls," she announced. "Finding a farm or even land in England is impossible!" Honor made a face and stuck out her tongue. "Mom, maybe you could give Adagio a few pointers," she suggested as she sauntered off.

As she walked to the main barn, Honor could hear Adagio chuckle followed by the sound of Shining's tinkling laugh and grinned. This is life! she thought with a sigh.

* * *
Slowly and methodically, Honor bonked her head against the solid oak desk in the barn's office. "I was wrong," she said out loud. "This is not life!" She held the phone tightly in her hooves, wringing it into digital oblivion.

Just as Honor was about to rip the phone out of the wall, the door swung open, revealing a tall roan stallion. "Hi, Honor," Smoothie greeted her warily. "Are you okay?"

"No," Honor said through clenched teeth. "I've called all over the United Kingdom and I can't find a single farm for sale." Out of frustration, Honor kicked the desk and immediately regretted it. "Ouch!" she cried. "I stubbed my hoof."

Smoothie grinned, watching his friend's antics and received a dark glare. "Okay," the roan stallion laughed. "I've got friends over by Harrogate who haven't publicly put their farm on sale yet, but are definitely selling. It's a two-hundred acre farm with a training barn, indoor and outdoor arena, and even a mile-long racetrack. I'm sure that if you wanted to, they'd let you go have a look at it before it was put on the real estate market."

Honor laughed out loud, but quickly seemed to change back to her dark mood. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?" she demanded in mock indignation. "Here, I've been, wasting the day away, and you waltz in and come up with the dream house? How dare you! I should . . ." But she didn't finish, for she was overcome by a fit of giggles. She gave her steadfast friend a quick hug before running out the office door.

"Honor," Smoothie called. "Where are you going?"

"I've got to pack!" Honor replied over her shoulder. "Call your friends and tell them we're on our way!"

* * *
"Oh, Mom, it's perfect!" the silvery gray filly squealed as the Glorified Acres crew walked up the long, landscaped drive in Harrogate. Though there wasn't as much snow on the ground as in Dream Valley, a brisk wind swirled around them, tousling their manes and tails.

Lightheartedly, Mira skipped up to the path to the training barn. Cautiously, she peered inside to find rows of neat wooden stalls. Honor grinned, watching her young daughter. She had known in a heartbeat that they would buy the farm. Now, it was only a matter of finding even more wonderful things to marvel at.

"Our whole barn is moving to Germany," the chestnut mare named Star explained. "So we didn't see any reason to keep the farm here."

Honor nodded. "This farm is so wonderful," she breathed excitedly.

She had caught up to Mira who was gazing into a stall. "This is my room," Mira declared. She went down the line, "And this will be Mama's room, and this is Smoothie's room, and this is ‘Dagio's room . . ."

Adagio walked up to Honor. "Pretty perfect, huh?" he asked.

Honor turned and smiled. "Perfect," she repeated. "Would you mind watching Mira for a few minutes? I've got to go check out the trails," she said softly.

Slowly, Honor lost herself in the rambling trails of her new farm. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a wisp of black tail and a gray body fly past. Honor dashed off after the silhouette, but it always seemed to be just out of reach.

Honor followed the dark shadow until she was breathless. Her secret ghost had led her to an open clearing where the humid mist covered a mysterious form. "Caesar," Honor said softly.

The figure bobbed its head. "I'll be okay now," Honor choked. "The farm is perfect, and Mira's so happy, and I'm so happy . . ." she trailed off.

The mist darkened Honor's shiny coat so that she looked almost black, a stark difference against the gray mist and green foliage. "I'll always love you, Caesar," she whispered. The bay--almost black--mare stood quietly in the clearing, facing an almost-shadow, and slowly, she blew a kiss. Then she tiptoed away, tears in her eyes, but a bright smile on her pretty face.

And as she turned off of the bridle path, and stood facing her new home, she heard the wind whisper her name. These are times of new beginnings, it said. Always and forever, Honor. The mare stopped to smile at the sun; the wind's voice was just like Caesar's.


Bouncy's Hope
Part 1
by Bouncy

Bouncy stepped out of the protection of Paradise Estate and felt the hot, dry wind hit her face and rustle her wings. It's been dry for too long, she thought to herself, and it's about time something was done about it!

She made sure her satchel and the books inside were secure, and then took off. These books are the key to Dream Valley's survival, she thought as she pumped her wings vigorously. She watched with dismay as the cracked, barren ground passed far below her, and she began to reflect on what had happened.

No one realized that anything was wrong at first, she decided. Less and less rain had fallen until finally none had fallen at all. It had been months since Dream Valley had last seen a crystalline drop of water fall onto the once-beautiful valley and the accompanying stream beds.

It was at that point that many of the ponies gave themselves up for lost, but Bouncy hadn't. She knew if there was a cure to the drought that plagued them, she would find it in one of her precious books.

And she had, although it had taken days of searching to find anything. Out of her thousands of books, only two referred to the Wish Stone.

The Wish Stone was a magical jewel upon which any wish could be granted. However, one book warned that the wish often had side effects, some of which could turn out worse than the need for the wish.

Bouncy had considered that possibility, but quickly decided that nothing could be worse than it was now. So she had read on and discovered how to use the Wish Stone. The other book told how to find it.

Speaking of which, she thought, I should keep a lookout for the landmarks the book mentioned. The first was a mountain on which a single tree grew, at the very tip.

Bouncy managed to find the landmark, then continued down the list. She reached the last landmark, then landed. She found herself at a giant stone portal guarding the entrance to the Boundary Woods. She stepped through the entryway, sat down, and referred to her books.

Ah, there was the passage: "How to Summon the Wish Stone." She quickly read the text, then noticed a warning at the bottom.

"To those who venture to use the Wish Stone," it read, "beware! Anything created by the Wish Stone cannot be destroyed! An item created must stay in existence, and a creature must run the ordinary length of a lifetime."

Bouncy read the warning again, then considered. It shouldn't take an item or a creature to stop the drought, just a simple wish.

Bouncy got to her feet, then chanted the rhyme written in the book. "By the powers of goodness and darkness mixed, I ask for the Wish Stone to use betwixt!"

Betwixt what? she wondered, then was immediately distracted by a sudden glowing light, as the air seemed to coalesce into the shape of a perfectly spherical jewel. It floated in midair, glowing with an ethereal light. The light seemed to pulsate, at times turning blindingly bright, and at others becoming abysmally dark.

Bouncy reached out and carefully caught the Wish Stone in her mouth. Now to make the wish, she thought as she closed her eyes and focused.

When she thought about the experience later, it seemed to her that her thoughts had flowed into the Wish Stone. There was no better way to describe it than that. The thoughts she had at that point in time had been drawn to the jewel, as a moth is to a lantern. They were under her control, and she focused on saving Dream Valley.

Except at one point, her thoughts seemed to flow on their own, to be alive and feeling and to have a volition that she couldn't control. And as those thoughts flowed, she caught one before it disappeared into the blinding depths of the Wish Stone: To have a friend...

No! she thought vehemently, and the uncontrolled stream of thoughts shattered. She guided them along the path she wanted, and thought over and over, Dream Valley MUST be saved!

After ages of standing and letting her thoughts flow into the Wish Stone, the jewel suddenly drew in on itself until it disappeared. Bouncy opened her eyes, unsure if her wish had worked.

The air turned murky and began to swirl, then exploded in a brilliant flash of light. Bouncy stumbled, then fell to the forest floor.

After several moments, she heard a golden voice ask, "Are you okay?" and felt a pony helping her up. When she got to her feet, she stared.

The pony before her had beautiful fur, brilliantly golden in color, and unmarked by any symbol. His mane and tail were dark purple, both long and glowing with a dewdrop-like light. His eyes matched his hair, and seemed to sparkle as if hidden within their depths was an entire galaxy of stars.

Bouncy had trouble breathing, but finally managed to say, "Who are you?"

The pony laughed, and in a voice that matched his coat, he replied, "Who am I? Why, you wished me into existence! My name is Fractal, and I can help you cure the drought on Dream Valley."

At that very moment, a gigantic black dragon loomed over Dream Valley and blew an enormous blast of blue flame at Paradise Estate.


The Insane Crossover Story
Chapter One
by Tabby, with help from Merry Treat

"Once we find him, I'm going to moon-dust him!" Merry Treat exclaimed angrily.

"And I'll whack him over the head," Tabby said, just as menacingly as her companion.

"Plus some scratches to the face," Tarquin added.

"I'll help on that!" Tess supplied.

"Spear, spearow!" Spearow agreed.

These two ponies and their Pokèmon were currently on a quest-- a quest to seek revenge on "some jerk of a movie reviewer" (as Tabby referred to him). Or, if not seek revenge, at least insult him really bad.

How did this quest thing start? Tabby and Merry Treat had been looking at Spike's CD of movie reviews the other night, and the reviewer was some sort of a jerk-- Tabby's terminology was right. What angered the two ponies the most was what he'd said about the My Little Pony movie-- the reviewer claimed it was "too cute for anyone over seven".

Therefore, Merry Treat and Tabby set off to gather up a proper team to go out and find this movie reviewer. Of course, they couldn't leave behind their faithful Pokèmon. Tabby's Meowth, Tarquin, was always with her. Concealed within their PokèBalls, she also had a Jigglypuff and an Oddish.

Merry Treat had quite a few Pokèmon, but the two always out of their PokèBalls were Tess, another Meowth, and her Spearow. Among her others were Vulpix, Kittyhawk, and another Jigglypuff.

Anyway, though they really had no idea what they were doing, they'd jumped in a small boat and rowed their way down the river in Dream Valley. The questers had reached open water by this point, and were beginning to wonder where they were. The only thing driving them on was to seek revenge on that jerk they so despised.

"Rowing is an exhausting job," Tess sighed, momentarily putting down her oars.

"I'll take over for you," Tarquin said valiantly. He could never pass up the chance to do a favor for Tess.

"It is terribly exhausting," Tabby agreed whole-heartedly.

"Spearow," Spearow said skeptically.

"He just said you've only spent five minutes rowing so far on this journey," Merry Treat translated. "And I think it's true."

"It was much longer than five minutes," Tabby argued. "Several hours, I'd say."

"Spear," Spearow sighed.

"Tarquin, look!" Tess suddenly exclaimed. "I believe there's land up ahead!"

Everyone on board looked in the direction Tess was pointing. "It's probably a mirage," Tabby said, pessimist that she was.

"Spearow, spear, spear!" Spearow hopped about the floor of the boat excitedly.

"I think it's land, too, Spearow!" Merry Treat said happily. "Maybe we'll be able to find someone to join our team there."

"Can anyone help me out with the rowing, so we'll get their sometime within the next century?" Tarquin sighed.

* * *
"There're mountains," Tabby noted.

The group stared up at the craggy gray mountains. They'd actually managed to get their boat to shore. Now, after walking up the short expanse of beach, they'd reached mountains.

"This isn't helping us get any closer to that movie reviewer," Merry Treat sighed.

"And we're not going to get any closer if we don't look around," Tarquin said in exasperation.

"But there's nothing to look at," Tabby said dramatically.

"What about that pass through the mountains?" Tarquin demanded.

"You're so clever in finding things, Tarquin," Tess giggled.

"How in the world could we have missed that?!" Merry Treat exclaimed.

Yes, it appeared that the two ponies had forgotten to look directly ahead of them; instead, their gazes had swerved over to the side. Straight ahead was a nice, handy pass through the mountains. They could even see a lush green meadow on the other side.

"Spearow!" Spearow squawked.

Merry Treat looked at Tarquin and Tess sheepishly. "I'll be more observant next time," she promised.

"Come on, come one, let's get going!" Tabby exclaimed, tapping her hoof on the ground.

Walking through the narrow pass with steep mountains on either side, the two ponies and their Pokèmon felt rather nervous.

"I think someone's watching us," Tess said in a low tone.

"No one would dare mess with me." Tarquin shot out his claws in demonstration.

"I believe we'll be kidnapped by monsters and never seen again," Tabby commented.

"We're totally unstoppable," Merry Treat declared. "Tarquin's right. No one would dare mess with us."

"Spear," said Spearow in apprehension.

"Oh, boy! There's the meadow up ahead!" Tabby cried out gleefully, and dashed ahead of the others.

"Tabby, be sure not to walk into a trap," Merry Treat warned her friend, running to catch up.

"There won't be any traps," Tabby said cheerfully, stepping onto the soft, green grass. Her eyes suddenly opened wide, and she clamped her mouth shut. "That wasn't meant to sound optimistic," she corrected herself quickly.

Tarquin rolled his eyes, but Tess was fascinated with the peaceful scenery. "Let's stop here for lunch," she suggested.

"Did we remember to bring grape juice?" Tabby asked suddenly. "I would simply fade away without that wonderful grape juice from Aldi's."

