My Little Pony Monthly Issue 28 (July 1, 1999)

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

E-mail Tabby ( to be removed from the mailing list.

Issue 28
July 1999

Letters to the Editor I think the MLP Monthly is a great idea. I love the stories, the contests, the jokes, and even browsing through the ads. Keep up the good work! Hi, Tabby! I'd just like to say that the stories in MLP Monthly are really good! They're funny and well written! I also like the ads ‘cause it helps people trade/sell/buy MLPs from other collectors. Hi, Tabby, I just want to say how much I have really loved reading MLP Monthly; some of the stories I've really loved! I especially love the Tabby and Sugarberry Gossip Hour. I like it; it's very helpful. Hiya, Tabby! Sorry I didn't reply right away; I've been busy and accidentally overlooked this e-mail. I love your Gossip Hour; it makes me laugh most of the time. Glad to see that the newsletter is getting bigger! Hi, Tabby and staff. You do a great job on the newsletter and I think we should all tell you so more often. I know you put a lot of time into it and you deserve a pat on the back now and then. So here's a big pony hug for all your hard work and a big thank you, too. :) Hi, Tabby! Just writing to tell you what a great job you've been doing with the newsletter! It's brought back a lot of good memories for me. I especially enjoy the ads section, where I've found many items I've been missing in my collection. Keep up the good work! I really like the series of stories in the MLP Monthly about Tabby, and I think it's neat that you managed to get Pokèmon in there too!

Editor's response-- All the writers appreciate hearing your kind words. It can be tough coming up with story ideas month after month, so it's great to hear that somebody out there really enjoys them. I love your newsletter, especially the stories you write. I am sure I could never write a story that well. Even if I got close to having a good story to put in your newsletter I'd probably mess it up with a stupid sentence. Don't stop making fabulous newsletters. :)

Editor's response-- Any of you aspiring writers are encouraged to submit your child-friendly work for consideration. Think of all the wonderful stories we might be missing! Hi, Tabby! I just wanted to let you know that I look forward to getting your newsletters every month-- in the past year and a half, I've watched it grow from around four pages or so to nine pages, and it's great to know that I'm not the only insane twenty-year-old who still loves MLP after all these years! I must say that I love the stories and Invento Ponies, but one of my favorite things is the fact that you've recently incorporated Pokèmon into your stories! I fell in love with Pikachu and the rest of the Pokèmon last fall and haven't been able to get enough of them! It's great seeing my favorite collection/obsession from the past tie in with my current collection/obsession! The one thing I do miss from the newsletters-- besides the story of King Arthur's daughters that were turned into ponies-- is the pony polls, where you asked us to identify a pony. It was kinda fun! I love everything else, though, and will continue to look forward to the MLP Monthly each and every month! Keep up the incredible and excellent work! :)

Editor's response-- Due to your request, the Mystery Pony feature is back in this very issue! And read the following letter for what the author of "All The Pretty Little Ponies" has in mind! I am enjoying the monthly installments of MLP Monthly and trying desperately to simplify my life so I can spend some more time writing. I have every intention of sending you Tattertales as soon as my life reaches some modicum of an atmosphere roughly approaching sanity. :-) I will say that I have entertained a MLP tale which is a crossover with the Narnia Chronicles, but deserted the idea as too complex for this time, but maybe someday... ;-)

Editor's response-- Not to put the pressure on, but your fans are anxiously awaiting your return to MLP Monthly! Hi! I love your adorable and informative newsletter. :) I just have a few suggestions-- having more clear transitions between sections would help. Also, so many different e-mails is sometimes a pain... although I know there's most likely a brilliant reason for it. My favorite part is the ads section, since it helps me out a lot! Thanks again for a great service.

Editor's response-- To anyone else who may be wondering why I split up the newsletter into different e-mail sections, it is because AOL-- the server where I send it from-- only allows so many letters to be contained in one e-mail. This is mostly a letter to say a big THANK YOU to all the talented writers on this list... I don't have a lot of time any more, but I always enjoy browsing through the stories and stuff. And... well, you all know I try to write up Pony Trek whenever I have the time. I think it's great how enthusiastic everyone on the list really is about the entire world of My Little Pony, and how creative you all are. Oh! And then, that huge thanks to Tabby for actually putting it all together! So... to everyone... keep up the EXCELLENT work! By the way-- you know what might be kewl? I love drawing, and I think it would be particularly interesting to have some sort of mural depicting all our main characters of the regular writings... eh, let me know (my address is ^.^

Editor's response-- Though it's difficult to incorporate pictures into the actual newsletter, a mural with all the main characters pictured on a webpage would be a great idea! Hi, just wanted to drop a line to say my little girl loves My Little Ponies and loves your stories and newsletter. She also likes Pokèmon so she really likes the stories that have both! Hello, Tabby, my daughter and I just LOVE MLP Monthly. I especially love to read the parts where the ponies use baby talk; my daughter is nine and she REALLY enjoys it when I can act silly with her. Keep up the good work.

Editor's response-- This is the highest compliment MLP Monthly can receive-- to know that parents are sharing the stories with their children.


The History of Twinkle Hearts
Part Two
by Windy

After making up after a disagreement, Baby Twinkle Hearts and Baby Fizzy noticed their brothers stuck in a powerful current, clinging to each other and wailing terribly.

"Hwelp! Hwelp! Hweeeeeeeellllllpppp!!!!" screamed Baby Tex and Baby Barnacle.

Twinkle Hearts saw tears forming in her brothers' eyes. "Baby Fizzy!" she called, sounding as urgent as she could, knowing her big sister was stubborn to help ponies in need.

"Hmm?" asked Baby Fizzy.

"Bwaby Twex n' Bwaby Barnacle are trapped in a current!!!" screamed Baby Twinkle Hearts.

"Oooh!" said Baby Fizzy, spotting a huge waterfall ahead. "SURF DANCER! WHITE CAP!!!!" she shrieked, trying to remember the names of the sea ponies.

The two sea ponies came above the water in a splash of foam. "Gwet the bwabies!" yelled the two baby unicorns. The roar of the waterfall was so load they had to yell to be heard.

"Sorry, but the current is too strong to do it from below!" said White Cap as some water got in her mouth. Then the two sea ponies disappeared beneath the foam and spray.

* * *
Twinkle Hearts looked up at the baby ponies on the other side of the table as she paused in telling her story. Baby Lofty and Baby Heart Throb were both clinging to each other, straws in their mouths. Baby Blossom was hogging the ice cream soda (or rather, what was left of it). All the other babies were asleep.

Twinkle Hearts gently shook Baby Cotton Candy and Baby Surprise. But then she noticed Baby Blossom giggling.

Baby Moondancer, who had heard Twinkle Heart telling the story as she was passing the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, scrunched into Baby Blossom's chair.

"Huh?" asked Baby Cotton Candy, waking up.

"Whassa matter?" said Baby Surprise.

"Pay attention," said Twinkle Hearts.

"T.H., continue that story, please," said Baby Moondancer. "T.H." was her way of saying Twinkle Hearts.

"Alright," said Twinkle Hearts. "Lofty, Heart Throb, it's not that scary. And Baby Blossom, stop that laughing!"

* * *
"I've gwot an idea!" said Baby Twinkle Hearts. "Mwe turn you and me into a pegasus!" (That was her unicorn magic.) She swiftly changed into a pegasus and turned Baby Fizzy into one as well.

"Me can fly alwedy," said Baby Hearth Throb as soon as Twinkle Hearts said that.

Soon the brothers and sisters were safely on the shore. "Lwet's go home," panted Baby Barnacle. So the weary baby ponies went home.

"Have a nice..." began their mother, Forever Sweet, as soon as the babies came in the door.

"Um... we get dwy," said Baby Barnacle and rushed to the bathroom with the other babies behind him. Then they scrubbed themselves down with soap (they had tripped many times in the muddy riverbank) and went into their room.

"Let's play pirates!" challenged Baby Barnacle.

"Yweah!!" said Baby Tex. He grabbed a cardboard sword covered in tin foil and a pirate's hat.

"Hehehe!" laughed Baby Barnacle He grabbed another sword like Tex's and tied his bandana around his head. Then he took an eye patch that his dad had used once and put it over his left eye. "Nwow we ready!" he said, and jumped onto one of the beds.

"This my fwort!" Baby Barnacle declared. He jumped over to his bookshelf, which had many books arranged on it: Pirates of Costa Pina; Indians of Jewel Desert; The Old West; and Ships, Pirates, Prairies, and Cowboys.

Baby Tex used the floor as his fort because the girls were playing with their My Little People doll-house on the other side of the room. The two boys practically destroyed the area... and caused the girls to flee with all their toys and books to the spare room.

"AIIIIEE!!!!!!!" they shrieked as they ran.

Baby Fizzy then said, "Mwean ol' boys!" and stuck out her tounge. The boys laughed uncontrollably.

Soon, Forever Sweet came up to say that the house was breaking. That scared Baby Tex and Baby Barnacle so much that they stopped playing so rough.

Then Forever Sweet made the babies clean up their room. Baby Tex and Baby Barnacle didn't play pirates for a long time afterwards.

To be continued...


Mystery Pony

Yes, this feature is back, but with a little added twist! Now, instead of just having to name the pony I describe, you'll also have to answer a few other questions about that pony!

Here's the description of the pony you'll have to identify:

yellow body; dark pink mane and tail; moon and stars symbol

And once you figure out who it is, you'll also have to figure out answers to the following questions about her:

What breed of pony she is--

What year she came out--

If she was ever featured in the MLP cartoon series--

What other ponies were in the same series with her--

Answer those four questions, plus the name of the pony, and e-mail them to me at! I'll let you know how well you did, and check the next issue for the outcome. ^.^


Tabby's Battle Against the Giant Squid
by Tabby

Tabby stared at the express mail letter clutched in her hoof as she sat on her porch steps. The mysterious cloaked figure had just dropped by to deliver it.

"There's only one pony in the world that would use that name on a letter to me," Tabby muttered to herself as she ripped into the envelope with a foreign postmark on it.

Tabby read over the paper inside, and shoved it back in the envelope. "How interesting," she said to herself. "No bother. I'll just see what the gang thinks at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe tonight."

* * *
Clever Clover tried to hide his peals of laughter when he looked at the outside of the envelope. "Tabitha Fershund. How quaint," he snorted.

Tabby glared across the table at him, like she did most every night. "I cannot help it if my mother still insists on calling me that," she said loftily.

"The letter's from your mother?" Sugarberry asked curiously.

"Exactly," Tabby confirmed. "I haven't heard from her for years, but she's--"

"My, I remember the days of our childhood when she still lived in Dream Valley," Sugarberry said nostalgically. "And then she moved away after you were through collage-- where is she now?"

"I think somewhere in Spain," Tabby said critically. "Or was it Italy? It might be France, too..."

"Try checking the postmark," Thomas suggested, a smile playing across his face.

"Postmark? Hmm, I never thought of that. I'll check later."

"Here, just let me see it," Clever Clover interrupted.

"It'd probably take ten minutes for her to find the postmark on the envelope, anyway," Spike whispered to Clever Clover.

"Ah-hem, but I need advice--" Tabby started.

"A hem is the edge of a piece of clothing," Clever Clover said promptly. He and Spike broke out laughing.

Tabby glared at Clever Clover again. They really were good friends; they just argued all the time. "As I was trying to say before I was so rudely interrupted..."

"What is it?" Thomas asked attentively.

"Yes, tell us," Sugarberry agreed.

"My mother--" Tabby paused. "Spike, give that envelope back to me!" After a short skirmish, Tabby pulled a slip of paper out of the envelope. "My mother wants me to visit her for two weeks in--well--Spain or Italy or France." She displayed the plane ticket."

"Two weeks?" Thomas echoed.

"That's a long time," Sugarberry fretted.

"What about the Pokèmon Center?" Clever Clover demanded.

"And your cat, Callie?" Spike added.

"Two weeks isn't that long," Tabby contradicted.

After the initial shock had worn off, her four friends were able to think more clearly on the matter. "I didn't mean to sound discouraging, Tabby," Sugarberry quickly apologized. "You really should take up your mother's offer."

"You still can't forget about your job at the center, or the Pokèmon of your own," Clever Clover accused.

"That's right," Spike agreed. "Don't let all those Pokèmon down like that."

"And I've already figured that out," Tabby yawned. "I'm sure Merry Treat will be happy to fill in for me at the center for a couple of weeks."

Up to this point, Thomas had been silent. "And when exactly do you have to leave?" he questioned.

"It says the plane leaves at eight o'clock tomorrow morning," Tabby said promptly.

Sugarberry gasped in alarm. "Eight?!...but that's hardly no time at all!"

"Your mother didn't give you an earlier notice?" Spike said skeptically.

"It's nothing to get alarmed over," Tabby said in dismissal. "It won't take more than five minutes to call Merry Treat, and another ten to throw a suitcase together."

"I think you're taking this too lightly, Tabby," Thomas warned.

"Of course she's taking it lightly," Clever Clover whispered to Spike. "She refuses to take anything seriously."

"I heard that, Cleve Clove!" Tabby shrieked.

"Whatever you say, Tabitha," Clever Clover smirked.

"Why, you little--" Tabby snarled.

"Uhh, Tabby," Sugarberry interrupted the argument, "if you're serious about going, shouldn't you get home and start making arrangements?"

Tabby snatched up her plane ticket and pushed back her chair. "I suppose I should! Buh-bye!"

She was just about to jump up from her seat when Sugarberry held her down. "I'll stop in at your house in the morning to see you off," she said tearfully.

"Uh-huh, uh-huh," Tabby said impatiently. "And you'll give a sentimental speech and all that. It's not like I'm never coming back."

"But what if you don't?" Sugarberry sobbed. "You'll get caught up in the European lifestyle, and we'll never hear from you again!"

Tabby sighed. "I'll be back in two weeks, alright?"

Sugarberry managed a smile. "If you say so," she said weakly. "See you tomorrow."

"And now I'm off," Tabby said briskly, standing up.

"I'll walk you home," Thomas offered quickly.

Tabby nodded in reply, and the two set off. Thomas was rather silent, and Tabby just stared at the envelope with an insane grin on her face (and not really watching where she was going).

Thomas hesitated as they reached Tabby's porch. "I suppose I'll say my goodbyes now." He forced a smile. "Have a good time in...well...Europe."

"Don't worry; I won't," Tabby said cheerfully; she had to keep up her pessimistic views. She eyed him critically. "Say, you don't look too happy."

"You're only going to be gone for two weeks," Thomas said sarcastically. "You can't expect your friends to be totally thrilled over it."

"They don't have to act like it's the end of the world, either," Tabby retorted. "I'll be back in two weeks.

"The way you change your mind, I wouldn't be surprised if you decided to stay there," Thomas said accusingly.

Tabby's eyes lit up with anger. "Why, that's--I wouldn't do that! You--you..."