"Grape juice, and chicken, and cherry pie filling, and lots more." Tarquin ticked off the list on his paws.

Tess began pulling items out of her backpack. "This is such a nice place," she sighed contentedly. "It reminds me of my old home."

"Look!" Tabby exclaimed suddenly. "Gooseberry bushes! Wonderful gooseberry bushes!" She clutched her front hooves together dramatically, as she was prone to do. "Of course, gooseberries aren't as good as grape juice," she added quickly.

"Would you pick some, Merry Treat and Tabby?" Tess implored. "Gooseberries would be a nice side-dish to lunch."

"I would love to pick gooseberries," Tabby declared, still clutching her hooves together.

"Snap out of it," Merry Treat instructed, walking over to the bushes. "You can't pick with your hooves in that position."

"I suppose you're right," Tabby sighed, and resumed her regular stance. She started plucking the green berries off a bush far to the left of where Merry Treat was working. "And gooseberry juice doesn't stain," she remarked to no one in particular.

After a minute or so, Tabby was already tired of picking. She idly glanced up over the top of the leafy bush and nearly had a heart-attack at the sight that met her eyes. Abruptly jumping back, she knocked into Tarquin, who was helping Tess pour grape juice for everyone.

Tarquin tumbled over and dropped the bottle of juice to the ground; its contents immediately started seeping into the earth. "I got a stain on my paw," he said in regret. "Tabby, what happened?"


After the initial shock of Tabby's scream had worn off the remaining four in the group, and they had all re-gained their hearing, Merry Treat approached the irate unicorn. She's probably just overreacting... again, she thought to herself. Still, Merry Treat didn't like the thought of a bug. "You're sure it's not a Pokèmon?" she asked cautiously.

"Of course not! I wouldn't mistake a Catterpie for that... thing. And the grape juice spilled, on top of it all," Tabby muttered. She paused in silence for a moment. "A Pokèmon!" she cried out suddenly. "What if it's a new, undiscovered kind?!?!"

Merry Treat, Tabby, Tess, Spearow, and Tarquin all hurried to the bushes at Tabby's last statement. A new Pokèmon would be a rather wonderful find.

"You might be right," Merry Treat breathed, peering through the leaves of the gooseberry bush. It was a rather large orange bug-like creature, with a long body and standing on six legs.

"Does it know we're here? We've got to capture it!" Tabby hissed.

"After the screaming you did, I'm not sure it's possible for it not to have heard you," Tarquin commented.

This new creature was still several yards away, but looking around cautiously. It had obviously been alerted to the group's presence.

"We've got to act fast," Tabby directed. "What type of Pokèmon do you suppose it is?"

"It could be grass-type, or maybe colorless," Merry Treat pondered.

"Let's go with fighting-type," Tabby decided. "Now, most fighting Pokèmon are weak to psychic... do we have any psychic guys?"

Everyone shook their head.

"But bird Pokèmon are resistant to fighting!" Tabby exclaimed brightly. "Merry Treat, send Spearow at him!"

Spearow eyed the orange bug-type creature with interested eyes. "Spearow!"

"It's so bug-looking; Spearow might eat it. We can't take that chance," Merry Treat declared.

"We've got to do something quick!" Tabby said in despair. "It'll find us soon, and who knows what kind of damage it'll do?!"

Tess slid closer to Tarquin.

Merry Treat gulped. "It's walking towards us."

"Tarquin, you're our only chance," Tabby said abruptly, picking Tarquin up in her hooves. "You may be weak to fighting, but you're our only chance. Get out there and scratch the thing!" The persuasive pink unicorn began to push her Meowth through the bushes.

"Be careful, Tarquin!" Tess whimpered.

"Okay, get ready for a match," Tarquin challenged this new creature, and held his claws up menacingly.

The orange bug took a few bewildered steps back. "Teddy didn't say anything about matches when we came out today," it said slowly.

"IT TALKS!!" Tabby shrieked from behind the bushes.

"Don't make noise!" Merry Treat warned, leaning further into the bushes. "Maybe I should send out one of my Pokèmon. That bug might be too much for Tarquin to take out."

"Grubby, are you talking to someone over here?" Another figure appeared on the scene...

Tabby abruptly jumped-- again. This time, she caused Merry Treat to topple over into the bushes. Of course, Tabby wasn't stopped yet. "IT'S A TEDDY BEAR!!!" she screamed-- again-- at the top of her lungs.

"Oh, man." Merry Treat scrambled to stand up again after falling through the bush. "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

Tabby boldly marched forward, and Merry Treat joined her. "How dare you intrude on a Pokèmon match?!" Tabby demanded of the bear. "That bug there is a new kind, and we're going to catch it and become famous!"

"It... is a Pokèmon, isn't it?" Merry Treat asked warily.

The bear laughed. "Oh, no, not at all! That's my friend Grubby. He's an Octopede." The light brown bear himself was dressed in a red shirt and shorts, with a tan vest.

"He's not a Pokèmon?" Tabby echoed in regret.

Merry Treat blushed, and turned to the Octopede. "We're very sorry about the match thing," she said quickly. "No hard feelings meant."

"We'll get other chances at finding new Pokèmon," Tarquin said encouraging to Tabby.

"Yeah," Tabby sighed, but then regained her boldness. "And who, may I ask, are you?" she questioned the bear.

"I'm Teddy Ruxpin," the bear said brightly. "And I'm actually an Illiop, not a teddy bear."

"I never did care for teddy bears," Tabby said in approval. "Illiop really has much more class than ‘teddy bear', wot?"

Tess giggled happily. "I'm very glad to have met you two," she said graciously to Grubby and Teddy. "To be running into Octopedes and Illiops, I suppose we're not in Ponyland anymore?"

"We're in Gimmick's valley," Grubby said, after a pause.

"Which is in the land of Grundo," Teddy added.

"Enough with the introductions," Tabby said briskly. "Merry Treat n' I n' Tarquin n' Tess n' Spearow are on a quest--"

"We're on a quest to seek revenge on an evil movie reviewer," Merry Treat explained.

"Want to join us?" Tarquin asked brightly.

"It's bound to be very exciting," Tess added.

"Row!" Spearow agreed.

"I just broke the spring out of a clothespin," Tabby said to no one in particular. She had been fiddling around with items in her backpack.

"Stop fiddling," Merry Treat chided. "Grubby and Teddy, do you know of any movie reviewers in these parts?"

"Nope." Grubby shook his head. "There aren't any on the MAVO team."

"Why won't that spring go back?" Tabby muttered.

"And we'd love to assist you on your journey, but we're helping Gimmick on a new invention," Teddy said apologetically.

"Stupid contraption." Tabby tossed the clothespin and spring back into her backpack in disgust.

"I suppose we'd better pack up and head on our way," Tess noted. "I'd be delighted to chat some more, but we're all anxious to get this quest out of the way."

"No problem," Grubby said. "Maybe you can stop in again some time."

"Gimmick's house is just beyond those tress there," Teddy explained, pointing.

"We'll be sure to do that!" Tabby said brightly. "Ah! I think I just lost that spring!"

And, on that note, the two ponies and their Pokèmon departed from the Octopede and Illiop. Though they'd made two more friends, they still didn't have any more members for their team.

* * *
"EEEK! What are those?" Tabby shrieked.

"Some sort of creature," Tarquin noted.

"Coming towards us!" Merry Treat added.

The group was back in the mountainous terrain. And now, right up ahead, was a pack of small, menacing-looking creatures; they had round, red bodies and were hopping towards these strangers in their land.

"They look sorta like Jigglypuffs, only different," Tabby said cheerfully. "These have tails, and a bit longer legs, and a horn sticking out of their heads, and darker bodies, and meaner eyes--" She swallowed hard as the creatures surrounded the group. "All right, maybe they're not like Jigglypuffs."

"Shall we fight back?" Tess questioned in a whisper.

"Let's see what they do with us," Tabby suggested. "Maybe we'll get somewhere faster by escaping from them, as opposed to wandering aimlessly."

Merry Treat rolled her eyes at Tabby's logic. "They might not even mean ill will towards us," she said optimistically.

"Okay, Jigglypuff-type things, why have you surrounded us?" Tabby demanded of the creatures.

One of the more dignified-looking red... things... stepped closer to Tabby. "Tweez has instructed that we bring you to his tower," it hissed.

"Thanks for clearing that up," Merry Treat muttered.

"Will we have decent lodgings?" Tarquin demanded.

"And grape juice. Is there grape juice at this tower?" Tabby questioned.

"We'll see what Tweep decides to do with you," the leader said. "Now, follow us."

"Excuse me!" Tabby interrupted. "Can you tell us what kind of creatures you are? I may need it for future reference. Writing stories and such, you know."

Merry Treat and Tarquin both looked at each other. Tabby could be concerned about the strangest things.

The leader of the creatures looked at Tabby strangely as well. "We're Bounders," he muttered.

"Thanks." Tabby cheerfully followed the Bounders, wherever they may lead her... and the rest of the group.

Over the rocky ground they went. Where they would end up next, who knew...

* * *
"Wow!" Tabby exclaimed in delight. "What a beautiful tower!"

"It's-- it's--" Tess stuttered, at a loss for words.

"It's dark and depressing," Merry Treat interrupted.

Leading them to the base of the gray stone tower, one of the Bounders opened the door leading inside. The rest of the gang gathered in on the ponies and Pokèmon, forcing the travelers inside.

"So, where's this guy who wants to see us?" Tarquin demanded.

"If he touches one feather or fur on any of our Pokèmon, he's getting moon-dusted!" Merry Treat exclaimed angrily.

At that moment, a tall, slim figure entered the room through one of the dark archways. Most of the creature was covered in a dark purple robe, but his pointed green head was visible.

"These are the trespassers you reported, L.B.?" the figure addressed the head Bounder.

"Yep, Twig."

Twig-- or whatever his name was-- began to turn to Merry Treat and Tabby, but abruptly turned back to the Bounder. "And my name is Tweeg!" he exclaimed shrilly.

L.B. the Bounder turned away from Tweeg and chuckled silently.

"What do you want with us, sir?" Merry Treat asked bluntly.

"To keep you as prisoners, of course!" Tweeg explained.

Tabby stepped forward. "Look, Mr. Tweeg, all we were doing is going on a quest! I don't see how that affects you any." She sniffed.

"That what they all say!" Tweeg exclaimed. "But I know you were out to steal my recipe for gold!"

"Gold!" Tabby said loftily. "Merry Treat and I both make enough money at our jobs. We don't need gold."

Merry Treat stared around at the large black pot in the room, and the bread-like biscuits piled up around it. "Gold?" She lifted an eyebrow.

"The next batch will come out right," Tweeg muttered angrily.

Tess hopped up onto a stool in front of a book stand. She ran a paw over a page in the open book sitting on the stand. "Is this the recipe, sir?" she asked politely.

"Really? Lemme see!" Tabby dashed over to see for herself.

"Uhh, Tabby..." Merry Treat glanced cautiously over at Tweeg.

"Don't look at that!" Tweeg shrieked.

"Hmm... buttermilk..." Tabby murmured to herself, glancing over the page and paying no attention to the furious Tweeg.

"To the dungeons you go!" Tweeg exclaimed, slamming the book shut.

"What I really think you need in the recipe," Tabby prattled on to Tweeg, "is cherry pie filling."

Tweeg was stunned for a moment. "Cherry pie filling?" he echoed, and then his eyes lit up. "Of course! Cherry pie filling! Exactly the thing it needs!"

"Right. One can should suffice," Tabby continued. "And maybe adjust the cooking time a bit. Then you should end up with gold..."

"Wait a minute! Let me write this down!" Tweeg scribbled furiously on a paper. "It's a wonder I didn't come up with this myself."

"I might even help you mix up a batch sometime," Tabby offered.

"I don't like to think of what might happen with Tabby in the kitchen," Merry Treat whispered to Tarquin.

"The way Tabby throws recipes together, she might be the one to discover how to make gold," Tarquin whispered back. They both giggled quietly.

"Uh-huh. I think that should work," Tabby finished dictating to Tweeg.

"Oh, my, this is wonderful!" Tweeg cried out joyfully.

"No problem," Tabby said proudly.

"I must mix up a new batch right away," Tweeg said happily. "How long will you be in the area? You certainly must be an excellent baker to have come up with the missing ingredient."

"Merry Treat and I are on a tight schedule," Tabby explained quickly. "We're out to seek revenge on an evil movie reviewer."

"Are you letting us go free?" Merry Treat asked anxiously.

"Hmm... a movie reviewer..." Tweeg appeared to be deep in thought for a minute or two. "Would you mind if I joined you on your quest?"

Merry Treat and Tabby look doubtful, but Tabby said graciously, "Yes, come along! You'll make a resourceful member to the team." She was rather getting to like this alchemist.

Tess giggled happily. "We'll be glad to have you, Tweeg."