"We'll see what happens in two weeks," Thomas stated simply.

"Indeed we will!" With that, Tabby stomped into her house, and slammed the door in Thomas' face.

"Hmph!" Tabby stood there fuming for several moments.

Tarquin walked through, rubbing his eyes as if he'd just woken up from a nap. "I figured it was you with that slamming door." His eyes lit up. "Hey, is that a special delivery envelope?"

Tabby immediately forgot about the argument. "Oh, Tarkie, It's so exciting!" she squealed. "My mother sent me a ticket to go visit her for two weeks!"

"But...I don't have to go with you, do I?" Tarquin said after the information had sunk in.

"I suppose you could board at Merry Treat's if you wanted to," Tabby figured. "Along with Jigglypuff and Oddish."

"Merry Treat's?" Tarquin's face lit up even more. "For two weeks? Yeah, I'm staying in Dream Valley!"

"I'll call her in a few minutes," Tabby yawned. "I leave tomorrow at eight in the morning."

"I get to start my stay with Merry Treat tomorrow? Yipee!" Tarquin cheered. "Of course, it's not that I don't like you, Tabby," he added quickly.

Tabby smiled and patted him on the head. "That's okay. You'll like being with Merry Treat better than being in Europe." Merry Treat also owned a Meowth who was good friends with Tarquin.

Tarquin hovered around as Tabby made the call. "Hey, Merry Treat! I need you to take over for me at the Pokèmon Center for two weeks and watch my Pokèmon."

Merry Treat blinked slowly. But then, she was used to hearing things like this from Tabby. "I think I can do that," she said cautiously. "You're not quitting, are you?"

"Of course not!" Tabby exclaimed. "I'm just going to visit my mother."

"Ohhh!" Merry Treat said in awe. "You get to go to Spain? You're so lucky!"

"Yep," Tabby confirmed. "Or, it might be Italy or France..."

"I'll be happy to do the Pokèmon stuff for you," Merry Treat said graciously. "How about if I come over tomorrow morning to pick-up Tarkie and the others? Or is that too soon?"

"That'll be perfect; my plane leaves at eight."

"You'll have so much fun!" Merry Treat squealed. "See ya!"

After hanging up, Tabby turned to Tarquin. "It's all settled," she informed him. "Merry Treat will come by tomorrow."

Tarquin clapped his paws together in excitement. "I can't wait!"

"Now, where's Tamara?" Tabby questioned. "She's not out, is she? I have to set some things up with her."

"In her bedroom," Tarquin said promptly.

"Great!" Tabby said brightly. "Now, you can go off and pack whatever you might need.

Tamara was indeed in her bedroom. "One of my necklaces is missing!" she wailed as Tabby entered.

Probably the one Tarquin found lying around and gave to Tess, Tabby reasoned to herself. To her cousin, she said quickly, "You'll have to watch over Callie and be sure her dishes are full while I'm gone for two weeks."

Tamara frowned. "You'll be out in the wild catching Pokèmon, won't you?" she sighed. "Really, that can't be good for your complexion."

"As a matter of fact," Tabby said lightly, "I'll be or Italy or Spain."

Tamara blinked slowly. "Europe? You're going to Europe?" she exclaimed. "Since when did you want a vacation there?"

"Since Mom sent me this plane ticket." Tabby waved the tiny slip of paper through the air.

"Aunt Agatha?" Tamara echoed. "She invited you to visit? What about me? Doesn't she want me to come, too?"

"There's only one ticket, and she wants me," Tabby said in dismissal. "I'm leaving in the morning at eight. Like I said, be sure to watch Callie. Merry Treat is taking my Pokèmon, so you don't have to worry about them." With that, Tabby abruptly stepped out into the hallway and closed the door, leaving Tamara to complain to herself.

"Now the only thing left to do is pack my suitcase," Tabby said cheerfully, entering her own room. Digging a suitcase out of the depths of her closet, she scrutinized her room carefully. What should she take?

The first items in the suitcase were some of her favorite My Little People, Pokèmon, and Teddy Ruxpin videos. Next was her beloved plush ‘Koosa, Brownie. Of course, Tabby couldn't forget her two plush Tea Bunnies and Kitty Brite...Tabby went around the room, pulling out her favorite toys from her different collections.

After preparing for bed, Tabby decided to throw in her toothbrush. Sugarberry would really rip into me if I forgot that, she thought reasonably.

With that taken care of, Tabby collapsed into bed.

* * *
"Hey, hey, hey!" Tabby exclaimed to herself as she woke up the next morning. "I get to go to Europe today!"

There was something nagging at her memory from last night...but Tabby didn't stop to think about it. She leaped out of bed and looked at her clock: seven o'clock.

Plenty of time, she thought as she went through her morning ritual. She was just finishing breakfast as Tarquin entered the kitchen.

"I've packed what I needed," he said eagerly. "Will you bring me back something from Europe?"

"Mmmmph." Tabby struggled to swallow. "Oh! A souvenir? Certainly, and I'll find something for Tess, too."

Tarquin grinned broadly. "You're a great trainer, Tabby," he said sincerely.

"All in a day's work," Tabby proclaimed.

"Tamara is sulking in her room," Tarquin informed her.

Tabby yawned. "Figures. She should be happy that I won't be around to insult Tex."

"And she'll have complete rule over the house," Tarquin added.

The doorbell rang. Tabby grabbed her suitcase (and she had even remembered the plane ticket) and ran to the door. "It'll be either Merry Treat or Sugarberry," she told Tarquin as she twisted the doorknob.

It turned out to be Merry Treat. "Tess and Spearow can't wait to see you, Tarkie." She bent down to pet the Meowth and turned to Tabby. "I'll be sure to take extra-good care of your Pokèmon. And the center."

"Here are Jigglypuff and Oddish," Tabby said as she handed two PokèBalls to Merry Treat. "I'm sure they'll be fine with you."

"I don't mean to rush off so quickly," Merry Treat said apologetically, "but I've got to be sure to get to the Pokèmon Center on time. Have a great time! Be sure to send me a postcard!" She winked and started down the porch steps.

"Buh-bye, Tarkie, Merry Treat, Jigglypuff, Oddish!" Tabby called after them. "I'll be seeing you!"

Then Sugarberry trotted up the walk. "Hey, hey, Sug!" Tabby greeted her.

"Good morning," Sugarberry said. "Is there anything you need help with before you go?" She put on a brave smile.

"I've got everything in this suitcase," Tabby assured her friend.

"You remembered a toothbrush, didn't you?" Sugarberry asked suddenly.

Tabby rolled her eyes. "Of course, Sugarberry."

"Well, goodbye," Sugarberry sniffled. "Though I'm not sure how good I'll be as secretary at the clinic for these two weeks."

"You'll be okay," Tabby assured her, but then her face suddenly fell. That's what had been nagging her memory...her argument with Thomas last night.

"You okay?" Sugarberry asked in concern.

Tabby blinked. "Oh! Yes! I was just thinking that I'd better be heading to the airport now!" She ran down the walk. "See ya!" she shouted back at Sugarberry, who waved in return.

Once Sugarberry was out of sight, Tabby slowed her pace to think. I hope he's not too mad, she mused to herself, remembering last night. But to think I wouldn't come back! Hmph! She marched resolutely on to the airport.

* *
Upon arrival at the airport, Tabby realized she had never flown on a plane before. I may not come back alive! she thought to herself in alarm, but quickly reassured herself. Well, it can't be any worse than a walk through the Dark Forest.

The next thing Tabby realized was that she had no idea what to do now. She did have her ticket...maybe she had to do something with that. Hmm...a desk was on the far side of the room that Tabby was in, with an official-looking pony standing behind it.

Tabby dug frantically in her suitcase for the ticket while walking towards the counter. "Here," she said briefly, pushing the ticket over to the other pony.

The lavender pony in a cap which bore the emblem of the airport glanced at the ticket for a second. "Gate 5," she yawned.

"What about Gate 5?" Tabby asked impatiently.

"That's where you wait for your flight," the ticket-taker explained in a bored tone of voice.

"Alrighty!" Tabby skipped along on her new quest to find Gate 5. "Let's see...Gate 4, Gate 5, Gate 6, Gate 7..." She paused. "Gate 7?! But seven is after five. That can mean only one thing." Tabby took a deep breath. "Gate 5 does not exist. Unless...unless! Perhaps I missed it!"

Eventually, Tabby did find her way to Gate 5 and seated herself. Though the airport hadn't seemed very busy, there were quite a few ponies waiting as well.

After two minutes of waiting, Tabby was already bored out of her mind. As she was concentrating so hard on how bored she was, she was only dimly aware of a voice over the loudspeaker... "Gate 5 now loading..."

Hearing the commotion of hooves trotting across the floor, Tabby looked up. "Is that Gate 5 loading?" she exclaimed to herself. "Well! They didn't even tell me!"

* * *
I hope it doesn't take long to get to...err...France or Italy or Spain, Tabby thought, staring out her window to the ground below. She had been lucky enough to get on the right plane.

The plane should crash just about now, Tabby figured to herself. And all my beloved videos will be lost forever!

The flight was uneventful, but it took much too long to reach its destination, in Tabby's opinion. She wished she had Clever Clover to bug about how much longer it would be until landing. It sure was fun, stealing his pocket watch and wasting five minutes figuring out what positions the hands were in.

Barnacle n' Cleve Clove n' Spike n' Friendly'll probably watch Pokèmon again tonight, Tabby sniffled. And I won't be there!

Tabby looked out the window again. There was... ocean under the plane. She shuddered. The ocean reminded her of giant squid, and she was petrified of giant squid. Tabby was still scared silly that-- someday-- a squid would emerge from the drainhole in her bathtub.

Tabby settled herself back in her seat, and whimpered quietly. Thinking of giant squid had made her ill at ease. Monsters from the Dark Forest were better than giant squid...

* * *
"Hey, hey! I made It!" Tabby debarked the plane and merrily skipped along, swinging her suitcase in the air. "Sorry," she quickly apologized as she swung it into someone's leg.

"Tabitha! Tabitha!" A pastel blue unicorn was waving frantically at Tabby.

"Hey, hey!" Tabby pushed her way through the bustling crowd of ponies. "Hey! Mom!"

"Oh, Tabitha, it is you!" Being silent for a moment, the unicorn embraced her daughter in a tight hug.

"Mmmff. Err. A-hem!" Tabby struggled to entangle herself. "And that's ‘Tabby,' Mom."

"Hmm, well..." The blue unicorn frowned for a moment, but quickly brightened. "Come, let's get outside and we can think more clearly. My house isn't far from here," she said quickly, leading the way.

"Alrighty," Tabby obediently trotted after her mother. She wouldn't mind getting out of all this noise, either.

"Now, then," Tabby's mother sat down on a park bench after walking a ways. Looking Tabby up and down, she said happily. "You've grown to be so beautiful, Tabitha!"

"Tabby," Tabby reminded, and sat down next to her mother--a pastel blue unicorn with dark blue hair and the symbol of two dark pink cats (it ran in the family). "It's actually quite a bother being beautiful. All my friends are always trying to get me dressed up, or have my hair done." She sighed.

Her mother raised an eyebrow. "I would think you'd like to keep your looks up...but that doesn't matter now. You only brought one suitcase?"

"Yep." Tabby nodded and held up her case for display. "I only brought my most treasured possessions."

"You must have a wonderful jewelry collection," her mother said gleefully. "I can't wait to see it. But, we'd better get to my house. You'll certainly want to rest after that plane ride."

Not bothering to correct her on the jewelry collection, Tabby just fell in step behind her mother.

* * *
The house actually wasn't that near the airport. Tabby's hooves were sore and she was tired of gripping onto her suitcase by the time they reached a residential section on the outskirts of the city.. and a rich residential section by the looks of it. Tabby stared in awe at all the expensively-decorated mansions surrounding her on the slope of a hill.

"And here we are," Tabby's mother announced, pausing to open a gate in the fence surrounding one of the homes. "This is where you'll be staying for the next two weeks."

To Tabby's satisfaction, the house was painted in vibrant shades of blue. She had always despised houses which were-- in her way of seeing-- "dull colors." Tabby figured if you had bright colors like blue, purple, and pink, why should you choose a color such as white or tan to side your house with?

"You do like it, don't you?" her mother asked critically.

"It's wonderful," Tabby said exuberantly. "The blue paint looks excellent." She skipped up the stone path leading to the porch. Tabby looked out across the spacious lawn. It appeared that her mother did not let any flowers grow except for those of the color blue, judging from what was growing in the flowerbeds.

The light blue unicorn fit right in with all her blue surroundings. "I'll show you your room now," she explained, opening the front door that-- appropriately-- had panes of transparent blue glass.

"That's a... lot of blue, isn't it?" Tabby stepped inside the hallway. The carpet was pastel blue. The walls were dark blue. Pictures on the wall were hung in blue frames.

"I didn't want the place looking gaudy," Tabby's mother said logically. "Too many colors can give that effect."

Everywhere Tabby stepped, there was blue-- blue-- blue! It was rather strange. She'd never had an experience like this before.

Walking up a flight of stairs to the second floor and turning to the right, her mother opened a door-- an aqua door. "Here you are," she announced, waiting for Tabby to catch-up.

"That's a big bedroom," Tabby gasped, peering inside.

"Freshen up a bit, and when you're ready, you can come back downstairs," her mother instructed. "I'll be in the parlor. It will be so much fun finding out what you've been doing all these years!" She waved as she skimmed back down the hallway.

Tabby tentatively stepped inside her room. It was-- blue. "I have the feeling I'll be sick of blue in two weeks," she muttered to herself as she flopped down on the bed and dropped her suitcase to the ground.

Tabby surveyed the room with a critical eye from her vantage point. There was a tall dresser, a desk, the bed, a bookshelf. Nothing out of the ordinary, she thought to herself, except the room's so large. Even with the pieces of furniture, it didn't cover up half the floor space in the room.

Then, something more interesting caught her eye. A trunk-- very antique by the looks of it-- sat in one of the corners. Curious as a cat, Tabby sat up. "I must check that out later," she said out loud. "But for now, I've got to unpack." Whipping her suitcase open, she quickly found homes for everything-- Brownie, Kitty Brite, and the Tea Bunnies went on top of the dresser; the videos she lined up neatly on the bookshelf. That just left her toothbrush. Tabby flung it on her desk; she didn't have to do anything with that now.

Next, Tabby noticed something even more interesting than the chest: another door within her room, next to the desk. This could not wait to be explored! She leaped off the bed and turned the doorknob. Oh, but what if there's a giant squid behind it? she thought in alarm.

As it was, her concern wasn't too far off-- the door revealed her own private bathroom. It's somewhat nice having a rich family, she mused to herself, except for the fact that they're all fashion-crazy, as well. The bathroom, like everything else in the house, was rather large. Just to reassure herself, Tabby stared down the drainhole in the bathtub. I hope squid don't live around here, she worried.

Tabby was not one bit worn out by the plane ride. She splashed some water on her face and then prepared to go back downstairs, noting the time on the clock. "It's already afternoon?" she exclaimed out loud.

She carefully descended the stairs. Her hooves were still sore. Tabby peeked into several rooms on the ground level as she looked for the parlor. "Kitchen... dining room..." she mumbled to herself. "Ballroom?!" she shuddered. "I hope Mom is not going to throw a party while I'm here."

Finally, there was the parlor-- furnished with blue chairs and couches, of course. Her mother was sitting erectly in one of the chairs, reading a book. "Hey, hey!" Tabby greeted her as she sat down on the couch.

Tabby's mother abruptly set her book down. "Oh, good, you're back," she said delightedly and pushed a plate towards Tabby. "You must be starving after the plane ride."

Tabby suddenly realized how ravenous she really was. She munched contentedly on one of the chocolate chip cookies as her mother started asking questions.

"And are you still into veterinary work, Tabitha?"

Tabby cocked her head. "Basically--- sort of. And Mom, call me ‘Tabby'!"

Her mother sighed. "You always did like to go by that nickname. I thought you would have learned to like your full name after all this time."

"Nope." Tabby shook her head vigorously. "Anyway, I'm the Pokèmon nurse in Dream Valley now."

"Pokèmon? I've heard of those," her mother contemplated. "Is the pay good?"

"Three thousand jangles a month," Tabby boasted.

"I'm so glad you've made a name for yourself," her mother said proudly. "But still not married?"

Tabby tossed her head in defiance. "Of course not," she said bluntly.

Her mother frowned for a moment. "Someday, Tabitha, someday... well, do you still have that calico cat? Callie, was it?"

"I've still got her," Tabby declared. "And three Pokèmon, too," she added brightly.

"It must be delightful for you to have Tamara around again," her mother said blissfully. "You two look so much alike."

"But I have the better eye color," Tabby defended herself quickly. "Say, isn't there anyone else living in this area?"

"Certainly!" Her mother waved her hoof through the air. "You saw all the other mansions on this street. All the affluent families live around here."

"And are there any giant squid living down the drainhole in my bathtub?" Tabby demanded.

Her mother seemed to ignore that question. "There are several stallions who I'm sure will be pleased to make your acquaintance," she informed her daughter.

"Hmph." Tabby stuck her nose in the air and searched her mind for a question to change the topic. "What does that trunk in my room have in it?"

"The trunk?" her mother exclaimed. "Oh, dear, I was going to move it to the attic before you came. It has been here since I moved in. The previous owner's diaries are in it, I think."

"Oh," Tabby yawned. She wasn't exactly thrilled by diaries, either. "Hey, how about watching some Pokèmon episodes with me?"

"You mean to say you still watch cartoons?" Her mother looked shocked. "I mean, I'm having a friend over this afternoon. You can watch them alone, if you please."

"Alright," Tabby sighed. It was always fun getting new ponies addicted to Pokèmon. "I'll go do that, then." She trudged off to get her video supply.

* * *
The next morning, Tabby was staring out her bedroom window at the surrounding terrain. She could see a tall, peaked mountain in the distance-- really not that far from the house, considering. I wonder what that weird red glow around the top is, she wondered to herself.

"Tabitha, good morning!" Her mother walked into the room just then. "How was your first night here?"

"Are you sure there aren't any squid in the bathtub?" Tabby asked skeptically. She had experienced nightmares about giant squid while she slept.

"Certainly not!" Her mother looked horrified. "Anyway, would you like to do any sightseeing today? Or shopping?"

"What sights are there to be seen?" Tabby questioned.

"There's always Mt. Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii." Her mother pointed out the window at the same mountain Tabby had been looking at a moment before.

"Are there any thrift stores in town?" Tabby prodded further.

"Really, Tabitha! The clothes they sell in those places are so outdated!"

Tabby decided not to mention the fact that she'd be looking for toys. "I'll go see the mountain thingy," she decided. "I don't need a guide, do I?"

"You may go on your own if you please; it's really very easy to get to," her mother said cheerfully. "Just don't stay too far into the afternoon. You'll want to get washed-up before six."

"Why?" Tabby asked curiously.

"You'll find out when you get back," her mother said quickly. "I'll pack a lunch for you."

As Tabby headed out, she pondered what country she was in. She still hadn't found out. That's something she had to remember to ask her mother.

Tabby carefully walked up the hilly slopes. At least her hooves felt a bit better from the walk yesterday. And she didn't have to worry about giant squid here in the mountains.

This is my second day here, she figured to herself. That leaves twelve more to go-- if I'm calculating that correctly. She thought some more. Would Sugarberry still be heartbroken over her departure? Was Tamara still jealous that she couldn't be in Europe? Had Cleve Clove and the rest finished watching all the Pokèmon episodes? On that topic, had Cleve Clove figured out a good recipe yet to make for the gang? And was Thomas still mad at her?

Then she got around to worrying about squid again, but by that time she had reached her destination. What had her mother called the mountain? And she had said something about a city, too. Obviously not a modern city, she thought to herself, staring at the old, crumbling ruins surrounding her.

Tabby wandered around on the ancient stone roads and cocked her head to get a better view of the mountaintop. That red glow certainly was eerie. She paused in thought. What in the world could have emptied out a city like this?

Peering into the foundation of one of the ruined buildings, Tabby noticed a perfectly preserved skeleton of a small dog. "Poor thing," she whispered. It reminded her of a story she had read in school way back in seventh grade, but she couldn't quite remember the plot.

Investigating the ruins of the old town made the time fly for Tabby. She remembered to stop for lunch sometime along the way; and after more exploration, Tabby sensed the day was growing late. Perhaps she'd better head back home. Back she ran.

* * *
"Tabitha," her mother said sternly, "you have very little time to get ready for the party."

Tabby blinked several times. "What party?" she finally asked.

"The one I'm sponsoring tonight to introduce you to all the affluent ponies in town," her mother declared dramatically.

Tabby groaned. "I don't like parties," she protested.

"All the stallions would be disappointed if you didn't show up," her mother said firmly. "You only have half an hour to get cleaned up! And you're a mess!" She picked a bit of rock out of Tabby's mane. "Now, up to your room, and be in the ballroom in presentable condition by seven o'clock!"

Grumbling, Tabby stomped up the stairs. This was not going to be a fun night; she could sense it already.

* * *
Tabby did not look like a whole new pony as she entered the ballroom as her mother had hoped. She looked just like before... except less dusty.

Tabby's mother pulled her to the side of the room. "Tabitha," she said in discouragement, "you don't have any jewelry on."

Tabby noticed her mother's sapphire necklace and earrings. "Jewelry is just a bother. You waste time worrying about whether it's fallen off or not."

Her mother just sighed. "Now, look, the party is in full swing already. You were fifteen minutes late."

"If I'm already fifteen minutes late, I could just forget about this party and go back to my room," she suggested.

"Not so fast, Tabitha!" Her mother grabbed her foreleg and started dragging her across the room. "There are some ponies you must meet."

"I don't want to meet anyone," Tabby muttered.

"That's not a good attitude," her mother chided, still pulling Tabby behind her. "Ah-hah! Here's someone." She abruptly stopped in front of a stallion, causing Tabby to stumble and end up sprawled on the floor. "Good evening, Guido!" she addressed the light yellow stallion. "And this is my daughter, Tabitha."

Tabby flipped the mane out of her eyes and snobbishly refused Guido's hoof to help her up. "And that's ‘Tabby'," she informed him coolly, struggling to get back on her hooves.

"A pleasure to meet you," Guido said formally.

"And Tabitha, this is Guido," Tabby's mother finished the introduction.

"What was that? Weed-o?" Tabby smirked, not refusing the chance to rip the pronunciation of someone's name apart. "Sounds like a weed repellent. Hello, Mr. Weed-o."

Tabby's mother looked horrified. "Tabitha!" she gasped.

Guido appeared to be taking it calmly. "No, it's not pronounced as in ‘weed,'" he explained.

"Whatever you say, Weed-o." Tabby waved a hoof through the air in dismissal.

"I'm very sorry, Guido," her mother apologized quickly. "Tabitha is not feeling her best tonight."

"Oh, no, this is how I always act towards overly charming stallions," Tabby said bluntly. "Perhaps if I was sick you'd like my behavior better."

Tabby's mother set her mouth in a straight line. "Tabitha, you can help me get something from the kitchen. Guido, you'll be able to see Tabitha later." She flashed him a smile as she walked off with Tabby in tow. Tabby just scowled back.

"Do you realize what you said back there?" her mother reprimanded Tabby once they were in the privacy of the kitchen.

"Uh-huh," Tabby said truthfully. "And it was just what I wanted to say."

"Well!" her mother fumed. "I would not be surprised if Guido never speaks to you again!" She looked out the doorway. "Why, he's dancing with Battista now!"

Tabby rolled her eyes. "I don't care," she yawned.

"There are others, of course," her mother continued. "Come, let's go back out." She paused in the doorway and looked her daughter in the eye. "Any more insulting of any of the guests, and I will rip all your precious videos apart one-by-one!"

Tabby gulped. She wasn't sure anyone could rip videos apart, but she did not want to find out. Unwillingly but silently, she followed her mother back out into the crowd of dancing ponies.

* * *
Later that night-- much later that night-- Tabby was back in her room brushing her teeth furiously. She wasn't exactly brushing her teeth furiously to get them clean; it was more because she was... well... furious.

The names of all those stallions her mother had introduced her to kept running through her head... Benito, Jacopo, Giovanni, Domenito. And not a single one of them had any class, in her opinion-- even if they were rich. Thomas was much better company than any of them, and he'd probably never speak to her again-- at least that's what Tabby told herself, being a pessimist and all.

Before jumping into bed, Tabby quickly checked the bathtub. Nope, no squid.

* * *
Tabby felt rather like she was breaking the law as she spread out a bright pink rug in the middle of her all-blue room. She grinned mischievously to herself.

She'd bought it while out shopping earlier that afternoon-- her mother had shown her around to all the best shops. Unfortunately, they hadn't gone to any thrift stores. Tabby had been lucky enough, however, to find one of the new My Little People dolls she needed in a toy store-- now she even had a package printed in a foreign language. What language it was, she still didn't know.

It was now after supper (Tabby had convinced her mother's cooks to fix chicken, and they did a good job of it) and Tabby was closely inspecting her purchases. Gleefully, she opened the My Little People package. She couldn't read the foreign name, but she knew from seeing pictures in a Dream Valley flier that her name was Elaine.

Just as Tabby was untangling Elaine's blonde hair from the package, she could hear voices from the main entry hall. She opened her door to see if she could hear any more. Her mother's voice drifted up the stairs... "Yes, Guido, I'm sure she'll be pleased to see you!"

Tabby abruptly slammed the door shut. The Weed-o guy was back to see her? And she thought she wouldn't have to worry about stallions any more on this vacation!

Just a moment later, Tabby's door opened again. "Tabitha!" her mom declared jubilantly. "Guido has come to visit you!"

Tabby closed her eyes and lay back on her bed. "Tell him I'm busy," she yawned.

Hearing this, her mother stalked over to the bookshlef where Tabby had placed her videos. She selected one of the Teddy Ruxpin videos-- "Teddy Outsmarts M.A.V.O.," which happened to be one of Tabby's favorites-- and threateningly waved it through the air. "Remember what happens to your videos if you're not polite!" she warned.

Tabby's eyes opened wide, and she gasped as she saw which video her mother held. "No!" That's one of the best ones!" she wailed, trying to grab it back.

"Then you will not say anything rude to Guido?" her mother interrogated.

"Yes," Tabby whispered.

"Alright, then." Her mother set the video down. "Guido is waiting in the parlor." With that, she left the room.

Tabby carefully placed the video back in the line-up, and exited the room to meet her fate-- but nothing was worth losing her videos.

* * *
"It has been a pleasure visiting you, Miss Tabitha," Guido said as his closing remark.

Tabby pushed him towards the door-- making it look polite, of course-- and smiled fakely. "Yes, goodnight," she said in relief as she pushed the door shut after him.

Her mother nodded in approval. "Very good, Tabitha. I'm pleased with you."

"Just as long as he doesn't come again," Tabby scowled. "He's such a snob."

"But rich," her mother reminded her.

"All he did the whole evening was brag about all the expensive stuff he had," Tabby complained.

"Don't be critical of him, Tabitha," her mother said. "I'm sure you said plenty."

Tabby thought back. "No... no, he didn't really let me say that much."

"Have some cherry pie with me before you go to bed," her mother suggested. "Pica made it this afternoon. And we can plan what to do tomorrow..."

* * *
After an entire day of shopping for beauty accessories with her mother, Tabby was annoyed enough. But then Guido came by to take her out to dinner. Tabby felt like whacking him over the head, but the thought of her videos held that urge back.

"My computer business makes billions every year," he boasted.

"You already said that yesterday," Tabby muttered.

"In fact, I'll probably add another division by the end of this year," he continued.

"Wonderful!" Tabby yawned.

"... and that'll rake in even more cash. Next month I'm buying an even bigger house..."

Tabby decided she would just nod and smile every few seconds. That required no thinking, so she could daydream about other things in the meantime. Would this evening ever end?

* * *
It appeared that it would never end. All of Tabby's days were almost exactly the same until there were only about two days left in her vacation. Each day, her mother would take her shopping all day to make sure her daughter had all the accessories that were most in fashion. And each evening she would have to visit with "the Weed-o guy" as she secretly referred to him.

For Pete's sake; he says the exact same things every night! Tabby moaned in exasperation to herself. Luckily, one of her mother's friends was visiting this morning, so she didn't have to go shopping.

Still, Tabby's love of those videos kept her from putting her hoof down on seeing Guido. And, in only about two days, she'd be home, and would never have to think about Weed-o again.

Of course, she thought pessimistically to herself, everyone in Dream Valley will have forgotten about me by now. She sighed. Her mother had kept her too busy to even write a postcard home. Plus there was the fact she had forgotten her address book.

Today, she declared to herself, I shall wander around the house and be bored. Pleased with her decision, she decided to do just that.

How can ponies talk so long? Tabby pondered to herself. Her mother and her friend had been talking for at least an hour.

As Tabby passed by the parlor again, her mother caught sight of her. "Tabitha!" she greeted her. "Would you mind terribly if I send you to find that book I was telling you about earlier? It's in the other room."

The other pony, a bright orange pegasus, looked up. "Yes, your mother has told me about it, and it sounds so interesting!" she giggled.

"Certainly," Tabby said cheerfully. It would help her waste about ten seconds. Dashing into the library, she quickly located the needed book: The History of Fashion.

"Figures," Tabby muttered to herself as she returned to the parlor and handed the book to her mother.

"Thank you, Tabitha." Her mother nodded appreciatively and turned to her friend. Tabitha will be leaving early tomorrow afternoon."