"Spearow!" Spearow said in agreement.

"I never have liked movie reviewers," Tweeg muttered. "One tried to steal my recipe for gold once."

"Perhaps it's the same one we're after," Tarquin said thoughtfully.

"Let's get moving!" Tabby said briskly, motioning towards the door. Tarquin jumped up on her back.

Tweeg grabbed up his recipe book. "L.B., be sure to pick up all those cannonballs while I'm gone," he quickly instructed the Bounder.

"Sure thing, Twug."

"That's Tweeg, L.B.!"

And so, Tabby, Merry Treat, Tess, Tarquin, Spearow, and Tweeg headed onwards to face more adventures, still unknown to them...

To be continued next month...


by Sugarberry

Sugarberry gave Fluff a final hug before picking up her suitcase and opening the front door. She turned and glanced over the room one last time, then stepped out to the front porch where Tabby and Chocolate Chip waited for her.

"Come on! Come on!" commanded Tabby, her red mane shining in the early morning light. "You don't want to be late for your flight." She was tapping her pink hoof impatiently on the porch railing.

"I just wanted to look everything over one last time," Sugarberry sighed.

"Sugarberry, you'll only be gone a few days; and I'll take care of the house and Fluff for you," reassured Chocolate Chip as she took the suitcase from Sugarberry.

Tabby was already prancing down the sidewalk, eager to get Sugarberry on her way to a well-earned vacation at Birdwatch, a town in Rolling Hills. Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip started down the porch steps after her.

"I hope I've remembered everything," worried Sugarberry. "I watered the plants, mailed all the bills, took out the garbage..."

"Relax, Sugarberry!" Chocolate Chip laughed. "I'll be right here to take care of it all!" Chocolate Chip roomed with Sugarberry while attending Pony Pride University.

"Don't forget to clean Fluff's litter box often; he's fussy about that."

"Sugarberry!" interjected Tabby. "You left Chocolate Chip a list of ‘Things To Take Care Of' a foot long. Don't worry!"

Sugarberry smiled weakly. "Vacations are too nerve-wracking for someone like me. I wish I were just staying home." She stopped in her tracks and looked wistfully back towards her house.

"Don't get sentimental on us," snapped Tabby as she grabbed Sugarberry's hoof and started her on her way again.

Just then a pair of beige mourning doves fluttered down to rest on the wooden fence surrounding Snuzzle's lawn; their round black eyes viewed the Little Ponies inquisitively amidst their gentle cooing.

"Remember to fill the bird feeders twice a day!" Sugarberry reminded Chocolate Chip.

"It's on the list," Chocolate Chip muttered.

Tabby turned to face Sugarberry. "Enough, Sugarberry. Lighten up. The whole idea of this vacation was to get some peace and quiet among the birds you like so well. Start enjoying it!"

"You're right, Tabby. I'm sorry." She smiled apologetically at her two best friends. "I've always wanted to relax in a quiet, rural setting, and Birdwatch is the perfect spot for that. As of right now, I'm having fun!"

With that settled, the three ponies continued on their way to the airport. Once there, they took care of the baggage and ticket, and grabbed a glass of milk and a poppy seed muffin in the food court while they waited. Tabby recounted her latest experience at the Pokèmon Center. " after the Muck was healed, we had to fumigate the entire place!"

"Flight lll is now loading at Gate 2," suddenly came over the speaker system, and Sugarberry jumped to her feet.

"That's my flight," she gulped. "I guess I have to go!"

Tabby winked at Chocolate Chip. "As tense as she looks, I think we'd better guide her to Gate 2 to make sure she gets there."

So doing, they deposited Sugarberry at her gate and hugs were shared all around. As Sugarberry proceeded down the ramp, she waved one final farewell and then disappeared into the body of the gleaming silver airplane that waited patiently for lift-off.

Easing herself into a window seat, Sugarberry looked out to see Tabby and Chocolate Chip waving from the observation deck. Sugarberry waved back, amid the roar of the engines revving up. She fastened her seat belt and the plane moved out to the runway, and, gaining speed, soon lifted off into the vast and empty sky. Sugarberry reminded herself, I'm not afraid of flying; it's the crashing that worries me. Peering at the ground below, she was able to catch a glimpse of her house before the plane headed west across the green fields and glistening rivers.

Watching the beauty pass underneath, Sugarberry checked the time. Chocolate Chip should be opening up the clinic by now. With her semester of classes completed, Chocolate Chip was able to fill in for Sugarberry at the clinic for a few days. Let's see, thought Sugarberry. Princess Tiffany is bringing in her black Bombay, Theodora, first thing. I hope she remembers that Tiffany expects Theodora to rest on that special velvet blanket during her examination.

The plane was already approaching the mountains that separated Dream Valley from the Flatlands. Light, fluffy clouds hung about the highest peaks, but otherwise the sky was brilliantly blue. Sugarberry recalled Clever Clover's journey across these mountains to get to a summer job in the Flatlands. And there, down below, spread out that great expanse of empty countryside, nothing but cropland for miles and miles in every direction. She shuddered to think of crossing it on hoof, and was proud of Clever Clover's success there.

The boringness of the landscape had just about put Sugarberry to sleep when the terrain became more undulating; the contours of the land adding depth and interest to the passing images below. River valleys cut between rounded hills covered with tress; this was certainly the land of Rolling Hills. Sugarberry's eyes danced as the plane prepared to land on an airfield in a broad valley; and soon, with a gentle bump, the plane was coasting down the runway to the terminal.

After debarking and retrieving her luggage, Sugarberry looked around nervously; she suddenly felt very lost and alone. The bed-and-breakfast where she would be staying had said they'd send someone to meet her flight; but no one seemed to be looking for her. She was just about to ask at the counter for directions when a young sea-green stallion rushed into the terminal, his turquoise blue mane streaming behind. He quickly spotted the white earth pony with strawberry design (Thank goodness I have an obvious pattern, thought Sugarberry) and trotted up to her. "Miss Sugarberry?" he asked, while reaching for her suitcase. Not waiting for a reply, he continued, "My name is Buck and I'm from the Birdsong Bread-and-Breakfast where you'll be staying."

Sugarberry nodded and followed behind Buck as he headed outside; she had to nearly run to keep up with Buck's long strides. He continued his monologue as they headed down the street. "You've picked a good week to visit; the weather is going to be warm and sunny, except for a shower passing through tonight. You'll get a lot of good bird-watching in; the birds are busy feeding their nestfuls of young ‘uns."

By this time, they'd reached a path that led across a flower-strewn meadow that ran along the meandering Laughing Lark River. Sugarberry fell behind as she enjoyed the myriad variety of wildflowers that crowded up to the path.

Buck paused to wait for her. "You like flowers, do you? It's been a good year for flowers. Plenty of rain and sunshine. My mom likes flowers, too. She and Dad are the owners of Birdsong."

"Where exactly is Birdsong?" interjected Sugarberry quickly.

"Well, it's at the top of the hill over there." Buck pointed off to the right. "The path curves into the woods and winds its way up through the tress until there you are-- Birdsong."

Sugarberry silently assessed the distance, and wished she'd eaten lunch before they'd left the terminal. As if reading her thoughts, Buck said, "Mom packed a lunch; we'll eat it when we get to the woods. There's a picnic spot not too far in. You should get your first look at the birds while we eat-- grosbeaks, warblers, finches, quail-- you name it, we got it."

Buck seemed not to notice the abundance of bird life surrounding him in the meadow. Tree swallows circled closely, feasting on the insects in the air. A meadowlark serenaded his mate. A killdeer sent up her distress call as they passed her hidden nest. Sugarberry saw several species she couldn't identify, and wished her guide book wasn't buried in her suitcase.

Just as they reached the edge of the woods, a dark shadow passed over them; Sugarberry looked up to see a black turkey vulture skimming majestically overhead; he was so low, she could make out his bald red head; he was huge, and his wingspan was awesome. He dipped around the trees and disappeared.

Now passing under the fully-leaved trees, the path began a gradual incline. Patterns of sunshine danced between the leaves and gave the woodland a magical feel. Before long, they had reached an opening in the tress with a picnic table and pump. Buck got two tumblers out of his backpack, and while he cranked the pump handle, Sugarberry filled the glasses with the fresh, crystal water. Buck set-up the simple fare of sandwiches on home-baked bread, carrot and celery sticks, and a luscious chocolate brownie for dessert. Sugarberry breathed deeply of the fresh air and sunshine, and enjoyed her lunch surrounded by the beauty of nature. As she ate, the birds came out to investigate this stranger in their haven. A chickadee hopped from branch to branch, calling his "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" call as he went. Closer and closer he came until he sat within easy reach. A Baltimore oriole sat on a high branch providing music while the white-crowned sparrows scratched through the grass looking for crumbs that Buck tossed them. From a decaying tree trunk at the edge of the clearing, a red-headed woodpecker added his "rat-a-tat" drilling as back-up for the oriole's melody. Sugarberry sighed contentedly. This was exactly what she had hoped her vacation to be. All was peace and harmony with only the natural sounds of life floating through the air. Even Buck was quiet.

But the tranquility was interrupted as a squirrel scampered out on a branch over the table and began dropping nutshells from his vantage point, accompanied by a shrill chattering that sounded amazingly like a scolding.

Buck laughed. "Yes, little friend, it's time to move on." He and Sugarberry cleaned-up, and resumed their trek up through the trees. "Lunch wasn't much, but wait until tonight. Mom's roasting a turkey and all the fixings; and I'll be picking fresh strawberries this afternoon for shortcake."

Sugarberry mentally apologized to Rex, her turkey friend, for looking forward to such a delightful meal.

Buck continued to tell Sugarberry how he attended Binks University which was located on the far side of Rolling Hills, but he spent his summer at home so he could help his parents during their busiest season. "The bed-and-breakfast is booked solid from spring to fall," he said proudly. "Mom and Dad make sure every visitor has a great time."

By now, glimpses of Birdsong were possible between the trees. The reason Sugarberry had chosen this particular bed-and-breakfast was because of its Victorian design-- she'd always wanted a bedroom with turret access. As they drew closer, the turrets came sharply into view, one at each corner of the front facade. Sugarberry squealed in delight.

"You like it?" Buck asked with pride showing in his eyes. "We changed her color this spring-- she's a real ‘Painted Lady' now."

The house was painted a purplish pink with trim in purple, pink, and green-- truly Victorian.

Buck led the way up the front steps and held the door for Sugarberry. "Welcome to Birdsong!" greeted a vibrantly lively lavender pony with green mane and tail. She drew Sugarberry into the gracious foyer. "Did you have a pleasant walk? And did my son remember the lunch I sent along? He can be very forgetful if he starts daydreaming about all that historical stuff he's studying in college."

Sugarberry turned her head to smile at Buck, but found that he had disappeared. His mother continued. "Did he tell you he attends the university in Binks? But he never misses a summer helping out his dad and I around here."

She stopped for breath, and lovingly caressed the banister of the main stairway. "I was born in this house," she continued. "Buck was, too. It's a very special place to me."

Her eyes got a dreamy look for a second and then she exclaimed, "Where are my manners? I'm Lilac." She extended her forehoof to Sugarberry. "And you are Sugarberry. What a beautiful pony! But you must be tired from your journey. Follow me upstairs to your room."

As Sugarberry followed Lilac up the gracefully winding staircase, Lilac pointed out portraits of her family. "...and this one is my parents on their wedding day. And this one is myself and Trendy when Buck was only a baby. He was our first. You'll meet his brothers later; Tramples is working out in the garden and Licorice is probably hiding up a tree somewhere reading an adventure story. That stallion can certainly make himself scarce when there is work to be done!"

They had now reached the top of the stairs and Lilac moved down the hall to open the door into Sugarberry's room. Buck had already delivered her suitcase to the room, so there was one point of familiarity. But more than that, Sugarberry felt like she was stepping into a dream-come-true. She was drawn immediately to the curving set of windows that circled the turret. Lacy curtains framed a view of the woodland, and the open windows wafted in the fragrance of flowers and the twittering of birds.

Sugarberry dropped onto the cushioned windowseat that ran under the windows and gazed breathlessly around her. As a filly, she had often envisioned her own room in a tower with just such a windowseat. She imagined spending countless hours curled-up here lost in the pages of a good book, or working on the pages of a manuscript, or just day-dreaming.

Sugarberry sighed deeply and looked at Lilac who was fluffing the many pillows about the room. "This is perfect, Lilac! I'm going to enjoy every minute of my vacation!"

"If you need anything, just let one of us know. You'll have time to rest before supper, or you can walk the grounds. But don't be late! I've got a special meal cooking in the kitchen," informed Lilac.

Once Sugarberry was alone, she unpacked her suitcase and washed up. The room felt like it was her very own by then; she could live a life of Victorian luxury for a couple of days! And I don't even have to cook! Sugarberry rejoiced. This is too good to be true.