"I'm sure you will miss this place. It's such a wonderful house, and so close to the good shops," Maria-Giuseppe gushed.

"Couldn't I leave early?" Tabby wheedled her mother. Maybe-- just maybe-- she could get out of seeing Weed-o this last time.

"Oh, but I've already bought your return ticket," her mother explained. "You'll have to wait until tomorrow. Besides, you may find you want to stay longer," she winked.

"Alright," Tabby sighed, and continued her walk around the house.

* * *
That afternoon at three o'clock, Tabby was heading towards the kitchen for a snack. Now, some raw pie crust would be good.

What in the world? Maria-Giuseppe's still here?! Tabby thought to herself. She could still hear their voices coming from the parlor, but the door was now closed.

Tabby leaned towards the door. What were they talking about now? She could just catch one line her mother said: "... a suitable husband for my Tabitha..."

Tabby's face immediately turned red with rage. So that was it! This wasn't just a simple visit; her mother was bound and determined to get her married. And Mr. Weed-o was the best match she could find.

But he's rich, she thought sarcastically to herself as she stormed back to her room. Well, I'm not going to give in to this plan of Mom's!

As she slammed her door, she came up with a solution that would enable her to give someone a piece of her mind and save her videos, all at once. It was rather simple, as she thought about it.

"I'll hide them," Tabby said to herself smugly, "in that trunk in the corner. Mom wouldn't take it that far." She gulped. Or would she?

Anyway, Tabby immediately set to work throwing all the old diaries-- her mother had been right about that-- out of the trunk and onto the floor. Then she carefully placed all her videos inside. To be on the safe side, she put Brownie, Kitty Brite, and the Tea Bunnies in as well. She didn't bother with her toothbrush.

The diaries still have to go someplace, Tabby contemplated. I'll just throw ‘em in the bathtub. Who cares if a squid eats ‘em?

With that task accomplished, she stood back and surveyed the room with a smug look on her face. This time, she'd get her way!

* * *
"Tabitha!" the ever-familiar voice came through Tabby's door.

"Come in!" Tabby called out cheerfully.

Her mother entered. "Guido is here to see you!" she said happily.

Tabby yawned. "Tell him I'm sick," she suggested.

Frowning, her mother turned towards the bookshelf. "Did you pack your luggage already?"

"I can tell him for you, if you'd like," Tabby suggested, inching toward the door.

"Tabitha! You mustn't act like this tonight!" her mother wailed.

"And just why is it that you want me to cooperate so badly?" Tabby prodded.

Her mother sighed. "I never really would have ripped your videos in half, you know," she said apologetically. "But please come down, Tabitha. You won't regret it."

"Won't regret it? Won't regret it?" Tabby echoed. "Why, of course I wouldn't regret whacking ol' Weed-o over the head if he has the nerve to propose to me!"

Her mother's eyes opened wide. "How... did you find out about that?" she stuttered.

"I have my sources," Tabby said mysteriously. "Now, go. Tell him I never want to see his face again."

"I suppose there's no reasoning with you." Her mother half smiled. "But I was the same way once. Very well, Tabitha. If that's what you want." And with that, she left the room.

Tabby sat back, satisfied. Her work here was done. And soon she would be back home, whether or not there was a giant squid down the drainhole.

* * *
"Guido is gone from the vicinity," Tabby's mother informed her the next morning.

"Good," Tabby grinned mischievously. "You never really liked him, did you, Mother?"

"Well... no," her mother smiled. "Except for the fact that he was handsome and rich. But it just wasn't meant to be."

"You're right," Tabby nodded in agreement. "Do you mind that there are now a bunch of old diaries thrown in the bathtub in my room?"

"Tabitha, dear, you hid your stuff in that trunk?" Her mother chuckled. "You really thought I would destroy everything, didn't you?"

"I didn't want to take the chance," Tabby giggled.

"And here's your return ticket." Her mother handed her the slip. "You should be at the airport by twelve-thirty."

"Would you happen to have any souvenirs around the house I could take home?" Tabby questioned. "I need something for Tarquin, and something for Tess."

"Tarquin and Tess?" Her mother looked curious.

"Pokèmon," Tabby explained. "They're Meowths. And very nice."

"They're cat-like, I suppose? How about a yarn ball?"

Tabby clapped her front hooves together in delight. "Yarn balls from Europe? I love it! They will, too, I'm sure."

And so, mother and daughter spent the remainder of the morning swapping stories, picking out just the right two yarn balls, and naturally having a good time.

* * *
Tabby was rather proud of herself. She had boarded the plane home without getting confused over the gate. And she had arrived back in Dream Valley. Ah, it was good to be home! Still early in the evening, too-- only about four o'clock.

Tabby skipped along the familiar path through town leading to her house. There was Pony-Mart-- she'd have to check and see if they had the Pokèmon beanies in yet. Oakly's Grocery Store-- well, who bothered buying groceries? It was easier to drop in at a friend's house at supper time. The library-- the latest "Cat Who" mystery was probably still checked out. The... Vet Clinic-- and a familiar figure exiting it for the day.

Tabby broke-out running ahead at full trot and ended up dropping her suitcase in the process. "Thomas! Hey, hey! Thomas!" She hollered. "I did come back, see?"

Thomas turned around and grinned at the sound of Tabby's voice. He caught her as she nearly fell face-flat on the ground again. "I knew you could never stay in Europe, Tabby," he declared. "Unless you got lost at the airport," he added mischievously.

"Oh, it's so good to be called Tabby again," Tabby sighed blissfully. "I had to put up with nothing but Tabitha for two weeks."

"And you didn't fall for any rich stallions over there, did you?" Thomas questioned, retrieving Tabby's suitcase from where she had dropped it.

"Not a chance, Thomas. Not a chance," Tabby assured him. "None of them had a bit of class."

"And that's good," Thomas said softly.

Tabby blushed slightly, for what might have been the first time in her life. "Well... the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe didn't close while I was gone, did it?" she said brightly.

"Of course not," Thomas laughed. "I suppose you haven't had a strawberry sundae for two weeks, either. Come on, then."

"Terrific!" Tabby exclaimed, walking along beside him. "And has the Pokèmon Center been okay? How about Tarquin? He hasn't decided to stay with Merry Treat permanently or anything, has he? And Callie? Tamara had better not have evicted her from the house because she's not a purebred. And--"

So ends the story of what happened on Tabby's visit to her mother in Italy or Spain or France, and also how she escaped being eaten alive by a giant squid.

Set Standards
Shining Story #10
by Shining (

The rangy bay colt sighed in the damp England air as he jogged slowly through the winding trails of his new home, Mended Hearts Farm. Can't Miss A Classic (better known as Adagio) was tired, and wanted to return to his new, clean stall; but dutifully, he picked up his pace, conditioning his already fit body.

"You're doing well, Adagio," encouraged the older bay mare beside him. "You just need to find your niche." On My Honor patted the colt's strong shoulder comfortingly.

"Thanks, Honor," Adagio half-smiled. "I just want everything to go perfectly for me the first time. I need to prove to my aunt that I'm not such a screw-up."

Honor paused in mid-stride. She gave her pupil a hard stare. "You're not a screw-up, Adagio," she said firmly.

The colt shrugged noncommittally as the barn came into view. The month before, Honor-- the daughter of the celebrated performing pair, Signature Required and Shining-- had moved her family-- which consisted of her small daughter, Expect A Miracle-- to the new barn in Harrogate, England, from Glorified Acres in Dream Valley.

The past few years had brought many new and tragic events into Honor's life. Her mate, Caesar, had been killed in an automobile accident, leaving the poor mare to raise their filly alone. Honor had acted as trainer at the barn where she had grown up, Glorified Acres, while her parents had set off on a worldwide clinic tour; but that was cut short when her mother, Shining, had fractured her right foreleg.

Becoming restless, Honor had gone off in search of a home of her own, and found it here, in Harrogate. For Honor, Mended Hearts Farm was a dream. Finally, she was content.

Along with her daughter, Honor had quite a following who had moved with her to England. Her best friend and confidant, Smoothie, had moved back to his home nation with Honor as well as Honor's twin brother, Moment, and his new mate, Eva. And, of course, Adagio. Adagio had moved with Honor to escape the wrath of his aunt, Classy, a former rival of Honor's family.

"You should zip over a few of those jumps while it's still fresh in your memory," Honor suggested, snapping Adagio out of his daydream.

Adagio obliged by heading toward the large outdoor arena where several jump standards had been set up. Mechanically, he went through the difficult course, barely batting an eye, and kicking up little puffs of dirt.

After Adagio had run through the pattern, he turned toward the barn, ready to clean-up at the wash racks. Halfway there, he ran into Honor's daughter, Mira, playing hopscotch in the barn hallway. The small gray filly stared up at Adagio intently. "Have you seen my stone?" she asked.

Adagio shook his head, sending his black mane flying. "Sorry, Mira," the colt replied. "But I'll help you look." Adagio and Mira crawled along the cement hall for a good five minutes before Mira found it, lying in square number eight.

"Thanks, ‘Dagio!" Mira cried cheerfully, now ready to resume her game. Adagio patted her small head affectionately, and continued his way to the end of the barn where the wash racks were located.

Adagio was deep in thought as he rounded the corner, trying to understand why things hadn't "clicked" for him in training. He knew that he was one of Honor's best students, but something still hadn't worked out right. Adagio furrowed his brow, and nearly collided with Eva, Moment's mate.

The chestnut Arabian held a thick manuscript in her hooves, covered with corrections and notes. "Oops!" Eva cried, surprised.

"Oh, sorry!" Adagio exclaimed. "I wasn't paying attention." He grabbed Eva to make sure she was steady on her hooves.

Eva waved off his apology. "No harm done," she dismissed. "I'm on my way to pose for Moment." She crossed her eyes and grinned.

"Have fun," Adagio said dryly.

"Oh, I will!" Eva laughed as she headed down the barn aisle again.

Honor's twin brother, Moment, was an exceptional artist, and his artwork was world-renowned. Moment was always on the lookout for a new model, and had found a willing one in his mate, Eva, who was a New York Times best-selling author.

As Adagio passed the barn office, Honor called out from within. "Adagio, can you come here for a second?" Honor asked.

"Sure," Adagio obliged as he stepped into the office. Although they had only lived at Mended Hearts for a month, the office was already cluttered. Honor was sitting in the middle of the fray, looking somewhat stressed. Adagio made a mental note to himself to help her organize her office.

"There's a show in about a month that sounds perfect for you," Honor explained. "I was wondering if you felt confident enough to enter."

Adagio swallowed, and he felt his gut twist. Honor's gaze was intent-- just like Mira's, he thought-- but he knew that the mare wouldn't push him until he was ready. "Sure," he heard himself say. "I think I can be ready."

Honor's brow creased in concern. "Are you sure?" she asked. "I don't want to rush you, Adagio." Tiredly, the bay mare brushed a strand of thick black mane out of her eyes.

Adagio set his jaw. "Yes, I'll be ready," he said firmly. "I won't let you down, Honor." And with that, Adagio turned on his heel and headed back down the hallway.

"It's not about me, Adagio!" Honor called. "These are your standards." But Adagio didn't hear her; he was already deep in thought.

Finally reaching the wash racks, Adagio stood under the steady stream for a long time, contemplating his newest obstacle. "What am I going to do?" Adagio asked out loud. He shook his thick mane under the stream of water, sending droplets flying like a sunburst, hoping that it would wash his problems away.

* * *
In his stall that night, Adagio numbered his calendar. "Twenty-eight days to become perfect," he muttered under his breath. With a swipe, he turned out his stall light; but sleep evaded him, making him restless.

For a long time, Adagio stared up at the rafters of the barn, contemplating his problem. But his mindless reverie was interrupted by a cautious knock on his wooden stall door.

Adagio stood up and turned on his light before sliding the door open, somewhat irked that someone would interrupt his musings. " ‘Dagio?" a timid voice called.

The colt's face immediately softened. "Hey, sweetheart," Adagio said softly to the gray filly. "What are you doing out of bed?" Gently, he led Mira to the center of the stall.

Mira's lip trembled threateningly. "I had a bad dream," she whispered. "Can I stay here?"

Adagio was a bit surprised, but flattered. "Sure, Mira," he agreed. "Where's your mom?"

Mira was already making herself at home, cuddling herself into Adagio's strong frame. "She always goes out on the trails at night," Mira mumbled sleepily. "I think she misses Daddy."

Adagio nodded his head knowingly at Mira's near-sleeping form. Slowly, so as not to wake Mira, Adagio reached for the light switch again, and was soon dozing beside his small but insightful companion.

* * *
The next morning began the chain of events that Adagio looked back on and wondered if he was actually crazy at the time. Time seemed to jump in spurts, and life was turned upside-down for the residents of Mended Hearts Farm.

Adagio woke early to a ray of light shining directly in his eyes from his stall window. Sleepily, he rubbed his eyes, being careful not to wake the still-dozing Mira. Quietly, he crept out of the barn to go for an early-morning jog on the farm's winding trails.

As he ran, the colt considered his position as a performer. Still unable to come up with a solution for his problem, Adagio broke into a hard gallop, hoping to outrun his frustration.

Adagio's black mane whipped back, and his tail streamed out behind him as he broke through the mist, which revealed the main barn. Out of breath, Adagio slowed to a trot, and walked into the barn, unknowingly entering a zone of chaos.

As Adagio walked through the threshold, streaks of black and chestnut, which he presumed to be Moment and Eva made their way out the door. "What's going on?" Adagio asked.

Over his shoulder, Moment replied, "She's back!"

Adagio shrugged and entered the barn office in search of Honor. Standing in the doorway, the bay colt froze, taking in the scene before him. Honor was perched on a stool behind her desk with her face buried in her hooves. Mira cowered behind her mother, whimpering. Smoothie, Honor's best friend, sat in a chair against the wall with an annoyed look on his roan face. And in the center, a palomino mare stood, waving her forelegs in the air.

The palomino mare paused, and turned to look at Adagio. She screeched with delight, making a beeline towards Adagio. "Adagio! My favorite nephew!" she cried, flinging her forelegs around Adagio's strong neck.

Recovering from his initial shock, Adagio cleared his throat. "Hello, Classy," he said politely. "This is quite a surprise to see you here," he added, glancing at Honor. Honor gave him a half-smile and rolled her eyes.

"Oh, I missed you so much at home that I had to come visit you," Classy gushed. "How are you, my darling?"

"I'm fine," Adagio replied, slowly edging himself away from the sugary mare.

Classy answered Adagio with a fake grin and turned to bat her eyelashes at Smoothie, who in turn raised a skeptical eyebrow at Honor. "Well, I decided that I should come over here and see how your training's been going. I wasn't sure how advanced you'd get, getting lessons from Signature's daughter," Classy added snidely. "Maybe I could give you a few tips on things you haven't gotten yet."