Taking up the new journal that she'd packed especially for this vacation, Sugarberry spent her time recording her memories of the day--- with frequent interruptions to simply gaze out the window at the peaceful countryside. In no time at all, the dinner bell sounded, and Sugarberry hungrily headed for the dining room.

Rich walnut wainscoting and heavy ornate furniture presented a feast for the eyes, while the air was filled with the luscious smells of a holiday feast for the palate. Gathering around the table were the other four guests of Birdsong. Lilac introduced the ponies to each other. Besides Sugarberry, there was one married couple from the Flatlands--Audrey and Popcorn; Vanguard, a stallion who taught college mathematics at Binks University; and a Friendship Gardens pony Sugarberry had never met before by the name of Merry Moments.

After eating, Sugarberry, Merry Moments, and Vanguard took a walk past the gardens and orchards of Birdsong, and along a curving path to a gazebo set under a spreading maple tree. There they sat and talked as the sun set and dusk began to descend.

Back in her room, Sugarberry prepared for bed, and switched off the light. Before crawling into bed, she sat in the windowseat listening to the muffled sounds of the nighttime animals. Over the breeze came the haunting "whoo-whoo-whoo" of an owl, and the clanking of a garbage can as a raccoon carried out his evening raid. Yawning heavily, Sugarberry finally climbed into bed, and sank almost instantly into a peaceful slumber.

A deafening boom of thunder jolted Sugarberry out of her dreamless sleep, and she jumped out of bed to close the windows where the curtains flapped in the stiff breeze. Cold raindrops pelted her skin before she finally managed to lower the last window.

Didn't Buck say there'd be a shower tonight? pondered Sugarberry. But this is more than a shower! And although there were no more peals of thunder, the rain continued to batter down. At least it came in the night and should be cleared up by morning, thought Sugarberry as she returned to bed and let the barrage of raindrops lull her off to sleep again.

Drip, drip, drip, drip. Sugarberry rolled over to look at her clock, and was surprised to see that it was eight in the morning already; yet the morning light was grey and sullen. The rain was falling at a steady rate, with no sign of letting up. Sugarberry sat up and frowned out the window at the soggy-looking landscape. So much for birdwatching this morning with Vanguard and Merry Moments, she muttered. But then she brightened at the thought of a leisurely breakfast, and cheerfully made ready for the new day.

When she arrived downstairs, she found Vanguard in the breakfast room just pouring himself a cup of coffee. "Good morning, Sugarberry," he greeted her. "Coffee?"

"Yes, please," Sugarberry smiled. "My mom and I used to share many a pleasant conversation over a cup of coffee, but now none of my friends enjoy drinking it, so I've gotten away from it." She slid onto a chair and Vanguard served her cup of coffee. At that moment, Lilac cane bustling into the room from the kitchen, drying her hooves on her apron.

"Anyone hungry?"

"Extremely so," admitted Sugarberry, and Vanguard agreed.

"Good morning everyone," squealed Merry Moments as she breezed in. "Don't you just love a rainy day?"

She was followed by a more subdued Audrey and Popcorn. "A rainy day is a waste of good money," complained Audrey. "We'd planned on photographing birds today."

"We have games to play, movies to watch, and books to read," soothed Lilac. "I promise you won't be bored. This rain should end very soon." But she worriedly looked towards the window.

As Lilac returned to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, Buck and Trendy came in the back door, raincoats shining with wetness, and water dripping eagerly into the carpet. The river is rising fast," reported Buck. "If this keeps up, it'll overflow its banks by noon."

"Oh, no!" groaned Lilac. "What about the homes in the valley?"

"Everyone is preparing for the worst; they'll evacuate in time," comforted Trendy as he hugged his wife to him. "We can use any extra help we can get," he continued, eyeing the group clustered around the table.

"Count me in," Vanguard volunteered immediately.

"I'll do what I can," added Sugarberry valiantly.

Merry Moment, too, offered to help. Audrey, however, crossed her forelegs across her chest. "I didn't come here to risk my life out in a rainstorm," she griped. Popcorn said nothing.

"First things first!" declared Lilac. "I'll have a hearty breakfast ready in no time; then you will all be ready to battle the weather." Everyone pitched in to help while Audrey smoldered in the background. She eventually declared that she had a headache, and was retiring to her room. In the doorway, she turned and cast a commandeering glance at Popcorn, who simply waved her on. Her hoofsteps could be heard angrily echoing down the hallway.

"She'll be fine," Popcorn apologized. "She'll be out supervising the rescue efforts once she realizes that no one if feeling sorry for her."

As soon as breakfast was over--very tasty, but not leisurely as Sugarberry had hoped--rain gear was dug out of the closet and donned by all.

Out in the midst of the rain, Sugarberry found that the whole world was saturated and running in rivulets in every direction. The group slipped and slid their way down the path to the valley below Birdsong. Footing was treacherous, and Sugarberry slid to her knees several times. The river, which had been a lazy silver ribbon upon her arrival, now roared with anger as it carried the brown, dirt-laden torrents downstream. Trees and garbage were being swept along its course. The situation suddenly became very frightening to Sugarberry as she, Vanguard, and Buck turned south to help families in that direction while Trendy led Merry Moments and Popcorn to the north.

The rain came down steadily around them, and even Sugarberry's untrained eye could see that the banks of the river could not hold back the flow of ravaging water much longer.

Nearing the first farm in the valley, Buck directed Sugarberry to help at the house while he and Vanguard helped the farmer move his livestock to higher ground. Sugarberry found a mother and daughter gathering together the few essentials that they could carry away to safety. Thankful for the aid, they loaded Sugarberry down with items that otherwise would have had to be left behind, like photographs and journals. Wrapping everything in sheets of plastic, they were soon hurrying to take shelter with a family off the floodplain of the valley. Once their possessions were safely stashed, the family joined in with Buck and crew to help the next family down the river, and so their morning continued.

Buck's estimate of when the river would finally spill over its banks was quite accurate. By noon, the brown highway down the center of the valley had widened and grown until it became a huge lake between the hills. The last farmstead still to be evacuated was inundated with the dirty, smelly water as Buck, Sugarberry, and Vanguard sloshed up to the open door of the house. A tearful mare stood wringing her hooves in despair. Her husband was away from home, and she was unprepared for such a catastrophe. Her five foals, including two sets of twins, were huddled behind their mother; and clutched in the forelegs of the oldest foal was a wide-eyed black and white long-haired cat.

Buck grabbed one set of twins, and Vanguard the other, while Sugarberry scooped-up the cat, and the mother pulled the fifth foal along with her. No one said a word until they reached a knoll from which they could pause to catch their breath. Looking back, they saw the murky water already climbing the side of the house to the height of the window sills.

"Thank God you got there when you did!" whispered the distraught mother. Tears poured down her face, yet she smiled through the tears in thanksgiving. "We would have been trapped...." Her voice broke as she buried her face in her hooves.

Buck gently hoisted up the twins again, and suggested that they hurry on before the waters got even higher. Vanguard grabbed the others, and the tired group continued to fight their way to higher, safer ground. Eventually, their route met up with a path that Buck assured them would get them to Birdsong within a half hour.

But to Sugarberry, whose muscles were sore and aching, it seemed to take an eternity. She clutched the wet and trembling cat to her chest, and painfully kept putting one hoof in front of the other, over and over and over again. When she thought she simply could go no further, Buck called out, "There she is! We're home!"

Once through the doorway, Sugarberry collapsed into the saving forelegs of Audrey, who indeed had taken over the indoor aspects of this volunteer operation. She gently helped Sugarberry to her room and drew her bath water, then left her to sink into a soothing mound of fragrant bubbles. Sugarberry closed her eyes and let the warm water draw out the pain and stiffness of her battered body. She tried to block out the vision of the raging floodwater, but the constant beat of raindrops at the window would not allow any relief. Tiredly, she stepped from the tub and wrapped a warm, soft towel around herself and headed for the windowseat.

Even at its high vantage point at the top of the hill, Birdsong had the appearance of a drowned rat. The trees were drooping, and brown rivulets ran everywhere. Flower beds looked as if giants had stepped through them, and the garden appeared to be an eroded mudslide.

A knock sounded at her door, and Sugarberry called, "Come in!" Audrey marched into the room, closing the door behind her. "I brought you a mug of hot chocolate."

"Thank you!"

Audrey hesitated a moment before proceeding. "Lilac sent me to ask a favor of you."

Sugarberry stifled a yawn. "What is it?"

"That family you came in with needs a room, and with all the evacuees this morning who came here for shelter, your room is the only one left. Would you mind sharing it with Creampuff and her foals?"

Groaning inwardly at the realization that a good long nap was not to be her reward, Sugarberry agreed. "Of course they can move in here! The more, the merrier!" she fibbed.

Opening the door, Audrey revealed five little ponies who were anxiously awaiting the outcome of this traumatic day. As it turned out, the cat was the first one to saunter into the room; she quickly determined that the bed was the place to be, and enthroned herself comfortably in the center of it. She was followed by the foals and their mother. Audrey disappeared back to her duties.

"Well, now we have time for introductions," Sugarberry smiled. "I'm Sugarberry, and Audrey tells me your name is Creampuff." Scanning the faces of the foals clustered at her hooves, Sugarberry asked, "And what are your names?"

Shyly, the oldest of the group responded, "Angela."

Appropriate, thought Sugarberry as she noted the pure white hair and the delicate wings of the young pegasus.

The youngest pair of twins responded next. "Me Winkie. He Blinkie."

Sugarberry patted them on the head. "You two look exactly alike. How will I tell you apart?"

"Me cuter!" replied Blinkie.

Last of all was the second set of twins--Jiggly and Wiggly. Jiggly was a prim and proper pink female pony while Wiggly was a rough and tough blue male pony. Jiggly climbed into the windowseat next to Sugarberry, and Wiggly jumped onto the bed next to the cat while informing Sugarberry that the cat's name was Skunky, "cause he be black and white, like a skunk."

"But he no smell like a skunk," added Jiggly.

How old is Skunky?" asked Sugarberry.

"Same as Winkie and Blinkie, " informed Wiggly. "We found him the same day they were born."

"So you got two brothers and a cat all at once," commented Sugarberry.

Creampuff in the meantime had changed Winkie and Blinkie's diapers and put them down on the bed for a nap, while convincing Wiggly to play quietly elsewhere. He joined his sister on the windowseat. "Tell us a story." He looked expectantly at Sugarberry.

So Sugarberry shared the tale of Tabby's adventure with Clever Clover to find Atlantis. Angela sat at her feet while Jiggly and Wiggly snuggled close on the windowseat. The day remained dark and dreary as the rain continued to fall outside the windows. By the time the story was finished, the dinner bell was ringing; and the foals, except for Winkie and Blinkie who were sleeping soundly, were more than ready to get a good meal.

Creampuff suggested that Sugarberry and the three young ones should go down to eat while she stayed with the sleeping twins. "Just remember to bring food back for us when you are done!"

Sugarberry descended the staircase with her three charges, and was met at the foot of the stairs by Vanguard.

"How are you doing after this exceptional day?" he asked in concern.

"Ravenously hungry as always," Sugarberry confessed. "What about you? Have you been out in the rain all day?"

"I helped Buck and Trendy see to the chores around here. They've got other folks' animals to take care of out in the barn as well as a house full of Little Ponies to accommodate."

Vanguard led Sugarberry and the foals to a table spread with food prepared by Lilac and neighbors who had showed up to help feed the temporarily homeless inhabitants of the valley. Birdsong had become a sanctuary for many.

Serving up buffet style, they soon had their plates loaded, and Lilac sent one of her helpers up to Sugarberry's room with a tray for Creampuff and the sleeping babies. Vanguard found a relatively quiet corner for them to eat. "Not quite the vacation you planned, I'll bet," he grinned at Sugarberry.

"No, not exactly," she grinned back. "I was expecting peace and solitude and being waited on like royalty." She grimaced as Wiggly spilled his glass of milk into Jiggly's plate of food. Jiggly started crying as her mashed potatoes disintegrated and her biscuit turned mushy. Sugarberry comforted her while Vanguard went to get a fresh plate of food. Wiggly called his sister a sissy and begged for ice cream. When Vanguard returned, Sugarberry went off in search of Lilac. "The foals want ice cream. Is there any available?"

"Just go to the big freezer at the back of the kitchen," instructed Lilac. "You'll find cones in the cupboard over the freezer and the scoop should be hanging off a hook over the counter."

Sugarberry fixed three ice cream cones while envisioning Tabby and Chocolate Chip enjoying a treat of the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe in the company of friends. What would Tabby say if she knew I was vacationing with five baby ponies? wondered Sugarberry suddenly. The thought made her giggle.

Vanguard walked Sugarberry and her charges back to their room. Upon opening the door, they were met by shrill squeals from Winkie and Blinkie; they had been waiting for their unsuspecting brother and sisters, and ambushed them by throwing pillows at them. Vanguard quickly excused himself, and left the noisy melee. Sugarberry looked after him wistfully, but steeled herself to enter the boisterous room full of flying pillows and screaming children.

"Settle down, please," commanded Creampuff authoritatively. "And put all the pillows back where you found them."

Angela immediately obeyed her mother, but Jiggly and Wiggly, along with Winkie and Blinkie, undid her efforts as swiftly as she could straighten the pillows. Creampuff finally sequestered each of them in a separate corner of the room for a ten-minute time-out.

Sugarberry joined Creampuff where she stood looking out the window at the rain still steadily dropping down.

"Have you been able to contact your husband?" she asked Creampuff.

"I got a message through to him, so at least he knows we are safe here at Birdsong. But he won't be home until tomorrow... weather permitting."

Sugarberry patted her hoof comfortingly. "He will be here before you know it!"

Just then there was a loud crash from across the room. Wiggly had attempted to take Sugarberry's binoculars down from the dresser, but had lost his grip and the binoculars had thudded to the floor. "Oops," Wiggly grunted. "Me sorry." The binoculars had hit the floor in such a way as to knock-off one of the eye-pieces. Wiggly picked up the broken piece and held it to his eye to gaze through it.

"Wiggly!" his mother groaned. "You were supposed to be sitting quietly. Why did you touch Sugarberry's binoculars?"

"Because they looked like fun."

"That's not a good reason to misbehave, Wiggly. You'll have to apologize to Sugarberry and save your allowances until you can replace what you broke."

As that sunk in, Wiggly's face assumed a woeful expression. "That'd take years!"

"And a good lesson for you, too!" his mother reprimanded.

Sugarberry went to Wiggly and retrieved the binoculars and the broken piece. Looking it over, she comforted the unhappy little pony. "I think I can get this fixed," she informed him soothingly.

"Really?" A grin brightened his face again. "That would be swell." All his worries melted away in an instant.

But Creampuff got the last word in the matter. "No bedtime snack for you tonight, young stallion!"

A knock at the door sent all five foals scurrying to be the first to open it. Jiggly beat her twin by a heartbeat, and swung the door wide to reveal Buck with an armful of games, coloring books, and puzzles to keep the ponies busy. And hopefully out of mischief, thought Sugarberry.

Angela, Jiggly, and Wiggly settled down to a game of Trouble while Winkie and Blinkie opened up the coloring book to a page with dinosaurs, and set about making the barren picture a work of art. Sugarberry had to smile at their serious concentration over choosing a crayon and trying to stay inside the lines. Skunky had joined the children on the floor, and was contentedly batting crayons left and right.

This was the quietest time Sugarberry had experienced on this hectic day, and she realized how tired she felt. It would feel good to crawl into bed tonight.

Creampuff seemed to read her mind. "The kids and I will sleep on the floor, of course; Lilac had blankets sent up earlier. They will make a fine bed."

Sugarberry's vision of peaceful slumber evaporated as she found herself saying, "Oh, no, Creampuff; you and the two littlest ones could easily fit in the bed. I'll sleep on the floor with the other three."

"But, Sugarberry, this is your vacation!"

"Yes it is, so I get to make the decision. You get the bed."

Smiling gratefully, Creampuff announced that she was going downstairs to get milk and cookies for everyone except Wiggly. "Start cleaning up your games and crayons, everypony."

Angela was doing an excellent job supervising pick-up, so Sugarberry decided it would be a good time to write in her journal. Going to the bedside stand where she had set it, she found nothing. But looking down, she caught sight of it sticking out from under the bed ruffle. Picking it up, she sat on the edge of the bed and opened it to yesterday's entry. Flipping the page, she gasped. The pages bad been filled with a babyish scrawl of crayola markings; Sugarberry flipped through the entire journal, and hardly a page had been spared. Sugarberry peered intently at Winkie and Blinkie who were competing with Skunky to retrieve all the loose crayons. She could hear Tabby's voice as clearly as if the pink unicorn was sitting beside her-- "I've always told you baby ponies are nasty!"

"Does anyone know who is responsible for this?" Sugarberry asked severely as she held up the messy pages for all to see.

"Me write story," admitted Blinkie. "Tell about rain. Water everywhere. Sugarberry save us." Blinkie came to Sugarberry and crawled into her lap. Flipping to some pages with squiggly lines and zig-zags, he added, "This say ‘I wuv you,' Sugarberry!"

Sugarberry gazed in wonder at the little foal and a tear slid from her eye and down her cheek. She hugged the little guy to her and was soon engulfed in hugs from all the gang, with the entire lot of them toppling over on the bed amid giggles and kisses. When Creampuff returned with Lilac's generous snack, they were still untangling one another from the happy heap.

"It looks like you all got along well together," Creampuff commented as she set the tray of cookies and milk on the tea table.

Smiling broadly, Sugarberry confirmed their comeraderie. "You've got a beautiful family, Creampuff. You and Jingle must be very proud!"

"Indeed we are," Creampuff responded. "Even if they can be a hoof-full at times."

Angela helped her mother portion out the Craisin cookies and fresh, wholesome milk. Even Skunky got a little saucer of milk, and a dish of cat-food. Winkie and Blinkie got sleepy as they ate, so Creampuff tucked them into bed for the night. Sugarberry placed blankets on the floor in the turret section of the room to make a snug nest for herself, Jiggly, Wiggly, and Angela. Jiggly decided a tent would be neater, and proceeded to drape the blankets over furniture to accomplish her task, much to the enjoyment of Wiggly, who agreed that a tent was much more fun. After several collapsed "tents", Sugarberry helped the twins anchor the blankets securely under and over the chair to make a cozy cover which did indeed make a welcome sanctuary for another night filled with the sounds of the falling rain pattering steadily against the window.

Crawling into their improvised tent, Wiggly and Jiggly could be heart giggling and talking as they exchanged bedtime stories. Sugarberry had just settled onto the window seat with some sheets of notebook paper to record her memories of the day. The twins' chatter provided a pleasant backdrop to her thoughts when suddenly Wiggly's voice called in alarm, "Jiggly, a snake!"

At those words, Sugarberry instantly swung her legs up on the cushions in dreadful fear of any slithering serpent, her eyes glued to the eruption of activity from the tent as Jiggly screamed and fought her way from under the blankets causing the shelter to collapse around her.

Creampuff rushed to rescue a crying Jiggly while a long, low, lean form slithered under the blankets, like a mole tunneling under the surface of the lawn and burst forth into view amidst a peal of laughter from Wiggly, who was still a hidden blob under the covers. For the unwelcome guest wasn't a snake at all-- only Skunky, who had wormed his way into the coziest spot in the room.

Wiggly, still laughing wildly, finally appeared while Creampuff tried to comfort Jiggly; and Sugarberry tried to quiet her thumping heart.

"You sissy, Jiggly!" Wiggly gasped in delight. "It was only Skunky's tail, and you thought it was a snake!"

Frowning austerely, Creampuff rebuked her jovial son while the hint of a smile played across her features. "Wiggly, you set Jiggly up. You know her fear of snakes would cause her to react in panic. Now you apologize to your sister. And to Sugarberry, too," she added as she noticed her roommate's distress.

Wiggly tried to look serious as he made his apology, but the sparkle in his eyes gave away his utter enjoyment of the situation, and pride in a job well done. While Creampuff dried Jiggly's tears, Sugarberry gingerly swung her hooves to the floor and assisted Wiggly in reconstructing the tent. She tentatively picked up each blanket and cautiously scrutinized every wrinkle, still on edge over the snake scare.

Jiggly, however, could not be induced to return to the "snakepit", as she worriedly called it, and joined Winkie and Blinkie in the bed. Amazingly, the two tired baby ponies had slept through the entire incident. Skunky cautiously emerged from under the bed where he had sought refuge when life had gotten out of hand; now, as things returned to normal, he reappeared and sat watching Sugarberry and Wiggly rebuilding the castle with a critical eye. As soon as they were finished and Wiggly settled down-- still smirking over his sisters' "heebie-jeebies" as he referred to her panic-- Skunky crept back under concealment and curled up in sublime creature comfort. Peace and quiet finally reigned.

Angela, always the serious one, hovered near Creampuff as her bedtime now drew near. As her mom was tucking her into the makeshift bed on the floor, Angela confessed her fear. "Will it ever stop raining, Mommy?"

Creampuff hugged her sensitive daughter close to her heart and asked, "Remember the story of Noah?"

"Yes," responded Angela. "That's why I'm frightened."

"But you must remember the rainbow," reminded Creampuff. "It is a sign of God's promise. The rain will end, and the sunshine will smile down on us again."

Thinking this over, Angela finally broke into a bright smile. "Yes. Soon we will have sunshine again." The plunking raindrops did not subdue her newfound confidence as she snuggled into her blankets and closed her eyes, immediately drifting into a deep and rainbow-filled sleep.

Sugarberry, too, crawled into her substitute bed as Creampuff rinsed diapers and saw to all the details of life that mothers accomplish in a busy day.

"Goodnight, Creampuff," she whispered across the room. "Sleep tight... literally!" she added, referring to the bed with three ponies already sound asleep.

"Thanks to you and Buck and Vanguard, we are warm and dry. Yes, I'll sleep just fine," murmured Creampuff. "And with any luck, Jingle will be home tomorrow." She smiled pensively.

"Remember the rainbow," Sugarberry quoted as she gratefully settled under the covers and closed her eyes to a dream world filled with water and snakes and birdsong... and rainbows.

* * *
Nothing broke through Sugarberry's slumber until morning dawned. She laid quietly, listening to little tapping sounds reminiscent of rain drops; as she became fully conscious, she realized the sounds came from the children who were already up and playing a board game, moving their markers in a steady beat. Sugarberry's ears strained to hear the rain; but, surprisingly, there was no dropping from the windows. She stood up and peered out on a soggy landscape; the sky was gray and overcast, but no new moisture was falling.

"Good morning, Sugarberry!" the five foals chorused as they joined her at the window.

"That rain stopped!" Angela beamed. "And Daddy's coming home today!"

Creampuff entered the room. "I checked on breakfast, and Audrey and Lilac have outdone themselves to celebrate the end of the deluge!"

The children squealed in excitement. "Is everyone washed-up and ready to eat?" she asked. Five little hooves shot-up in acknowledgment. "Okay, off we go!"

"I'll be down soon," Sugarberry grinned. "I was the sleepyhead in the bunch."

As the door closed, Sugarberry proceeded with her morning routine; she became fully alert only after her shower. Finishing in the bathroom, she surveyed the bedroom with a critical eye. Life as a family was messier than life alone, she concluded. Blankets lay in tumbled disarray, game pieces cluttered the table, crayons and puzzle pieces littered the floor, the bed was unmade, and pillows appeared to be everywhere. "Obviously, I slept through this pillow fight," she grimaced. Her elegant Victorian asylum had been reduced to a nursery, and she felt a wave of resentment sweep over her. But the memory of Blinkie's voice saying, "Me wuv you, Sugarberry" melted her displeasure; she hurried to join her friends downstairs.

Being the last to arrive, Sugarberry slid into the empty chair between Popcorn and Angela. Lilac scurried from the kitchen with a plate of scrambled eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns which she placed in front of Sugarberry. "Wiggly tells us you had a little problem with snakes last night! This wet weather does tend to bring them out."

Blushing furiously, Sugarberry admitted her phobia. "The only thing worse than snakes are worms." After a pause, she added, "Or maybe spiders." She grinned sheepishly. "But there is this one tarantula I know that is really cute."

Merry Moments shuddered. "Spiders are the worst! And mice paralyze me with fear."

"Cats! Cat make me feel creepy, like they can read my mind," admitted Popcorn.

"Oh, no," intervened Angela. "Care are wonderful. You will have to meet Skunky. Everyone loves Skunky."

Now it was Popcorn's turn to shudder. "Do you mean to tell me that there is a cat in this house?"

Audrey showed no mercy. "And a good thing, too. Maybe it will force you to face your fear!"

Sympathizing with Popcorn over an uncontrollable phobia, Sugarberry changed the subject. "If the rain has stopped, how long will it take for things to get back to normal?"

"The water will recede quickly enough," explained Lilac, "but it will take longer to dry out the soil... and to clean up the homes." She patted Creampuff compassionately. "The neighbors will pitch in to help," she said encouragingly as Creampuff's face fell at the realization of how much work it would take to get the house livable again.

Merry Moments tried to bring the group back to a cheerful note. "With the rain ended, we can go out exploring today. Who's with me?"

"Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!" called out the five foals, already suffering from boredom.

"Me, too," added Sugarberry eagerly.

"Count me in!" Vanguard rounded out the venture.

Anxious now to finish breakfast, the children gulped their food; Sugarberry finished off her orange juice and sorrowfully turned down a cup of hot coffee. It wasn't meant to be, she thought philosophically.