Honor spoke up, "Adagio and I were just on his on our way to do cross-country." The bay mare made to get up, but Classy waved her down.

"Don't be silly, dear," Classy cried condescendingly. "We'll practice some dressage together."

Classy grabbed Adagio's hoof in her own and dragged him to the large arena. Looking over his shoulder, Adagio saw Honor standing in the office doorway, tiredly brushing her forelock out of her eyes.

"Okay," Classy ordered, "Show me your courbette."

Adagio rose up on his hind legs and leapt across the arena. Gently, he lowered himself back down on all four legs. He jogged back to where Classy was waiting.

The palomino mare impatiently tapped her hoof in the dirt arena as Adagio arrived. "Now," Classy commanded. "Watch." Classy closed her eyes and slowly breathed in a deep breath. Tilting back on her hind legs, she bounded away.

Adagio tilted his head to the side thoughtfully as he watched his eccentric aunt. She moved fluidly, but perhaps a bit too loosely. As she returned to him, Adagio nodded his finely-sculpted head in approval.

Classy's eyes were bright with excitement. "I can show you so much!" she exclaimed. "Honor's training is nothing compared to mine."

"Honor's an excellent trainer," Adagio protested.

"Adagio, she is nothing compared to me!" Classy insisted. "Stick with me, and you can be a star!"

* * *
When Adagio had only eight days left, Classy gave her nephew her "secret to success." "Here," Classy said, holding out a syringe. "Take this." They had finished practicing their show jumping and Classy had insisted on Adagio walking her to her temporary stall (right next to Smoothie's, of course).

Adagio backed away, keeping his eye on the needle. "What is it?" he asked cautiously. The hair on the back of his neck rose in warning.

"It's perfection," Classy replied, cryptically. "Lasix."

"Lasix?" Adagio repeated. "What does it do?"

Classy fluttered her eyelashes dramatically. "It cleanses your body."

"Oh," Adagio uttered.

The palomino mare walked towards the bay colt. "Try it, Adagio. It'll make you perform so much better."

Eyeing the syringe warily, Adagio backed up against the wall. "I don't know..." he trailed off.

"Oh, Adagio, don't be silly," Classy giggled. "I'm your aunt. Trust me."

Adagio stood steadfast as Classy injected the serum into his dark strong neck, wincing when she depressed the plunger too quickly. "There!" Classy said, now satisfied. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

Shaking his head, Adagio stared at Classy's perky face. "Does it really work?" he asked.

"Of course it does," Classy replied with a laugh. "I use it all the time. Now," she said, changing the subject, "I have to go back to Champion's Farm soon, and I think that you should go with me."

"I don't think I should," Adagio said. "Honor needs me here."

"Adagio," the palomino said with a shake of her head. "Why would you want to be associated with someone like Honor? She's not any good! Others just think she is because her parents were such hotshots on the circuit. And besides, I'm family."

"I don't think so," Adagio said, mentally kicking himself. Whenever Classy met with him, she always seemed to manipulate him into doing as she wished. He didn't know how she did it.

"Please?" Classy pleaded.

"Maybe..." Adagio sighed.

"Great!" Classy squealed. "Go tell Honor right now!"

The confused bay colt slowly walked down the barn aisle to Honor's office. Timidly, Adagio rapped his hoof on the solid wood door. "Come in," he heard Honor's muffled reply.

Entering the office, Adagio found Honor at her desk, studying a pile of show bills. The bay mare looked up and smiled. "Hi, Adagio," she greeted, a bit of surprise creeping into her voice.

"Hi, Honor," Adagio said, his voice barely above a whisper.

"How's your aunt?" Honor asked, raising her eyebrows.

"She's fine," Adagio replied distantly. "Do you know anything about a drug called Lasix?"

"Lasix..." Honor repeated, furrowing her brow. "It's a drug that racehorses sometimes use to prevent their lungs from bleeding. It can lower blood pressure and increases urine production. It has to be used very carefully, because it can dehydrate the one using it; and it also washes out necessary minerals, affecting metabolism and bone structure," she recited. "Why?"

Adagio shrugged his shoulders. "No reason," he paused. "Um... Classy wants me to go back to her barn with her," he said in a rush.

Honor nodded her head thoughtfully, her face a blank mask, void of emotion. "So you're going?" she asked quietly.

The bay colt nodded somberly. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Shaking her head, Honor looked Adagio straight in the eye. "You don't owe me an apology, Adagio," she said firmly. "I'll miss you, though."

"Me, too," Adagio said hoarsely. "You're a true friend, Honor."

* * *
Confused and restless, Adagio set out onto the trails that night, hoping to sort out his suddenly chaotic life. The early spring air was brisk and blew Adagio's thick black mane askew, forming a dark halo around his head.

In oppressive solitude, Adagio wandered the trails of Mended Hearts Farm, his home for two months, searching for answers. Pausing, he realized that he was lost. Forcing his first instinct-- to panic-- down, Adagio gathered his bearings. He had never wandered this deep into the woods before.

Holding absolutely still, trying to remember which way he had come, Adagio heard the tiniest noise. He looked around in the darkness, seeing dark masses which he knew were trees and bushes.

Squinting, he saw a weak beam of light and headed towards it. The blurry light led him to an opening in the forest where moonlight shone down on the hazy mist that had settled just above the ground.

His throat caught as a dark, seemingly ghost-like figure whirled past, barely touching the lush grass below the churning hooves. Adagio watched in silence as Honor danced to the night music, clearly the picture of emotion.

The bay mare slowed her dance and stood in the center of the clearing, head bent low in submission. Slowly, she lifted her head to stare at Adagio. A small smile crossed Honor's face as she watched the colt. "Do you want to talk?" she asked, breaking the silence.

Adagio sighed and walked towards Honor. "Life is so confusing," he admitted.

"Why are you leaving?" Honor asked, no trace of contempt in her voice.

Shrugging, Adagio shook his head. "I don't know... when I was little, I could never meet Classy's expectations. I tried so hard, but it was never good enough. Now, she says that I'm good, and that's what I wanted to hear from her all along."

"Adagio," Honor said quietly. "You aunt is very manipulative. I know this firsthand. But you shouldn't be pushing yourself to get the approval of anyone except for you. If you're satisfied, no one else matters."

"Maybe I'll stay," Adagio said shyly.

Honor smiled. "You know you're always welcome here. But it's your decision."

Adagio nodded thoughtfully and shivered. "I think it's going to rain," he predicted. "Do you know how to get back to the barn?"

Laughing, Honor motioned for Honor to follow. "It's a secret passage, so don't tell anyone!" she teased.

Adagio winked. "The first one I'm going to tell is Classy!"

* * *
When Adagio told Classy his news, he was afraid that his aunt might hyperventilate. "How could you?" Classy screeched at the top of her lungs. "You were going to be my best student ever! You were going to be a star!"

"Sorry," Adagio said with indifference.

"I'm very disappointed in you," Classy cried.

Adagio raised an eyebrow. "I don't care what you think anymore," he said in a low voice.

"Get out!" Classy cried. "Get out of my stall!" To accentuate her point, Classy grabbed her water bucket and with a heave, threw its contents onto her once-favorite nephew.

Drenched, but feeling a whole weight come off his shoulders, Adagio left his aunt and walked to the wash racks. On his way, he met Mira, who was once again playing hopscotch in the barn aisle.

"Hi, Mira," Adagio said cheerfully, patting her small gray head.

"You're wet," Mira observed. Adagio laughed and nodded. "Are you going to stay?" she asked.

"Most definitely," Adagio assured her.

Mira nodded her head in approval. "Are you going to go to the show, then?" she challenged.

Adagio frowned for a fleeting moment before making up his mind. "Most definitely," he repeated. Mira smiled and continued her game of hopscotch.

* * *
Adagio blew out a nervous breath. He felt that he had come to terms with himself, but nervousness still resided in his stomach, sending butterflies into a frenzy. Mentally, he went through his dressage pattern, convinced that he could perform it in his sleep. "Let's just hope that never has to happen," he said out loud.

"Hi, Adagio," a voice called. Adagio turned to see Honor making her way towards him, a smile on her pretty face. Adagio waved and grinned when she met him. "Nervous?" she asked.

Adagio rolled his eyes. "Nah," he faked.

Honor held up a portable stereo. "I brought you some music to listen to so you can relax before you go on."

"Thanks," Adagio acknowledged. "What kind?"

"Classical," Honor replied. "I thought it was appropriate. It's one of my favorite pieces--Poet and Peasant Overture."

"I've never heard it before," Adagio admitted.

"I think you'll like it," Honor predicted. "I'm going to go up to the registration counter and make sure you're all set."

Adagio waved as Honor departed, and turned on the Overture. The gentle strains of music calmed him, in the section which he assumed was the "Poet" movement. Soon, the "Peasant" movement took over, with a faster tempo. Adagio sighed as he let the music run through him.

As the last chord of the piece faded away, Mira jumped into Adagio's lap. "Hi, ‘Dagio!" she cried cheerfully.

"Hey, sweetheart," Adagio replied. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," the gray filly smiled. "I have a present for you."

Adagio gave her a curious look, eyeing the small leather satchel clasped in her tiny hooves. "What is it?" he asked.

Mira held out the small pouch, offering it to him. "It's a good luck charm," she explained. Adagio opened the pocket to reveal a small smooth stone. "It's my hopscotch stone," Mira whispered.

"Thank you," Adagio whispered back. "It's perfect." He put the small bag containing the stone over his head and around his neck by the long cord that attached to it. Mira kissed the bay's cheek as the speaker announced Adagio's class.

Adagio jumped up, nearly sending Mira tumbling to the ground. "That's my class. I have to go," he babbled.

"Good luck, ‘Dagio," Mira called, and ran to catch up to him. She tugged on his thick black tail to get his attention.

"Mira, I have to go," Adagio said impatiently.

Mira stared up at Adagio with wide dark eyes that showed wisdom beyond her years. " ‘Dagio," she said softly, "just lose yourself."

Adagio hurried to the show arena, Mira's final words echoing through his head. Taking a deep breath, he entered the arena, ready to show the world.

As the first strains of music met his ears, Adagio felt himself relax and move fluidly, perfectly calm. Adagio closed his eyes for a brief moment, letting his conscious go, only focusing on the instant at hand, executing each movement precisely and perfectly.

But Adagio realized that perfection didn't matter. He had found himself, and had found peace with that. Ending his performance with a mighty capriole, Adagio glanced into the stands, seeing Honor and Mira watching him, smiles on their faces. Good-bye Classy, set standards, and disappointment, Adagio reflected. I live for now...


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

Merry Treat: ~giggles over her Furby~ Hello, ponies!

Tabby: Hey-hey-hey!! *waves frantically*

Merry Treat: So, let's get down to business, shall we? Agh! Got that song stuck in my head now!

Tabby: Down to business... err... what is business?

Merry Treat: I think it's when you wear a three-piece suit and walk around in a building saying, "I'm a successful business person! Outta my way!"

Tabby: Well, our business is gossiping, and we're not walking around in three-piece suits. Now... let me think...

Merry Treat: Gossiping is a business?

Tabby: Well, I suppose we don't get paid for it... err... anyway...

Merry Treat: How's the work at the Pokèmon Center going, Tab?

Tabby: Very good, very good. No severely sick Pokèmon. Except for that one.

Merry Treat: Which one? I hope it gets better!

Tabby: ‘Twas a Digglet. He was near death when brought in, but he's reviving quite nicely.

Merry Treat: Phew! Das ist gut! ~styles her Furby's's hair with a comb~

Tabby: And... how's battling at the Pokèmon Gym going, MT?

Merry Treat: It is coming along quite nicely... haven't given a badge out since May.

Tabby: Is that good or bad?

Merry Treat: ~shrugs~ In my book, it's good. It either means that my Pokèmon are getting better, or it means that the challengers' are weaklings.

Tabby: Mmm... Tiffany told me she's throwing a party.

Merry Treat: A party? Yipee! Wha-hoo! Yipee! Hehehe! ~has been around her Furby too much~

Tabby: *sniffs* I don't see what the big deal is about parties. I've said it before and I'll say it again!

Merry Treat: Parties are fun! We can disguise ourselves and sneak in! ~says evilly~

Tabby: Hey-hey-hey! That'll be fun!

Merry Treat: ~grin~ So... when is it?

Tabby: Next week. Six o' clock.

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... I can make that! Do you think she'll recognize me? She didn't that one day at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe right after we'd beaten Clever Clover in a Pokèmon match...

Tabby: *shakes head vigorously* No, no; she'll never suspect a thing.

Merry Treat: Yee-hee! Who should I be? I know! Sailor Moon! Tiffany'll just never guess it!

Tabby: And I shall be... I'll change into... Leota the woodsprite!

Merry Treat: Hmmmmm... nah, when Sailor Moon-chan figures it out, she'll go berserk. Hehehe... trust me.

Tabby: I'll take your word for it. *prances around excitedly at the thought of her disguise*

Merry Treat: Hmmmmm... maybe-e-e-e-e-e-e... hmmmmm... Tabby, help me figure out a disguise.

Tabby: Alrighty... let me think...

Merry Treat: I couldn't go as Sailor Fauna! I just know that somebody's gonna try to ask me for an autograph... which I don't do!

Tabby: Change yourself into Rainbow Brite.

Merry Treat: Oh-h-h-h! Yes-yes-yes! Thank you, Tabby!!!!!!!

Tabby: *sits back in her chair with a smug expression* Yep, I knew I could come up with something.

Merry Treat: ~big grin~ Rainbow Brite and a woodsprite... Tiffany is gonna FREAK! Wha-hoo-hoo! Tee hee!

Tabby: *laughs her head off*

Merry Treat: ~falls over laughing~

Tabby: Barnacle and Friendly were making a custom Star Wars figure last night. *cracks up* It was to-o-o funny watching them!

Merry Treat: They were? Who did they make?

Tabby: They had to dunk the figures into boiling water to make them soft, and then they ripped the arms off of the things. *laughs insanely* It was just the funniest thing!

Merry Treat: ~laughs harder~ Poor Star Wars figures!!!

Tabby: You should've been there, MT. It was so much fun! They made a Jedi with cyborg arms.

Merry Treat: I'll take your word for it! ~winks~ Hehehehehe!!!

Tabby: So-o-o, MT... have you heard about anything happening lately?

Merry Treat's Furby: Deededededumdededum! Dedededededumdededum!

Merry Treat: ~points at her Furby~ That just happened! Hearing about anything? Actually... no.

Tabby: Hmm, that's bad.

Merry Treat: Wanna just babble about stupid things for a while?

Tabby: *brightens* Yeah!

Merry Treat: Hehehe... ~evil grin~

Tabby: What have you got up your sleeve this time?

Merry Treat: Oh... nothing... ~says very innocently~

Merry Treat's Furby: Hmmmm... boring.

Tabby: Oh, yes you do!!!

Baby Fox's Furby: Hmmmm... buda waylo.