Out in the open air, Sugarberry's spirits were revived. The sky was cloudy and the air was still; the ground was spongy. But there was no rain falling on them, which was a big improvement over yesterday. The foals went running and jumping and squealing in every direction.

Merry Moments laughed. "Oh, to be a foal again!"

"Maybe. Maybe not," countered Vanguard. "There are some fairly rocky years involved in growing up."

"You got a point there," agreed Sugarberry.

"Let's visit the barn," suggested Angela shyly. "I like animals."

So they all moved off in the direction of the white barn. Vanguard enlightened the rest of the crew. "Buck told me his dad wanted a typical red barn; but Lilac thought it would clash with the colors of the house, so he had to go with white."

"It would look good in any color," said Sugarberry as she studied the shingled Dutch gambrel roof; two windowed dormers on each side gave the structure a comfortable appearance. "Something in the depths of my being feels at home around a barn," she said in retrospect.

Jiggly and Wiggly ran through the barn door, only to collide with a young stallion who was in the process of carting hay bales to the black and white cows pastured behind the barn. "Whoa!" he cheerily called to the twins. "You two okay?" He reached down and pulled both youngsters to their feet. Merry Moments helped brush hay out of the twins' manes and tails.

Always to the point, Wiggly asked bluntly of the stallion, "Who are you?"

"My name's Trample," the stallion responded.

"What are you doing here?" Wiggly persisted.

Trample grinned. "Well, Birdsong is my home. I help my parents with the work around here." He tousled Wiggly's mane, and reached out to take Jiggly's hoof. "Come with me and I'll show you the critters."

In a pen in the corner were several calves; Buck and yet another stallion were feeding them with large-sized baby bottles. Winkie and Blinkie laughed in delight.

"You all have met Buck, I've heard. He's my brother. But I'm cuter!" He winked at Blinkie knowingly. "That ebony stallion is also my brother; his name is Licorice. But I'm sure you don't care about that; you want to see these calves, don't you?"

Sugarberry made a mental note to enlighten Chocolate Chip about this self-assured stallion who suffered no regrets about his non-pastel colored coat.

Lifting first Winkie and then Blinkie over the side of the pen, he had Licorice give them the bottle to feed the hungry calf. Between the two of them, they managed to hold the bottle high enough for the calf to suckle. She finished it off, and when no more milk was left, proceeded to lick the faces of the two enraptured foals.

"That tickles!" squealed Blinkie. Winkie collapsed in a fit of giggles.

Buck then let Jiggly, Wiggly, and Angela have a hand at bottle-feeding the other calves. In the meantime Winkie had literally stumbled across a mother barn cat nursing her tiny kittens. He plopped down into the hay next to them, and watched wide-eyed as the mother licked each kitten clean. Everyone gathered around to admire the family of felines; the cat purred proudly as the kittens fell asleep against her warm body.

Blinkie had wandered off towards the dark back corner of the barn; heads turned as they head his voice ask, "Skunky, you not ‘sposed to be out of house."

Sugarberry was just beginning to say that she was sure Skunky had been asleep on the bed when she left the room when Vanguard quickly but quietly intercepted Blinkie as he headed to his pet, and hoisted him up and away from the black and white cat.

"That's no cat!" he explained to his bewildered companions. "That's a real skunk!"

As the animal moved out into the daylight, everyone gasped. It was a skunk, his pointy nose smelling the air, and his bushy tail waving like a banner in the breeze.

"No one move," commanded Buck in a calm voice. "Just let him pass."

Sugarberry was amazed at the sight they beheld. "I don't think it's a ‘him'," she whispered.

Following behind the skunk like train cars behind the engine came five baby skunks, each mimicking its mother's walk and posture in miniature. The parade passed the spellbound ponies and continued out the door. No one said a word for a time, caught up in the magic of the moment. Finally, Angela voiced the consensus of all involved: "Skunks are beautiful!"

Licorice went on to explain that a sudden fright would have caused the mother skunk to spray a horrid-smelling liquid and that's why it was important for everyone to stay quiet so she didn't feel threatened.

"You foals did a great job at staying calm," congratulated Trample. "Now, let's see the rest of the animals."

The remainder of the morning sped swiftly by as the ponies became acquainted with all the resident fauna of the farm. The little ponies had accumulated a layer of mud on their bodies as the puddles had proved irresistible. By the time they had gotten cleaned-up, it was lunchtime.

The talk around the table was lively. Winkie and Blinkie told about the skunk; Jiggly and Wiggly's highlight had been feeding the calf; Angela had become captivated with a newborn lamb, all soft and fleecy; Creampuff had heard from Jingle, and he was definitely getting home today-- the foals were excited to hear that good news.

Many hooves made light work of the dirty dishes and kitchen work while the baby ponies napped and the older foals sat quietly reading. From the kitchen window, Sugarberry could at least do some birding-- pigeons who lived in the barn were splashing in puddles that littered the grounds like temporary ponds. Goldfinches hung from the feeder suspended from a lattice covered in morning glories. A wren could be heard singing her cheerful song. Sugarberry felt content. Her stay at Birdsong would end tomorrow, but she had made many new friends.

By the time the last dish had been dried and put away, Angela, Wiggly, and Jiggly appeared in the kitchen. "Can we go outside again, Mother?"

As Creampuff had volunteered to bake rhubarb pies for supper, and Merry Moments and Vanguard were helping Popcorn and Audrey move ponies back to their homes, Sugarberry was left to accompany the children.

"Let's walk to the gazebo and see how many different kinds of birds we can identify," she suggested.

The sky was still dreary. "Where is the sunshine?' Angela complained. "I'm tired of cloudy skies."

"Maybe it will rain and rain again until our house washes away," suggested Wiggly.

Angela and Jiggly moved close to Sugarberry, sobered by the thought of more rain. Sugarberry searched the ocean of gray and black clouds overhead, hoping to find some hint of relief in a patch of blue sky, but nothing optimistic presented itself in the expanse visible between the leafy branches of the trees.

Fortunately some bright flashes of blue took the foals' minds off their worries. Indigo buntings darted over their heads, signaling the blue sky they were so anxious to see. As they walked further, they saw catbirds, bluejays, and cardinals going about their busy days. By the time they'd reached the gazebo, they had accumulated an impressive list of birds.

Wiggly slipped off his backpack containing apple juice and peanut butter cookies and the three little ponies went off to climb trees, smell the flowers, and find the hidden joys of nature. Sugarberry sat on a wooden bench in the gazebo, and soaked up the music of the birds singing, accented now and then by the voices of the foals. It was a perfect moment. "If only the sun would shine," mused Sugarberry. She closed her eyes and let the sounds lull her into a dozy state of mind.

Sugarberry lounged in this semi-conscious state for some time, always aware of the sounds around her yet totally relaxed, when a new sound joined the medley. A staccato plunk came slowly at first, and only added to the beauty of the music. But the plunking gradually picked up its pace, and Sugarberry opened her eyes, realizing that the birds had stopped their part in the song. The plunking was hard and heavy now as the children charged out of the cover of the trees and came screaming and running to the gazebo amidst the onslaught of the hailstones that battered down from the dark clouds. They huddled together under the gazebo watching this new expression of nature's repertoire.

"It's too hot for ice. What makes these lumps of ice, Sugarberry?" questioned Angela.

"The air is colder up in the clouds, so the rain freezes and accumulates into these little iceballs. They can get much bigger than this." Wiggly and Jiggly scampered out of the shelter to collect the short-lived marble-sized novelties.

It wasn't long before the hailstones converted over to rain, and a brisk shower covered the saturated area again. But it was brief, and to the amazement of the ponies, it was followed by a breaking of the clouds; and a glorious rainbow arched above the treetops. While Wiggly and Jiggly squealed in delight, Angela clapped her hooves together. "The rain is over; the rain is over," she prayerfully intoned.

They celebrated the moment by devouring cookies and juice amidst a virtual outburst of birdsong as the feathered creatures also rejoiced in the sunshine now enveloping them.

By the time the lighthearted crew returned to Birdsong, the sky was one brilliant canopy of blue. Birdsong itself was alive with activity: Winkie and Blinkie were swinging on the swingset; most of the adults were having ice tea under the maple tree in the front lawn; Buck, Licorice, Trample, and Merry Moments were engaged in some softball practice, and Creampuff sat on the front porch with a golden stallion Sugarberry had never yet seen.

Wiggly, Jiggly, and Angela broke out calling, "Daddy! Daddy!" and rushed to the porch where the golden stallion met them on the front steps and caught all three foals in a wide embrace. Winkie and Blinkie left the swings to get caught up in this second reunion with their father and the rest of his offspring.

Vanguard met Sugarberry with a glass of ice tea. "It's not coffee," he grinned, "but it's the only drink available."

Sugarberry politely accepted the cold glass although she detested the stuff. "It turned out to be a beautiful day," she stated the obvious. "And it appears that Jingle got back." Their gaze returned to the porch scene as the restored family shared tales of the past few days spent apart.

"Heart-warming picture straight out of a story book, isn't it?" asked Vanguard.

"Yes," agreed Sugarberry, quickly wiping a sentimental tear from the corner of her eye as Lilac approached.

"Excuse me, Van, but I've got to talk to Sugarberry a moment. She led Sugarberry to a private spot by the rose bed. "The tea roses survived the rain nicely," she commented as she bent to pull some weeds that had made the most of the rainy days. Sugarberry leaned over to pull a weed, too, and took advantage of the opportunity to dump her ice tea at the base of the rose bush. "Tea roses should like tea," she muttered to herself.

Lilac seemed to be finding it difficult to say whatever it was she had to say, so the two pulled weeds for a minute or two before Lilac cleared her throat and began-- "Your stay with us will be ending tomorrow, Sugarberry."

"And I'll miss Birdsong, even if things didn't work out as I planned," reflected Sugarberry.

"With Jingle back, he and the family will be anxious to get home."

Sugarberry's mind jumped ahead as she thought, I'll have the privacy of my tower room all to myself on my last night here, when Lilac's words cut through.

"...several weeks to clean up the house decently, so if you wouldn't mind moving into Merry Moment's room for tonight, Creampuff can keep her family together in your room."

Sugarberry looked down at the delicate roses and reached to caress one of the blooms, only to be scratched by a thorn. She pulled her hoof back quickly. "No problem," she smiled weakly at Lilac while she rubbed the scratch on her foreleg.

Merry Moments was coming across the lawn, so Sugarberry intercepted her. "Mighty mean fast ball you throw," Sugarberry tried using some of the lingo Quarterback used when talking about softball.

Merry Moments giggled. "I don't do too badly. At least I impressed Buck enough that he invited me to a game tonight."

"Speaking of tonight," Sugarberry frowned, "did Lilac speak to you about the room change?"

"Yes, she did. The ponies who had been with me were able to go home. Do you want to move your things in now?"

"Sure. Whatever."

Sugarberry went up to her room; Creampuff had cleaned and straightened the disarray of the morning, so it looked cool and inviting. She headed to the windowseat and sunk onto the soft pillows and rested her head against the windowpane. A breeze softly caressed her face, and a lone robin serenaded her from the branches of the willow tree. She drank in the views from the window and stored away memories to feed on in the future. Then, with a resolute shake of her head, she got up and began packing her suitcase. Before long, she stood at the door for one final look, and walked down the hall to Merry Moments' room.

"Come on it!" Merry Moments called.

Sugarberry set her suitcase on a chair just as the bell rang for the evening meal, so she and Merry Moments hurried down to eat.

Jingle's homecoming leant a festive atmosphere to the tenants of Birdsong, and the meal and clean-up lasted late into the evening. Merry Moments had gone off to the ball game with Buck and his brothers, Trendy took Popcorn and Vanguard to see his arrowhead collection, and Sugarberry took advantage of the distraction to retire to her room. She recorded her activities and thoughts of the day, and realized that she was homesick for Dream Valley and all her friends back home. She wondered if Fluff was missing her as much as she missed him. Looking at the clock, she realized that Tabby and Chocolate Chip and Tiffany were probably at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe this very minute. Well, by tomorrow evening, she'd be with them again. She'd be home. At the present, she just felt like a misplaced pony. Crawling into bed, she looked forward to her departure in the morning.

The song of the robin was Sugarberry's wake-up call; she woke slowly, but once it hit her that today was the day, she opened her eyes and jumped out of bed to a glorious sunshiny day. Merry Moments was still asleep, so Sugarberry had access to the shower, and leisurely prepared for her journey home. She was scheduled to leave right after breakfast; Buck would accompany her to the airport.

The snapping of the suitcase latches awakened Merry Moments and she was soon out of bed and ready for breakfast, too. Sugarberry set her suitcase by the door, and she and Merry Moments descended the stairs together to breakfast. A jumble of voices from the breakfast room told the girls that everyone was up early this fine morning.