Merry Treat: No I don't!

Tabby: Ahh, I love Furbys. *sighs dreamily*

Merry Treat: Yes, they are so kawaii! And they drive my sister's boyfriend nuts! Hehehe!

Tabby: Fun! Cleve Clove thinks they're weird... and creepy.

Merry Treat: Oooooh! I know how to scare him now!

Tabby: *grins insanely* I'll send him a box filled to the brim with Happy Meal Furbys.

Merry Treat: ~laughs insanely~ Oh, my gosh! You'll just fill him with fear!

Tabby: I'll ramble on now about how cool Tweeg is.

Merry Treat: And, uhh... I'll just sit here babbling like an idiot. ~starts playing her Mulan soundtrack and proceeds to sing along~

Tabby: *rambles on about Tweeg, but then starts singing the Pokèmon theme song at the top of her lungs*

Merry Treat: This is what you give me to work with? Well honey, I've seen worse! We're gonna turn this sow's ear, into a silk purse! ~sings~ We'll have you, washed and dried! Primped and polished ‘till you glow with pride! Trust my recipe for instant bride! You'll bring honor to us all!

Tabby: I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was! To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause! I will travel across the air, searchin' far and wide! Each Pokèmon, to understand the power that's inside!

Merry Treat: A girl can bring her family great honor in one way! By striking a good match, and this could be the day! Wait and see, when we're through! Boys will gladly go to war for you! With good fortune, and a great hair-do, you'll bring honor to us all!

Tabby: Wow! *claps* And now, with the complete Happy Meal Furby checklist, I shall soon rule the world!

Merry Treat: A girl can bring her family great honor in one way! By striking a good match, and this could be the day! ~tries to continue, but starts laughing hysterically in mid-sentence~ How will you rule the world?

Tabby: I'm not sure, exactly.

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... I could be your personal advisor!

Tabby: Alrighty! *hands Merry Treat the checklist* You only have to locate all these Furbys, and you have it made.

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... ~scans it over~ Which ones do you need?

Tabby: I've only found thirty-seven. That's still forty-three to go until I rule the world!

Merry Treat: You will rule the world by getting all the Happy Meal Furbys???

Tabby: In the figuring I have done-- yep. *hums aimlessly*

Merry Treat: ~continues singing~ Uhhhhh... here's where the song isn't very understandable... I'll just stop now.

Tabby: Ah-hem. *sits up straight*

Merry Treat: *pauses* What to babble at you about...

Tabby: And what to babble at you about...

Merry Treat: How about the first time we met!

Tabby: *shrieks out* I'VE... GOT... A... MONKEY-IN-MY-POCKET-AND--

Merry Treat: Hehehehehe!

Tabby: Oh! The first time we met! *thinks for several minutes*

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... it was... at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, I believe...

Tabby: Or I may have been stealing potatoes out of your garden.

Merry Treat: That was you!? I thought it was the raccoons...

Tabby: ‘Fraid it was me. Of course, I might be confusing that with something else... let's see... the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe. I think I was having a strawberry sundae that night.

Merry Treat: That's what you always have... and I think I was just bored, and I decided to go and talk to you, because I need someone to talk to.

Tabby: Ah-hah! And then you started talking about Sailor Moon and got me confused!

Merry Treat: Hehehe... you shoulda seen the look on your face! ~laughs~

Tabby: Then I think I started muttering about being outbid on eBay.

Merry Treat: Then you got me confused

Tabby: But then... *looks puzzled* You're always talking about Sailor Moon, and I'm always eating a strawberry sundae and talking about eBay. Was our first meeting any different than any of the others?

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... no, except we didn't have our Pokèmon back then.

Tabby: ...and your potatoes are good, MT, except that they aren't cheese-flavored...

Merry Treat: They would have been if you'd let me pick them and bake them and put cheese in them! Are you still stealing my vegetables?

Tabby: No-o-o-o... I think I got over that. Now I eat supper at Sugarberry's every night. It's easier.

Merry Treat: Except when I invite you over. Hehe!

Tabby: Ahh, and I never have to cook a supper of my own. *sighs dreamily*

Merry Treat: I think you should really learn how to cook one of these nights, Tab.

Tabby: *cheerfully* I haven't cooked for at least two years, so I don't see why I should now.

Merry Treat: ~grins~ ...and tonight will be your first lesson!

Tabby: *gasps* No-o-o!!! I mean, I'm busy tonight!

Merry Treat: I'll invite you over to my house for chicken and potatoes! I'm sure whatever you have to do can wait.

Tabby: Just don't make me cook! Please don't make me cook!

Merry Treat: I'll let you cook the potatoes; those aren't too hard to do. Leave the chicken to me.

Tabby: I'll frost the cake if you have one. I'm real good at frosting cakes. That last time I did it for Sugarberry, though, she'd never let me do it again... hmm...

Merry Treat: And I'll have ready-made strawberry ice cream.

Tabby: Is anybody else gonna be there? And can I burn the potatoes? I'm real good at doing that, too.

Merry Treat: It's hard to burn mashed potatoes

Tabby: But I can do it! Want me to demonstrate?

Merry Treat: And... maybe Salty will come. No, no; no need to demonstrate!

Tabby: Aw. *sighs*

Merry Treat: Besides, I don't have any potatoes here for you to demonstrate on, anyway. Uhhhh... my mind... it's blank!

Tabby: Same with me...

Merry Treat: Oh, dear... we need something to talk about...

Tabby: *thinks, and thinks, and thinks*

Merry Treat: Hmmm... Tabby, tell me a little about yourself. What makes you tick?

Tabby: My heart, I think.

Merry Treat: No-no-no, what kind of a pony are you? What is your view towards life? ~has run out of anything better to ask~

Tabby: My view towards life? What kind of a person I am?!?!?! You're confusing me!!!

Merry Treat: ~laughs~ Never mind! I just ran out of anything better to ask... just answer the questions.

Tabby: I'm a very confused pony.

Tabby: My view on life is... waste as much money as you can.

Merry Treat: ~nods~ What is your opinion on Chinese takeout food?

Tabby: *cocks head* I dunno. I've never had it.

Merry Treat: Me neither; just felt like asking that. Got any dumb questions to ask me?

Tabby: Mmmm... are you an earth pony, pegasus, or unicorn? There. That's the stupidest question I can come up with.

Merry Treat: Dumb question, Tab. I'm an earth pony.

Tabby: And was your mother an earth pony?

Merry Treat: Hmmmmm... yup.

Tabby: How about your father? Was he an earth pony?

Merry Treat: Hai, he was. ~nods~

Tabby: How about your aunts and uncles? *is clearly enjoying coming up with pointless questions*

Merry Treat: All of them are earth ponies.

Tabby: Is there anyone in your family tree that is NOT an earth pony?

Merry Treat: Uhmm... must I answer that?

Tabby: Not really. Now it's your turn to ask something.

Merry Treat: What was the sixth amendment to the United States Constitution?

Tabby: The freedom to buy eighties' toys.

Merry Treat: Cool! Your turn.

Tabby: Have you ever skipped out of work?

Merry Treat: Hmmmmm... uhm... being gym leader isn't really work...

Tabby: Well, you get paid for it.

Merry Treat: Yes... but...

Tabby: Well, I've skipped out of work approximately... hmm... many, many times.

Merry Treat: I might have, once or twice.

Tabby: Your turn.

Merry Treat: Who do you have a crush on?

Tabby: Mmm? Me?

Merry Treat: Yes, you! You don't have to tell if you don't want to. Just answer yes or no-- do you have a crush on someone?

Tabby: Nope. Nope. Definitely not. *shakes head vigorously*

Merry Treat: ~gives her a suspicious look~ Okay... your turn

Tabby: When do you think Toby is going to propose to Tiffany?

Merry Treat: Any time now.

Tabby: Alrighty.

Merry Treat: My turn! What's your favorite kind of music?

Tabby: Country, and/or anything that goes along with eighties' toy lines.

Merry Treat: Me, too! Only I'm more into soundtracks and country.

Tabby: What new business is going to move into Dream Valley next?

Merry Treat: How should I know?!

Tabby: Well, we're supposed to be coming up with stupid questions.

Merry Treat: You're right. Uhm... how about... Radio Shack?

Tabby: Radio Shack. *turns up her nose*

Merry Treat: I don't know...

Tabby: Next question.

Merry Treat: What's your favorite kind of soda?

Tabby: Mace Windu Cola.

Merry Treat: Never heard of it... your turn.

Tabby: It's the official drink of the Jedi Council... umm... what's your favorite hair style?

Merry Treat: Misty's!! And Usagi's!

Tabby: Alrighty!

Merry Treat: Hmmm... what does antidisastblishmentarinaism mean?

Tabby: It means that you're insane... or it's the stuff dreams are made of.

Merry Treat: Oh! That's true! I am insane!

Tabby: Why is my jewelry stored in the back of my closet?

Merry Treat: Because you'd never be caught dead wearing it?

Tabby: Correct! Why, it'd make me look...

Merry Treat: Like Alfrida Frankenstein! Hehehe....

Tabby: Well... your turn.

Merry Treat: Uhm... ~pulls one out of the air~ Why did they call it grass? Why couldn't they have called it something else? Like "little green stems growing out of the earth"?? Hm? Hmm? HMMMM??

Tabby: Grass is easier to spell. And say.

Merry Treat: Or maybe "grass" is just an abbreviation for a group of words! Like "Green... uhm... Radiant... Already... Silky... Stems"!

Tabby: "Green Roots Attached Simultaneously Similarly". Alright, that was stupid.

Merry Treat: Yes, it was...

Tabby: Green Radiant Already Silky Stems-- the latest in making your lawn look the best. Look it up in your local Pony-Mart store.

Merry Treat: ~laughs~

Tabby: Why in the world do I waste money?

Merry Treat: ~shrugs~ Because... you're... bored?

Tabby: That's probably correct.

Merry Treat: Is it my turn?

Tabby: I think so...

Merry Treat: Hmmmm... why do fools fall in love?

Tabby: ‘Cause they're fools... err...

Merry Treat: Hmmm... forget I asked that.

Tabby: How can I get Tex to move out of town?

Merry Treat: Tell him that his house burned down.

Tabby: What if he just bought another one in Dream Valley?

Merry Treat: Just hope he's nowhere near your house. Now it's your turn to ask a dumb question. Gee... I wonder if the readers are going nuts by now...

Tabby: I was wondering that same thing. Now, let's see. Have you seen Star Wars yet?

Merry Treat: ~nods several times~

Tabby: *breathes a sigh of relief* Finally!

Merry Treat: Baby Fox says Jar Jar reminds her of me.

Tabby: And why do so many ponies like Darth Maul so much?

Merry Treat: ~shrug~ I dunno, he only said like-- oops! We'd better stop talking about this, or we'll ruin it for those who haven't seen it!

Tabby: Yep yep, that's true! But wether this spoils it for you or not, JAR JAR IS COOL!

Merry Treat: I AGREE!

Tabby: Okay, then that's settled. *sits back with a smug look on her face* Now it's your turn for a question.

Merry Treat: ~blinks~ Uhm...

Tabby: Well? Well? *sits up in anticipation*

Merry Treat: ~mind is blank~ What time is it right now where we are sitting?

Tabby: 13:12.

Merry Treat: Huh? ~blank look~

Tabby: That's what my computer clock says, anyway. I wish I could fix that.

Merry Treat: 13:12, eh? Is that AM or PM?

Tabby: Hmm, the computer doesn't seem to say.

Merry Treat: Weird... I take it Barnacle programed your clock setting?

Tabby: Quarterback, actually. Grr...

Merry Treat: Hmmmmm... ~makes a note to herself: don't let Quarterback program my computer in military time~ Your turn?

Tabby: And say, I can't resist sticking a sales-pitch into the gossip hour! If anyone wants to help get the Teddy Ruxpin cartoon back on TV, go here to find addresses to write to!

Merry Treat: Good luck! Uhm... how are things at the center, Tab?

Tabby: Gee, MT, our minds really are going. You already asked that question, I think...

Merry Treat: I did?

Tabby: At the very beginning. Think back... think back...

Merry Treat: Heh... I guess I forgot... I'm really scatter-brained... sorry... ~blushes~

Tabby: *sits at her computer and plots, oblivious to what Merry Treat is saying*

Merry Treat: Tabby? Tabby? Hello... ~waves her hoof in front of Tabby's nose~ Hello? Cenetra to Tabby; come in, Tabby...

Tabby: What? What????

Merry Treat: You were just kinda... staring...

Tabby: I'm not staring!!! I'm plotting!!! There's a difference...

Merry Treat: ~jumps back, startled~ Okay, okay! Just settle down...

Merry Treat: You is going insane, methinks. ~shakes head~

Tabby: Not insane, plotting... there's a differance... *keeps repeating herself*

Merry Treat: ~sweatdrop~ What are you plotting? The end of the world?

Tabby: No. I'm just back to the Teddy Ruxpin campaign.

Merry Treat: Ah.

Tabby: *happily stares blankly at her screen*

Merry Treat: ~makes the coo-koo sign at the side of Tabby's head~ Uh-huh... well, since my partner seems to be on another planet, I think it's time we signed off. Remember, Jar Jar's the best! Bye!

Tabby: *starts singing* There's... a... monkey-in-my-pocket-and--

Merry Treat: See, she's lost it. See ya, peoples!


The Insane Crossover Story
Chapter Two
by Tabby, with help from Merry Treat

Tabby and Merry Treat-- along with their loyal Pokèmon-- have set out on a quest to seek revenge on a movie reviewer who claimed that the My Little Pony movie was "too cute for anyone older than seven". Of course, they'll need to gather up a team. Having already traveled through the Land of Grundo, Tweeg, a purple-robed green-skinned alchemist, is now accompanying the group as they continue on...

Tabby squinted across the long expanse of green grassland they were crossing. "What in the world is that?" she asked in alarm, seeing something of interest.

"Oh, it looks scary," Tess, Merry Treat's Meowth, shuddered.

A muscle-bound human figure was running towards them, holding a sword high in the air. He was clad in a simple fur cloth around his waist and a gray vest.

"This looks bad," Merry Treat gulped.

"As long as it's not a dues-collector from M.A.V.O," Tweeg said to himself.

"I HAVE THE POWER!" the figure was shouting at the top of his lungs. The gap between him and the travelers was quickly closing...

Tess covered her eyes. "I didn't think it'd end like this," she moaned.

Tarquin-- a fellow Meowth who belonged to Tabby-- placed a paw on her shoulder. "I won't let it get you," he consoled.

Tabby was usually clueless in situations like this; but suddenly, she was struck by inspiration. She abruptly pushed Tweeg over and sent him rolling a short distance across the grass; then she leaped to safety herself. The figure's sword crashed into the very spot where Tweeg had been standing a second ago.

Tabby was immediately back in action, and jumped in front of the figure. "How dare you threaten Tweeg like that!" she said menacingly.