A buffet of delectable dishes assured Sugarberry that she wouldn't leave Birdsong hungry. After feasting on pancakes and hot coffee, she nibbled from a frosted dish heaped with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, bananas, and cantaloupe.

Lilac made a point of thanking Sugarberry and her other guests for their cooperation in helping with the flood conditions, and offered them a discount on their next stay at Birdsong. Sugarberry assured Lilac that her time had been delightful and that she would look forward to a visit next year.

Creampuff and family gave Sugarberry their heartfelt thanks and the foals presented Sugarberry with a thornless rose from Lilac's garden. Vanguard had at some point disappeared, but Sugarberry was able to bid farewell to Popcorn, Audrey, and Merry Moments. She then left for the foyer to meet Buck. To her surprise, Vanguard stood in the foyer as if waiting for her. Two suitcases stood on the floor, and one of them Sugarberry recognized as her own. Vanguard answered her questioning gaze.

"My stay ends this morning, too," he explained. "I convinced Buck to let me escort you to the airport."

Sugarberry smiled. "I missed you back there. I'd hoped to get to say goodbye."

"We'll talk about that," Vanguard said as he grabbed the suitcases. Sugarberry held the door, and the two set off from Birdsong.

Trendy and his sons had done a good job repairing the washed-out areas of the path, so Vanguard and Sugarberry had a comfortable walk ahead of them. They shared a love of the feathered creatures in the tress around them, and compared notes on the birds they had seen personally. When they reached the picnic area where Buck and Sugarberry had lunched that first morning, Vanguard suggested that they sit and rest a bit.

"I could carry my own suitcase," Sugarberry offered.

"We've got time," Vanguard countered. "Besides, I want to talk to you." He directed Sugarberry to a shady bench under the trees. When they were seated, he continued.

"The reason I came to Birdsong was to make a decision in my life. I'd interviewed for a new position with another college, and was offered the job. But I was unsure of what I wanted to do."

"Where would the new job take you?" Sugarberry inquired curiously.

"Pony Pride University in Dream Valley."

Sugarberry gasped. "You interviewed for a job in Dream Valley?"

"Yes," verified Vanguard. "I visited the campus two weeks ago. They need a new head of the mathematics department there."

"And what did you think of Dream Valley?"

"Pony Pride is a good school," Vanguard admitted. "I just wasn't sure if I wanted to make the move. So I came here to get some clear thinking done. And when you arrived from Dream Valley, I made up my mind. I'm taking the job."

Sugarberry studied Vanguard closely. "What did I have to do with your decision?"

"Well, it seemed fate somehow. I needed to make a decision on Dream Valley, and a personable pony shows up from that very place."

Sugarberry felt her cheeks turn as red as the strawberry on her forehead.

"I'd like to get to know you better, Sugarberry."

Nothing had prepared her for this moment, so Sugarberry remained silent. But her radiant smile told Vanguard all he needed to know. He stood up, and pulled Sugarberry to her feet. "We'll get you to the airport now, and I'll be in Dream Valley in a couple of weeks."

Vanguard picked up the suitcases, but Sugarberry took hers away from him. He hesitated a moment, but grinned as he saw her point. They continued down the path, but this time hoof in hoof.


Lilac's Craisin Cookies

2 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups melted butter or margarine

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ cups firmly packed brown sugar

2 pkgs. (3.4 oz. each) French Vanilla instant pudding

4 eggs

7 cups quick cooking rolled oats

2 packages (6 oz. each) Craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)

Mix flour with the baking soda. Combine melted butter, sugars, and dry pudding mix in a large bowl. Beat until smooth.

Gradually add flour/baking soda mixture. Add half the oats and mix well; then add remaining oats. Blend in Craisins.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.


Dancer's Story #6
The Triple Crown

"Blimey! That was fun; now I'm all puffed!" Hope groaned and lifted her head as she heard the familiar Australian accent.

"Thanks a lot, Fever..." Hope moaned as she dropped her head back down.

"You okay?" Dancer poked her head in Hope's stall and smiled.

"Yeah, Fever just woke me up again, that's all..." Hope sighed and looked at her wrapped leg. A week ago, Hope had pulled a muscle and sprained her right foreleg during the tryouts.

"Hey, Hope! Why don't you stop playing possum and come watch the morning workouts!" Forever Night (though he was better known as Fever) said as he walked past the stall. "I'm already done; I was one of the first out there; don't you ever enjoy the early morning?" he taunted.

Hope struggled to her hooves and stood awkwardly on three legs while she slowly put the injured one down. "I would enjoy the morning if I could WALK PROPERLY!!!" she growled, but Fever had already turned and trotted merrily down the aisle.

Dancer sighed and watched Fever talk to Storm and Orion. "He isn't really that bad once you really know him... all he wants to do is to be his best." Dancer walked a few steps and looked back at Hope.

* * *
Later that day, Dancer watched as Storm and another colt breezed on the track. "Go, Storm, go!" Dancer said to herself as the Storm surged ahead bit by bit.

"He is doing perfectly!" Wonder told Jazzman, who was watching a few feet away.

"You should get him in at least one more prep race, don't you think?" Jazzman asked.

"Yeah, and soon; his last race was a little over two weeks ago, and the derby is in a month." Wonder looked out onto the track as the thundering of hooves grew louder. Storm was a length ahead of the other colt and as he passed the finish line; Wonder clicked the stopwatch and smiled.

"You did great, guys!" Wonder called out.

"What were their times?" Dancer asked.

"Storm did the first half in forty-seven seconds, and the last quarter in twenty-three flat; he did one second faster at the half than last month!" Wonder said proudly.

"Really?" Storm smiled as he walked up to the gap.

"Yep! Your times have been great! You should be able to pull off the same performance in the Preakness as you did in the derby," Wonder said.

Storm beamed proudly, remembering the glory he was in when he won the Kentucky Derby by two lengths.

* * *
"I'm so sick of this!" Hope growled as the limped slowly across the grass, with Dancer at her side.

"At least you didn't break your leg; you will be jumping again in no time!" Dancer encouraged her. Across the grass, Dinah-- Mindy's daughter-- was lying in the shade, watching a butterfly.

"Have you seen Orion?" Hope asked as her gaze fell on the small filly.

"He went into town with Storm after the breeze this morning... Storm said they would be back by dinner tonight," Dancer said.

"Did they take Fever with them??" Hope asked eagerly.

"No, Fever is at his lesson with some of the others..." Dancer said.

"Let's go back to the barn; I want to take a nap." Hope sighed and turned around. Dancer nodded and nuzzled Hope. "Thanks, Dancer." Hope smiled.

After walking with Hope to her stall, Dancer headed back outside to the indoor ring. There, Magic was coaching a few young fillies on dressage while Fever was practicing on the other side of the ring, where six large jumps were set up. Dancer sat down and watched.

"Whatcha up too?" Wonder asked, walking up behind Dancer.

"Oh, nothing really..." Dancer sighed.

"Want to come watch the two-year-olds run?" Wonder asked.

"Sure!" Dancer smiled and stood up.

"Good; you can help me make some decisions." Wonder hugged Dancer and the two headed towards the track.

"What do you think of that bay?" Wonder asked as they stood in the gap of the track, watching a group of four two-year-olds cantering on the far side of the track.

"The one leading?" Dancer asked.

"Yes, her name is Sawyer; she seems to be the best two-year-old this year..." Wonder said, her eyes focused on the track.

"She looks nice, especially for leading the group the whole way... that little chestnut in the back looks like she's ready to burst into a gallop!" Dancer laughed.

"Hey, Dancer!" Storm trotted up, smiling.

"You look happy... hmmm, I wonder why!" Dancer joked.

Storm gently nuzzled her, and then turned to Wonder. "Is Triumph going to stay in the Triple Crown and run in the Belmont?" he asked.

"Yes, he could still pace or show..." Wonder answered.

"According to this, Townsend Acres thinks he's gonna win," Storm sneered at the paper he held.

"Yes, I saw that this morning," Dancer looked at the paper and sighed.

"You both know what Victor, Triumph, and the rest of the horses at Townsend Acres are like," Wonder said. "All they care about is money and publicity." Wonder shook her head and smiled at Storm. "I'm sure you'll do fine... you have already done wonderful."

Storm blushed and smiled at Wonder's comments. "Thanks, Wonder!"

* * *
"Go, Storm, GO!" Dancer, Wonder, Hope, and Orion cheered as they watched the horses break from the gate.

"Oohh, where is he? I can't see him!" Dancer frowned and looked closer.

"I can't see him either; there are four grays out there..." Wonder shaded her eyes and looked closely as the pack spread out along the rail.

"There he is!" Orion and Hope said at the same time, and then Hope started to giggle. Orion was smiling.

"Good; he's in fourth!" Wonder smiled, too, and sighed.

"Yeah... let's relax-- tee hee-- we're not out there running the race!" Dancer laughed and leaned back a little.

"Only Option is in the lead, closely followed by Townsend Triumph. Thunder Bay and Storm's Fury are neck and neck for fourth and fifth!" the announcer said.

"Triumph is ahead... what if he wins?" Hope asked as she looked back and forth between Wonder and Dancer.

"Storm will kick in the last stretch, like he always does," Dancer smiled.

Wonder nodded. "Yeah... almost... go, Storm, go!" they both yelled.

"And they're at the top of the last stretch!" the announcer said, with growing excitement in his voice. "Townsend Triumph is in the lead and tearing towards the finish! Wait! Storm's Fury is making his move, passing Only Option..."

Dancer's mouth was dry and her eyes were locked on the two horses racing neck and neck.

"Storm's Fury leads Townsend Triumph by a nose, now a neck-- do we have another Triple Crown winner? YES! Storm's Fury wins the Triple Crown by half a length!"


The Story of Too Much Free Time
by Merry Treat, with a lot of help from Tabby

The thanks for this story goes to Tabby. It's based on an RPG (or two) that we did. I hope ya'll don't get frightened away from us after you read this! Tee hee! ~.^

Merry Treat was hanging out at her house with her friends Tabby; Tarquin, Tabby's Meowth Pokèmon; Merry Treat's Spearow; and Merry Treat's own Meowth, Tess. They were lounging in Merry Treat's living room chowing down on popcorn and watching old Pokèmon episodes, as well as a few other videos and movies that Merry Treat had laying about.

"Ohhh! This is so funny!" Tabby laughed at a funny part in "Holy Matrimony!" that Merry Treat had taped.

Merry Treat was laughing hysterically. "Yes, it is! Poor James!"

Tarquin, Tess, and Spearow were laughing even harder than their trainers.

"Spearow! Spear, row!" Spearow sputtered between fits of laughter.

Merry Treat nodded in agreement with her Pokèmon. "Yes, it would be cool if they existed in real life!" Just then, a thought formed in her head. "Hey! I've got an idea!" she cried out joyfully.

"What is it? Tell me!" Tabby asked excitedly.

Merry Treat grinned mischievously as she fished for something in her pocket. "Wanna play a trick on Clever Clover?" she asked with a clever grin on her face.

Tabby's eyes lit up. "Oh! Oh! Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah!" She clapped her front hooves together excitedly.

Merry Treat pulled out her special Senshi pen which also worked as a disguise pen. "What do you think he'd do if he saw Misty show up on his doorstep?" she asked behind a Cheshire cat grin.

Tabby also grinned like a Cheshire cat. "He'd go insane!" she cried out gleefully. "He'd get sooo confused! Even more so if he saw Jessie standing next to her!"

Merry Treat laughed and held up her pen. "Disguise Power! Change me into Misty!" she cried. In a flash, she was the spunky red-head complete with the yellow bag and everything.

Tabby gazed in surprise at her friend. "So that thing can turn you into whatever you want?" she asked in bewilderment.

Merry Treat, disguised as Misty, laughed. "Yup! It's fun! Change into Jessie; he'll really go insane then!"

Tabby changed her shape (as that was her unicorn magic) just as fast as her friend. Then she smiled evilly. "Let's go!"

Spearow and Tess exchanged a sweatdrop. "Uhhhhhh... we'll stay right here..." Tess said slowly as Spearow nodded in agreement.

"I'll come! You'd never see Jessie without Meowth close at her side!" Tarquin said as he hopped in front of them.

Merry Treat grinned. "Come on! I can't wait to see the look on his face!"

The three bolted out the door without bothering to turn off the T.V., which they had forgotten about anyway.

* * *
When they arrived at Clever Clover's house, Merry Treat rang the doorbell. "I hope he's home," she commented.

The trio waited for what seemed like an hour, but was really just five minutes.

Merry Treat sighed, exasperated. "CLEVER CLOVER! WAKE UP!!!!!" she called loudly.

"YEAH, CLEVE CLOVE! GET UP ALREADY!" Tabby joined in using the same tone as her companion.

"Where is he?" Merry Treat asked no one in particular.

"Maybe he's out shopping, or training his Pokèmon, or he's been arrested, or..." Tabby started in a very worried tone.

"Cenetra to Tabby! Come back!" Merry Treat cried sarcastically.

Tabby blinked. "Sorry," she said while she tried to look intelligent.

Just then, the doorknob turned. The two friends turned towards the door attentively as it opened. There stood Clever Clover, yawning and stretching.

"What do you..." he started to say as he opened one eye. Then both eyes flew open wide and a look of confusion washed over his face. "What the... who are you!?"

Merry Treat grinned. "I'm Misty, and this is my friend Jessie!" She extended a hand to Clever Clover.

Clever Clover cautiously shook her hand. "Since when are you two friends?"

"Well, uhhhhh..." Tabby was at a loss for words and looked desperately at Merry Treat for help.

"Errr... since always!" Merry Treat said nervously with the same desperate look.

Then Tabby finally had an idea. "She got tired of Ash and Brock, so she decided to hang out with me and Meowth."

Merry Treat nodded in agreement. "Yeah, and she got tired of James! We're friends now!"

Tabby grinned evilly. "We are here to steal your Farfecht'd and Rattata!"

Merry Treat blinked in surprise. "We are?"

Tabby leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Well, yes! If we can get them."

Clever Clover eyed them suspiciously. "How about a Pokèmon battle?" he asked as he fished out a PokèBall from his pocket.

Merry Treat's face lit up. "Oh! All right! I love Pokèmon battles!" She clapped her hands together dramatically.

"I'll go first!" Tabby cried jubilantly.

Clever Clover nodded and led them to a wide green patch of grass behind his house.

"Whoa! This place is very nice!" Merry Treat exclaimed.

"Thanks!" Clever Clover responded cheerfully.

"All right, let's get on with it!" Tabby said hastily as she moved to one side of the patch. She glanced down at Tarquin, who just grinned.

Clever Clover pulled out his PokèBall. "Go, Ratatta!" he cried as he threw it.

Merry Treat was cheering for Tabby. "Go! Go! Go! You can beat him!"

"Uhhh... Tar-- er-- Meowth, scratch attack!" Tabby shouted.

"Ratatta, tail whip!" Clever Clover cried.

Just as Tarquin swung at Ratatta, the purple rat waved its tail and blocked anything that Tarquin tried to do to it.

Tabby gasped as she realized that Tarquin wasn't going to win. "Err... hang in there! You can beat him!"

Merry Treat bit her lip. Hang in there, Tarquin! I know you can do it! she thought desperately.

"Oh! Stop! You win!" Tabby shouted loudly.

Clever Clover grinned smugly. "That's victory number three for me!" he cried joyfully.

Tabby scooped up Tarquin and walked over to where Merry Treat was standing. She gestured with her head for Merry Treat to go out in the field. Merry Treat nodded in return and practically flew over to the spot where Tabby had been standing.

"Ha! I can beat you, Clever Clover!" she said with confidence. "If you do beat me, you'll get a badge!" She held out the Dream Valley Gym Badge by mistake.

"The Dream Valley Badge? I already have that one!" Clever Clover called.

Merry Treat realized what she was holding, and quickly pulled out the Cascade Badge. "Heh heh... badges... easy to get them mixed up." she said sheepishly.

Tabby slapped her forehead with her hand. "Pull it together, MT!" she muttered.

Merry Treat had seen her friend's action and sweatdropped. "Uhm... let's get started, shall we?" she asked as she turned to Clever Clover.

Clever Clover was giving her a weird look. "Uh, yeah, sure." he said slowly.

"Go, Starmie!" Merry Treat threw her PokèBall. Lucky I just caught one yesterday! she thought as it popped out.

"Ratatta, tail whip!" Clever Clover ordered.

"Starmie, water guns now!" Merry Treat shouted.

Before Ratatta could even make a move, the water hit it square in the face, and sent it flying backward.

"All right!" Tabby and Merry Treat both cheered in unison.

"Ratatta, dodge the next attack!" Clever Clover cried desperately.

"Starmie, uh, how about we try....." her mind was blank. What was Starmie's other attack!? she wracked her brains.

"Watch out!" Tabby shouted.

Merry Treat looked up just in time to see Starmie get hit with Ratatta's tail whip. She hadn't heard Clever Clover call it out. He must have done it when I wasn't looking!

"Oh my gosh, he cheats!" she said softly to herself. "Errr......Starmie, tackle attack it now!" She cried jubilantly as she remembered.

Now it was Ratatta's turn to get knocked out.

"Yes!" She cheered.

"Ahhh! Ratatta!" Clever Clover cried. "Oh, stop, stop! I surrender!"

Merry Treat grinned. "Better luck next time! Starmie, return!"

"Ratatta, return!" Clever Clover said reluctantly. "Thank you for a battle. Next time, I'm not gonna lose!" Then he turned his back and went inside.

The two friends looked at each other, and burst out into cheering and laughing.

"I won! I won!" Merry Treat danced around happily. "I won! Yipee!"

"Let's go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe to celebrate!" Tabby said in the same excited tone.

"Sure! But let's not change back just yet. There are still a few people that I wanna freak out first." Merry Treat added with a wink.

"Ooohhhh.....we are very evil today, are we not?" Tabby winked back with a laugh.

The three walked away from Clever Clover's house laughing hysterically and headed towards the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

* * *
Tabby proudly strode into the shop with Merry Treat and Tarquin close behind.

"I should have used Arboc instead," Tabby commented as she stood in line.

"Well, you're not getting me to battle again! That Ratatta is tough!" Tarquin snapped.

"What? But you have to! Please Tarquin?" Merry Treat bent down so her face was level with Tarquin's.

"No!" Tarquin turned his back on them and crossed his arms.

"Let's see....I'll have a strawberry sundae. Tarkie, ya want one too?" Tabby asked after glancing at the menu.

"Oh! A strawberry sundae! I want one of those!" Merry Treat said hungrily.

"Eh? A strawberry sundae? Sure." Tarquin said momentarily.

"Scoops, three strawberry sundaes please." Tabby said to a bewildered Scoops who was standing behind the counter with a surprised look on her face.

"S-sure!" She stammered and went immediately to work on the sundaes.

Just then, Princess Tiffany walked into the shop. Merry Treat grinned and bounded over to her.

"Hey Tiff!" She grinned.

Tiffany gave her the blankest look. "Who are you? I've never met you before, and how do you know my name?" she asked curiously.

Merry Treat laughed. "I'm Misty. I saw your picture somewhere. It's an honor to meet you!"

Tiffany raised a skeptical eyebrow and blinked several times. "Uh...yeah...whatever.." she walked away muttering something that sounded suspiciously like, "what a weirdo!"

Tabby walked over to her friend and handed Merry Treat her sundae.

"Thanks!" Merry Treat said and took it. She saw Tarquin was looking kind of down. "Cheer up Tarkie! Everyone loses once in a while!" She gave him a hug.

Tarquin perked up and dug into his sundae.

* * *
About an hour later, the three were standing outside the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe again.

"I think I'll head back to MT's house and hang out with Tess and Spearow for a while," Tarquin said.

Tabby and Merry Treat grinned at each other.

"Have fun, Tarkie!" Tabby said as she gave him a hug.

"Yeah, see ya!" Merry Treat added.

Tarquin walked off down the street with a wave.

Merry Treat sighed. "Now what do you want to do?"

"Let's go to the mall." Tabby said with a shrug.

"All right!" Merry Treat agreed.

The pair set off in that direction, chatting merrily and laughing when other ponies gave then weird looks.

* * *
Another fifteen minutes later, they were in the mall.

"Why is everyone looking at us so strangely?" Tabby asked.

"I don't blame them. Not many ponies watch the show."

"Hey! You guys sure have weird clothes on!" Baby Chopper shouted at them.

"Oh yeah! At least we HAVE clothes, you little creep!" Merry Treat waved a threatening fist in his direction.

Baby Chopper gasped and scampered off with his friends.

Merry Treat smiled smugly. "He won't bother us again thanks to Misty the Mighty!"

"Yeah! And Jessie the... uhh... Fabulous!" Tabby added. She glanced around the food court. "Ah! There's Spike!" she cried.

"Where? I don't see him anywhere!" Merry Treat looked around and at last spotted him.

"Hey, Spike! Over here!" Tabby waved her arms to get his attention.

Merry Treat did the same thing. "Hey! Spike! Yoo-hoo!!"

Spike looked around to see who was calling him, and looked slightly stunned when he saw them.

Cautiously he walked over. "Uh... do I know you? You seem somewhat familiar..."

"We are Misty and Jessie! Of Team... uhhh..." Tabby wracked her brains and glanced nervously looked at Merry Treat for help.

"Team Girl Power!" Merry Treat finished.

Spike gave them a weird look and turned away. He walked over to Clever Clover and whispered something that made them both snicker. Then they walked off.

"Oh, I should have picked a better name!" Merry Treat groaned and slapped her forehead.

Tabby had already continued along ahead as Merry Treat hurried to catch up to her. As they were walking past a bench full of Sweetheart Sisters, Wildflower suddenly cried, "Hey, we love your clothes! They are soo cool! Could you please tell us where you got them?"

Tabby stopped for a minute and glanced down at Merry Treat. " was somewhere in the Flatlands." Tabby offered.

"No, I didn't! I got these in Cerulean!" Merry Treat tugged on her shirt. "I think it was the Cerulean mall." she said with a smile.

"Ummmm....if you'll excuse us, don't we have an important meeting that we need to get too, Misty?" Tabby said suddenly and pulled on Merry Treat's arm.

"What are you talking about, Jessie?" Merry Treat gave her a blank look.

Tabby sweatdropped. "Uhhh....never mind....I think I'm losing my mind...."

Merry Treat sweatdropped also and pushed Tabby along. "We gotta go guys, see ya!"

They stopped outside the jewelry store, and Merry Treat's eyes fell on a beautiful emerald necklace. "Oh! I'd love to have that!" she breathed.

"Yes, it is beautiful." Tabby agreed as she leaned down next to her friend to get a better look. She gave a small gasp when she saw Sugarberry inside through the glass. "Hey Sugarberry! Over here!" She stood up and started waving wildly at her.

"Merry Treat, who.....oh! Sugarberry!" Tabby said as she and Merry Treat ran into the shop.

Sugarberry gave them a surprised look. "What on earth are humans doing in Dream Valley?" she exclaimed.

Merry Treat looked at her like she'd forgotten that she wasn't really Merry Treat. "It's us! Your friends! Remember?"

"Merry Treat! Of course she doesn't know us!" Tabby scolded.

Merry Treat got this surprised look on her face and slapped a hand over Tabby's mouth. "Do you wanna give away our secret!?"

Sugarberry eyed them suspiciously. "You seem a lot like Merry Treat and Tabby..." she commented.

"Uh... heh heh heh.... who?" Merry Treat asked sheepishly.

Sugarberry gave them a funny look. "Well... uhh.... I'll see you two some other time I guess..." With that, she left the shop with a puzzled look on her face.

Merry Treat uncovered Tabby's mouth and gave her the "death-to-Tabby" look. "You almost gave away our secret!" she steamed.

"What? You're the one who acted like she was supposed to know us!" Tabby argued in the same angry tone.

Then they noticed all the people staring at them, and hurriedly left the mall and headed back to Merry Treat's house.

Once inside, they dropped on to the couch with a heart-felt sigh of relief. "Boy, am I glad THAT'S over!" Merry Treat commented as she pulled out her Senshi pen to change back to her normal self.

Tabby nodded as she resumed her proper form. "Yeah, but it was fun! And it was great seeing you defeat Cleve Clove!" she added with a wink.

"Disguise Power! Change me back to normal!" Merry Treat changed back and giggled. "Yeah, that was pretty cool, wasn't it?"

Tabby yawned sleepily. "Oh, I think I'd better be getting home. Poor Callie must be starving."

Merry Treat glanced at the clock. "Yeah, we should all be getting to bed soon anyway."

She and Tabby hauled themselves off the couch and found Tess, Tarquin, and Spearow hanging out in Tess's room giggling over something.

"Hey, Tarkie, it's time we headed back home. It's getting late." Tabby yawned.

"All right. See you guys later!" Tarquin hopped onto Tabby's back. "Of course, we do expect a full report of what happened first thing tomorrow!" He added to Merry Treat and Tabby.

"Yeah, whatever Tar! See ya!" Merry Treat yawned as she escorted her friends to the door. "Night-night Tab!"

"Night-night MT!" Tabby added sleepily as she walked down the sidewalk to her house.

* * *
Later that night, Merry Treat fell into bed, sleepy as ever. "Oh, it's been a long day!" she yawned. But it sure was fun! she thought as a smile crossed her face. Then she slowly dropped into dreamland.

~*The End*~

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 July 1st.


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