Tweeg sat up and rubbed his head. "Please, sir, if you're from M.A.V.O..." he trailed off.

"You must be an evil snake-man sent by King Hiss!" the figure continued. "And I, He-Man, shall exterminate you from the land!"

"You're He-Man?" Merry Treat raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"Spearow, row," Spearow (belonging to Merry Treat) confided in Tarquin.

"Yes, what does M.A.V.O. have to do with this King Hiss?" Tarquin agreed.

"I'm not a snake-man," Tweeg said indignantly. "Just ask my mother."

"He's an alchemist," Tabby interrupted.

He-Man pulled his sword out of the ground and put it back in its sheath. "An alchemist? Like a wizard? Perhaps you'd like to meet a friend of mine."

"This is weird," Tarquin muttered.

"Row," Spearow agreed.

He-Man turned around and called, "Orko! Come out and meet these travelers!"

"He-Man, or whoever you are," Merry Treat started, "I hope you're not planning on doing harm to any of us."

"I am sorry to have mistaken you for a snake-man, Tweeg," He-Man apologized. "I can see now that I was wrong."

"I'd rather be in the company of L.B. than you, He-Man," Tweeg sniffed. "Oh, good L.B!"

Suddenly, a short, human-like figure appeared-- seemingly out of nowhere-- at He-Man's side. This figure, however, was floating in mid-air. "Meet my friend, Orko," He-Man said.

This strange creature was dressed in a red robe and a pointy red hat. Only his eyes could be seen out of the depths of his hood. In his hands, he held a large, mysterious-looking book. He floated around Tabby and Merry Treat before saying anything. "He-Man, I thought we were in search of snake-men."

"These travelers fight on the side of goodness, Orko," He-Man explained. "And I sense they are in search of something."

"Oh, in that case, maybe I can help..." Orko began flipping through the pages of his book.

"This guy makes wild leaps in logic just like those people in some of Spike's Godzilla movies I've seen!" Tabby exclaimed.

He-Man turned to Merry Treat and the others. "Perhaps you would like to introduce yourselves," he suggested. "And why are you wandering across this plain?"

"Do we trust him?" Tabby whispered to Merry Treat.

"With this He-Man's help, I just might be able to declare myself Supreme Oppressor," Tweeg plotted.

"Why, that's a good idea!" Tabby exclaimed.

"I don't see any problems with him," Tess declared. "Mr. He-Man, I'm Tess. Then there's Tarquin, Spearow, Merry Treat, Tabby, and Tweeg."

"I am pleased to make your acquaintances," He-Man said.

"Do you always run around in clothes like that, He-Man? And we're on a quest to seek revenge on an evil movie reviewer," Tabby explained.

"An evil movie reviewer? This could be one of Skeletor's plots to discover the secrets of Castle Grayskull," He-Man decided.

"Umm, who's this Skeletor?" Merry Treat asked tentatively.

"A villain who wants to fill the world with evil," He-Man declared.

"Don't they all," Tabby muttered.

"I wish I could be better at that," Tweeg sighed.

"Don't worry about it," Tess consoled Tweeg. "You're great the way you are."

"Orko and I will accompany you on your journey," He-Man decided, and turned to Orko. "Orko, we must forget about King Hiss and his snake-men for now, and find out more about this movie reviewer."

Orko suddenly looked up from his book. "Movie reviewer? I think I know just what can help us out." He posed a hand over the page he had opened to.

"Remember what happened the last time you summoned up a demon, Orko," He-Man reminded.

Tarquin, Merry Treat, and Tabby all exchanged horrified glances. "Ah-hem," Tabby said boldly, "I do not want anyone on our team that summons up demons."

Orko looked downcast, but closed up his book. "Aww. I just wanted somebody else to play with."

"Orko did not mean to offend you," He-Man said quickly. "I will make sure he keeps his behavior under control. We would both love to come along with you."

"Hmm." Tabby paused in thought. "If you want to join up on our team... we just have to do one thing. Tarquin, go to it!"

Obligingly, Tarquin leaped at Orko and snatched the book out of his hands. Orko cried out in distress, but Tarquin ripped the precious book to shreds with his needle-sharp claws.

"It is okay, Orko," He-Man consoled his friend. "You will be able to get another magic book."

"I guess," Orko sniffled. "As long as I still get to come along."

Tabby hunted around in Tarquin's backpack for a few supplies. Extracting a pad of paper and a pen, she sat down to write:


#1-- Any members of this team shall not insult or threaten Tweeg. Insultors or threateners will be dealt with severely by Tarquin, Tess, and/or Spearow.

#2-- No members of this team shall summon up demons for any reason whatsoever. Summoners will be dealt with severely by Tarquin, Tess, and/or Spearow.

Tabby looked up from her work proudly and showed it to He-Man and Orko. "You have to sign this to be allowed to join us," she explained. "However, if you decide not to sign, you'll be dealt with severely by Tarquin, Tess, and/or Spearow."

"You do know how to write?" Tarquin prodded.

He-Man and Orko scribbled down their names using the pen Tabby handed them. "Hee hee, this'll be fun!" Orko exclaimed. "Even if I don't have my magic book."

Merry Treat looked over what Tabby had written. "I have another regulation to add," she declared, and scribbled down:

#3-- No members shall insult the team in any way, shape, or form. If you do, you shall be dealt with severely by Sailor Fauna (i.e. moon-dusted).

"Very good," Tabby said in approval. "Tarquin, Tess, all of you. Sign your names as well."

With that taken care of, Tabby tucked the pad away for safe-keeping. And now, with their dealings with He-Man sealed, they continued on.

Orko suddenly pulled something out from the depths of his cloak. "Hey! I just remembered I have this on me. Would one of you like it?" He displayed a rolled-up paper in his blue hands.

"Is it a recipe for a new kind of potion?" Tweeg asked excitedly.

Tarquin cautiously took the roll from Orko, and slowly spread it out in his paws, as if expecting a monster to leap out of it. "Cool! A map!" he cried out loud. "Look at all the different lands listed on this thing!"

Tess stood close to Tarquin's side. "Why, this must show all the places in the universe!" she said in awe.

"Of course. You couldn't be a master of the universe without one," Orko explained.

"Orko is a very talented court jester," He-Man added. "I didn't know you still had that map on you."

"Row!" Spearow said excitedly.

"It'll certainly come in handy on this quest," Merry Treat admitted. "See? There's Ponyland, the Dark Forest, Grundo... every place we could dream of going!"

"They even have an ‘X' where Mommy's house is!" Tweeg commented.

"I hate maps," Tabby said in boredom. "Back in seventh grade, I could never stand doing work with maps--"

"But maps leading to treasures are good," Tweeg daydreamed.

"I'll keep this with me," Tarquin said as he efficiently rolled the large map up again and stuck it in his backpack. "We've still got a long stretch of grassland to go across."

"Spearow, row, spearow, spear!" Spearow chattered.

"You're right, Spearow," Merry Treat agreed, stifling a yawn. "It's getting late. We should make camp for the night."

"Do we have to build a fire? I don't want to build a fire. It sounds like it would be terribly hard to do. Come on, doesn't anyone else want to?" Tabby rambled on as night began to settle over the land.

Tess got together a bedtime snack of bread and butter for everyone; and then they all set about getting ready for their nighttime rest, ignoring Tabby's complaining.

* * *
Tabby tossed and turned in her sleeping bag much later that night. She'd been trying to get to sleep for hours now, but Tarquin and Tess had stayed up late talking. Tabby simply could not sleep with the sound of talking in her ears. Now they were asleep, but Tabby hadn't gotten that far yet.

This is so boring, Tabby thought to herself. There's not a thing to do in the dead of night when you can't sleep. She watched the flickering flames of the campfire that Tweeg and Orko had built (she'd weaseled her way out of helping on that).

She rubbed her eyes. Was she the only one in the world that couldn't sleep at this exact moment? Hmm... what was that? Tabby sat up straight in her sleeping bag. There was another mysterious figure lurking around the fire! She was sure she'd just seen someone!

Well, there's someone else in the same boat I am, she mused as she contentedly lay back down. Wonder what that guy's doing. Tabby watched the figure walking around everyone's sleeping bags. But just then, the light of the flames hit him just right so Tabby could get a better picture of the stranger.

"Ugh! You have got to do something about that awful blue skin color!" Tabby exclaimed aloud.

The stranger whirled around to face Tabby. He was about He-Man's height, but his skin was a pale blue color-- and his face was colored a strange green, with his eye sockets sunk oddly into his face. His outfit was also quite similar to He-Man's, only a dark purple color, which contrasted with his blue skin quite nicely. A matching dark purple hood hung loosely over the back of his head, and he held a purple staff in one hand.

"Don't you have anything to say for yourself?" Tabby demanded. "What is with your skin coloring?"

"You've foiled my plan!" the stranger hissed. "I was going to get rid of He-Man in this foreign land, with none of his friends here to help him out!"

"Oh, you know He-Man?" Tabby questioned. "Are you one of those snake-men he was talking about? I have to say, you don't look much like a snake."

"Of course I'm not a snake!" the figure said angrily.

"Then you must be King Hiss," Tabby concluded. "I love that purple color of your hood. What store'd you buy it at?"

"I am Skeletor, you dimwit!" The figure pointed his staff towards Tabby.

"Oh." Tabby nodded knowledgeably. "I think He-Man did mention you. What was that, King Hiss rules over you... or do you rule over the snake-men... that's it! Yes, and you live in Castle Grayskull--"

"Silence!" Skeletor commanded. "Or you may not see the light of day again!"

Tabby eyed Skeletor's staff. "Why the ram's head on the end of that?" she chattered on cheerfully. "You could have gone with a cat instead. Even a hare would've been cool."

"Gee, that's a bit too much green make-up on the face," Merry Treat yawned as she drowsily started to wake up and took in the image of Skeletor. "What-- oh-- is this-- ack!" She leaped up out of her sleeping bag, and wobbly stood on all four hooves, still waiting for her senses to fully awaken. "Tabby, who's this guy with all the weird make-up on?"

"He said he's Skeletor," Tabby said sleepily, putting her head back down on her pillow. "Just go back to bed."

"Why didn't you wake us up sooner?!?!" Merry Treat exclaimed, still gaining all her senses back from being asleep. "I think he means trouble, if not worse, Tabby!"

"I figured he'd just go away," Tabby murmured, her mind shutting down from loss of sleep. "Or else I could've squished him like an annoying fly. Yeah, I could've done that..."

"Fools!" Skeletor cried out. "See, your other friends aren't even awake. You're no match against my powers!"

"Wanna bet?" Merry Treat challenged, bending down and rooting around in her backpack for something. Finally, she held up a small red and white ball.

"What're you doing, MT..." Tabby murmured as her eyes began to close.

"It doesn't matter what she does!" Skeletor shrieked. "With one simple blast from my Havoc Staff, she'll--"

"Not so fast!" Merry Treat held her PokèBall high and called, "Vulpix! Go!"

In a flash of light out of the small ball, a cute little red fox with six tails (though Tabby preferred saying he had a peacock tail, to annoy Clever Clover) appeared in front of Skeletor. "Vulpix!" he exclaimed angrily.

"Your nauseatingly-cute pet cannot harm me," Skeletor sneered.

"Vulpix, Fire-Spin, now!" Merry Treat shouted.

"Oh, this might be cool." Tabby propped herself up on the ground with her forelegs.

"Vulpix, vul!" Vulpix obligingly opened his mouth wide and let loose with his mighty Fire-Spin attack. He blew a tornado-shaped funnel of fire directly at Skeletor.

Through his charred face, Skeletor blinked in surprise. "You-- you-- idiots," he spluttered in a rage.

"Good job, Vulpix!" Merry Treat paused to pat her Pokèmon on the head before picking up the empty PokèBall. "Now, return!" Vulpix disappeared into the ball in another flash of light.

"Oh yeah! Oh yeah!" Tabby cheered.

"You may have won this time," Skeletor warned, "but I'll be back!"

"And I'll test another of my ‘nauseatingly-cute' pets on you then!" Merry Treat taunted.

Skeletor, without a word, picked up his staff from the ground where he had dropped it during Vulpix's Fire-Spin and ran off into the starless night.

"That's a good job done," Merry Treat said contentedly, settling back into her sleeping bag. "We can wait ‘till morning to tell the others." She glanced around at the other motionless bundles around the fire. The only movement detected was when Tess stretched in her sleep and turned around.

" ‘Night again, Tabby." Merry Treat drifted off to sleep again.

With wide-open eyes, Tabby stared into the diminishing flames of the campfire. The excitement of Vulpix's Fire-Spin had sucked all the sleepiness out of her again. Hope morning comes soon, she thought to herself, frowning out of boredom. Then I wouldn't have to lay here for all eternity with nothing to do. I wonder what'll happen tomorrow...

To be continued...


Red Hot Chili
by Sugarberry

Sugarberry's heart skipped a beat as she saw who was sitting on her front porch steps. She was just getting home after her day as receptionist at The Vet Clinic when she saw the country blue stallion waiting for her. Her face radiating the pleasure she felt, Sugarberry rushed up the sidewalk as Vanguard met her halfway.

"Oh, you are finally in Dream Valley!" she exclaimed as she wrapped Vanguard in a welcoming hug. "It's so good to see you!"

"And you, too!" Vanguard smilingly agreed. "I've missed you."

True to form, Sugarberry blushed. "When did you arrive?"

"Just this morning." Vanguard informed her. "I spent the day checking over my office and the campus at Pony Pride University and moving into the apartment I've rented."

Sugarberry led Vanguard to the porch swing and sat down. Vanguard retrieved a package from the steps before joining her. "For you," he grinned.

Removing the shiny mauve ribbon and white paper revealed a painting of Birdsong, the Victorian bed-and-breakfast where Vanguard and Sugarberry had met the month before. "It's perfect!" cooed Sugarberry. "I can hear the birds singing even now!"

At that moment, a lively little wren exploded into joyous trilling from the birch tree behind them, and the two ponies laughed in delight.

"Hey, Sugarberry, what's for supper?" Unnoticed by the pair on the porch swing, Tabby and Chocolate Chip had arrived. They were eying the stallion curiously.

As Vanguard rose to meet the new arrivals, Sugarberry made the introductions. "Tabby, Chocolate Chip, this is my friend, Vanguard, from Birdsong. Vanguard, this is Tabby." She placed a hoof on Tabby's shoulder. "Tabby is my neighbor to the right, and a dear, dear friend."

"So this is that Van-gerd guy you were telling us about," yawned Tabby as she waved her hoof limply through the air.

Sugarberry rolled her eyes and sighed. Tabby had consistently mispronounced Vanguard's name since Sugarberry had returned home from her vacation at Birdsong and told her friends about the stallion she had met. Judging from the twinkle in Vanguard's eyes, Sugarberry assumed he remembered her telling him about this slightly ill-tempered unicorn.

Next, Sugarberry pushed Chocolate Chip forward. "Chocolate Chip is living with me while she attends Pony Pride University. Maybe you'll have her in one of your classes this fall."

As Vanguard and Chocolate Chip shook hooves, Vanguard asked the sleek brown pony, "What's your major, Chocolate Chip?"

"Still undecided," was Chocolate Chip's response. "I've considered engineering and computers, but right now I'm leaning toward economics."

"You'll need a strong math background for any of those," replied Vanguard.

"So what's for supper?" interrupted Tabby hungrily. She often joined Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip for their evening meal. "Chicken? You haven't fixed that for at least a week."

Sugarberry frowned. "I hadn't given it much thought, Tabby. I've had other things on my mind."

Chivalrously, Vanguard came to the rescue. "How about I take the three of you to Kentucky Fried Chicken?"

"Let's go!" Tabby said as she led the way off the porch.

"Gee, thanks," bubbled Chocolate Chip as she, too, set off.

Sugarberry flashed a smile of gratitude at Vanguard. "This is very thoughtful of you, Vanguard." She slipped her hoof into his, and they followed the others down the walk.

"I treated my first Zubat today," informed Tabby enthusiastically as they walked. "He'd been beaten by a Pidgeot and was at death's door. I, of course, saved him."

"How did you do that?" asked Chocolate Chip, rolling her eyes. Whenever Tabby told a story of treating a Pokèmon, it had always been "at death's door."

"With just the right combination of superglue and potions," Tabby verified.

"Ah... Zubat and Pidgeot?" queried a puzzled Vanguard.

"They are Pokèmon," enlightened Sugarberry.

"You mean you don't know about Pokèmon?" shrieked Tabby unbelievingly. She therefore proceeded to fill Vanguard in on every known fact about Pokèmon, ensuring that no other topic of conversation could be embarked upon.

The animated monologue did indeed enlighten Vanguard to the world of Pokèmon, and the ponies soon found themselves at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip dashed directly into the ladies' room, leaving Tabby alone with Vanguard. "So, which Pokèmon do you want?" she questioned. "Pikachu? Growlith? Hitmonchan?" Tabby could be relentless. "You could try to catch a Psyduck, but I haven't gotten one yet, and I have to be the first. Meowths are the best, but there are already two in Dream Valley; and if there were any more, they wouldn't be special. You don't want a Mr. Mime at any cost. Zubats don't have eyes, but you might like one. Get a Digglet," she finally decided.

Unnoticed by Tabby, Thomas, too, was eating at the restaurant tonight and had just gotten his order at the counter. He approached her reproachfully. "I thought you were having supper with Sugarberry."

Tabby's face was open and innocent. "I am."

Meanwhile, Thomas glared at Vanguard who was completely baffled by the hostility.

Clueless, Tabby continued her unending Pokèmon tirade until Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip reappeared. "Hi, Thomas!" Sugarberry greeted. "Did Tabby introduce you to Vanguard?"

Enlightenment crossed Thomas' face, and for the first time during this encounter, he smiled. "Vanguard?" He extended his hoof. "So you are Sugarberry's new friend."

The two stallions shook hooves while assessing each other, and both approved of what they saw.

Tabby, craving her chicken and potatoes, ordered first.

"You are the only pony I know who takes both side orders as potatoes," teased Chocolate Chip. "Mashed potatoes and French fries!"

"You got a problem with that?" retorted Tabby. She grabbed her tray and went off with Thomas to find a table large enough for the five of them.

When everyone was seated, the conversation centered on the summer festival occurring the next day, which was Saturday.

"Vanguard, you got here just in time for Summer Celebration," began Chocolate Chip. "Tomorrow, all Ponyland will come together for fun and games."

"There will be swimming races, volleyball tournaments, and carnival rides," continued Thomas.

"And Pokèmon battles!" exclaimed Tabby.

"And a potluck picnic followed by fireworks at the end of the day," concluded Sugarberry.

"Hey, good timing on my part," assented Vanguard. "Any suggestions on what I should bring to the potluck?"

"I'm taking brownies," offered Chocolate Chip.

"Tabby and I are taking chicken and potatoes," divulged Sugarberry, winking at Tabby who hadn't yet given any thought to the potluck.

"How about you, Thomas?" asked Vanguard. "Give me some help here."

"I haven't made up my mind yet," Thomas confessed. "I'll stop by the grocery store tomorrow morning and pick something up from the deli department."

"Mind if I tag along?" queried Vanguard. "I haven't stocked my kitchen yet."

"As if you could cook anyway!" scoffed Tabby.

"Wait ‘till you taste my red hot chili," boasted Vanguard. "And a fruit salad on the side."

Tabby groaned inwardly as she had flunked cooking class-- even failed at fruit salad; but she didn't let that stop her from taunting Vanguard. "I dare you to enter the chili-making cook-off tomorrow-- it's sponsored by Tex's Salsa Shop."

"I can do that!" Vanguard accepted the challenge. "How do I enter?

"You'll have some stiff competition," Thomas warned. "Clever Clover, Butch, and Quarterback are already signed up."

"And I hear that Tamara and Snuzzle are going to compete, too," added Sugarberry.

"I like a challenge. Where is this salsa shop?"

"It's just off Main Street," informed Chocolate Chip. "Just look for the big red pepper."

"It looks really awful," Tabby offered.

"I could take you there," volunteered Sugarberry, "as soon as we're done eating. Tex stays open late on Friday nights."

After finishing the meal, Sugarberry and Vanguard parted company with Thomas, Tabby, and Chocolate Chip as Tabby was determined to have her strawberry sundae at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe before Thomas walked her and Chocolate Chip home.

"Are you sure you want to do this cook-off thing?" Sugarberry worried as they neared Tex's Salsa Shop.

"Why not?" asked Vanguard. "It should be fun, and I'll have the chance to meet more ponies."

Vanguard opened the door for Sugarberry, and they entered the shop. Tex was behind the counter, while Quarterback and several other customers were eating salsa and chips.

"Hi, Sugarberry," Quarterback called as he waved in her direction. He didn't seem to notice Vanguard.

Sugarberry waved back, and led Vanguard over to Tex who was refilling bowls of salsa for his customers' convenience. "Tex," Sugarberry began, "I'd like you to meet Vanguard, the new mathematics professor at Pony Pride. And Vanguard, this is Tex, owner of Tex's Salsa Shop."

Tex leaned across the counter to grasp Vanguard's hoof in a hearty hoofshake. "Glad to meet you, partner!" exclaimed Tex enthusiastically. "What can I do for you?"

"I'd like an entry form for this chili cook-off I've been hearing about," explained Vanguard. "I'd like to try my hoof at it."

Tex chuckled. "Got some mighty fine cooks lined up for this event. But one more is always welcome." He handed Vanguard a slip of chili-red paper. "Fill this out and be here tomorrow at eleven o'clock with all your chili fixings. My kitchen in the back of the shop is where the action will be."

While Vanguard filled out the entry information, Sugarberry glanced at Quarterback who motioned for her to join him. She whispered her intentions to Vanguard, and walked to Quarterback's booth where she slid in opposite him.

"Salsa?" he offered as he pushed some chips in her direction.

"No, thanks!" Sugarberry declined. Quarterback liked the hottest salsa that Tex made, while Sugarberry could only stand the most mild variety.

"Who's the stallion?" questioned Quarterback just as Vanguard approached them. So Sugarberry went through the introductions again as Vanguard slipped into the booth next to her.

"Math, huh?" Quarterback nodded at Vanguard. "Majored in that myself. I'm an engineer, you know." Switching his attention to Sugarberry, he asked, "What time should I pick you up for the fishing contest? It's supposed to start at two o'clock, just after the chili cook-off. Remember the fun we had last year?"

Sugarberry gulped. She hadn't had fun last year. She hated standing on the hot bank waiting for the fish to bite. She hated having to keep quiet. She hated the buzzing mosquitoes and the droning flies. She hated seeing the fish caught on the painful fishhook. "I'm going to attend Summer Celebration with Vanguard," she confessed.

Quarterback stopped chewing his salsa and chips and stared at Sugarberry, then at Vanguard, then back at Sugarberry. "Oh," was all he said.

Sugarberry suddenly felt very confused. Quarterback had been her friend for a long time and she would always value that friendship. But she felt more at ease with Vanguard than she ever had with anyone else, and they had more things in common-- like birdwatching, quiet walks in the woods, and talking over a cup of coffee.

"It's time to be going," Vanguard broke the silence. "I've got some shopping to do before the grocery store closes."

As Vanguard helped Sugarberry from the booth, she smiled at Quarterback. "I hope you catch the biggest fish ever."

"Yeah. Whatever," he muttered.

Once out on the sidewalk again, Sugarberry apologized to Vanguard. "I said I was spending tomorrow with you; but as soon as I said it, I realized we hadn't talked about that yet. So you are free to do what you please."

"And who would I go with if not you?" Vanguard took her hoof in his. "Just one thing, though," he grinned. "Would you go grocery shopping with me for my chili ingredients?"

Sugarberry agreed. "Oakly's Grocery is right over there." She pointed across the street and to the right. "He will have everything you need."

Proceeding to the grocery store, the pair explored the aisles for the best chili components available to ensure Vanguard's success on the following day. He also purchased several dozen dinner rolls to contribute to the potluck.

After paying for his purchases, Vanguard groaned. "I'll have to take this stuff straight home to get the meat in the refrigerator. I was looking forward to walking you home."

"No problem," came a voice from behind them. It was Quarterback. "I'll walk Sugarberry home."

Vanguard started to reject that idea, but Sugarberry placed her hoof on his foreleg. "It'll be okay," she assured him. "I'll see you tomorrow." So a very dejected Vanguard watched as Quarterback escorted Sugarberry out of the store.

Quarterback and Sugarberry walked in silence until Quarterback asked, "Do you like him?"

"Of course I do!" Sugarberry snapped.

"What about us?"

"We are friends, aren't we?" She smiled a warm smile. "You'll still bring boxes for Fluff, won't you?" she teased. Quarterback provided cardboard boxes that Fluff loved to sleep and play in.

They had just reached the end of the block when they nearly collided with Tabby, Thomas, and Chocolate Chip returning home from the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

"Watch where you're going!" screeched Tabby before she realized who it was. "Oh! It's you, Sugarberry. Hey, Quarterback!"

"Why are you guys going home so early?" asked Sugarberry. "Scoops run out of ice cream?"

"Tabby remembered she hadn't cleaned Callie's litter box yet this week, and wanted to take care of that little oversight," Thomas scowled.

Tabby scowled back. "She sleeps all the time; I forget she's there."

Chocolate Chip refereed. "Now, now, you two. Callie does just fine with Tabby. She likes as little attention as she can get."

"Yes, you're right about that," admitted Thomas. "She snaps at me every chance she gets."

"Callie... or Tabby?" chortled Chocolate Chip.

"Both," grinned Thomas as he side-stepped a swat from Tabby.

"Sugarberry," Quarterback asked, "would it be okay if Thomas walks you home with the girls? I remembered something I've got to do before tomorrow."

"Okay," Sugarberry replied as Quarterback turned and hurried off back the way they'd come.

"What happened to Van-gerd?" quizzed Tabby. "Did you dump him already? I wouldn't mind; he didn't say he wanted a Pokèmon."

"He had to take his groceries home."

"How quaint," Tabby tormented.

"He seems very nice," Chocolate Chip intercepted.

"And sensible," added Thomas with a sideways glance at Tabby.

"I think we should go to my house and watch a Teddy Ruxpin video." Tabby's thoughts had switched to a more exciting topic than stallions. "How about the ‘Tweeg's Mom' episode?"

"Only if you change Callie's litter first," challenged Thomas.

"Okay," agreed Tabby, "but you have to make the popcorn."

So off they went-- Thomas, Tabby, Sugarberry, and Chocolate Chip-- to lose themselves to the world of Grundo.

* * *
Tex's Salsa Shop was crowded with the entrants to the chili cook-off. Each one was assigned a number, after which they set to work to create the perfect pot of chili. Vanguard was positioned between Butch and Tamara in the kitchen; and as they worked, a strong feeling of competition developed between the contestants-- not withstanding a fair share of friendly taunting and a lot of "horsing" around.

Busily preparing the meat for cooking, Vanguard was approached by Quarterback. "Phone call for ya!" he informed the startled stallion.

Baffled as to who would be calling him at this moment in time, Vanguard left his work station to take the call in the front room. But all that met his ear when he picked-up the waiting receiver was a brash dial tone. "What was that about?" wondered Vanguard as he returned to his chili making.

One thing all the ponies in the contest seemed to have in common was a desire to make the hottest chili possible-- "Hot equals best," as Butch phrased it. Every kind of chili powder imaginable was present in Tex's kitchen that day and the combination of peppers would have brought tears to the eyes of most ponies. Maybe that's why Vanguard didn't notice the change.

The preparations were going along smoothly; Vanguard had added the precise amount of red hot pepper to his concoction to make it the perfect chili; and after allowing it to simmer and meld, he gave it a quick taste-- and gasped. He stared blankly at the bubbling pot of choice elements that should now be a masterpiece for the palate. Instead, it had become a vile-tasting failure.

Oblivious to the continued activity around him, Vanguard stood completely still, contemplating his dilemma. Once more he raised a spoonful of chili to his lips, and gingerly tried another sample. He hadn't imagined it-- something was definitely wrong. He nibbled once more off the spoon, and a glimmer of understanding broke through his insensibility. He grabbed the bottle of chili pepper he'd used, and tore off the lid. Holding the container to his nose, he first smelled it, then dipped in a hoof and tasted it. His suspicion was right. This wasn't chili pepper-- it was cinnamon!

Vanguard surveyed the kitchen full of bustling activity; everyone was currently engrossed in his or her own preparations. No one seemed to be aware of his predicament. Or did Quarterback seem to be darting wary glances in Vanguard's direction? Vanguard looked over the pepper jar carefully-- was this an innocent packaging error, or sabotage? He shook his head disbelievingly.

At that moment, Tex approached Vanguard. "You look to be a million miles away. Anything wrong?" As sponsor of the cook-off, Tex was responsible for a smooth-running, successful affair.

Vanguard simply held out the chili pepper to Tex, who took it questioningly. "Taste it," Vanguard suggested.

Tex did just that, and gaped at Vanguard in surprise. "Was this deliberate?"

"You tell me," countered Vanguard. "You know these ponies better than I do."

Tex glanced around the room, and shook his head. "I wouldn't want to think any of them would stoop this low... not even Butch."

"Well, what's done is done," philosophized Vanguard. "Maybe it was an accident, although what are the odds that one jar of chili pepper would be filled with cinnamon at this time and place?" He sighed. "Irregardless, I'm out of the cook-off." He took his ill-fated mixture to the trash barrel and dumped it in.

"I'll keep my eyes and ears open to any clues on who did this," consoled Tex. He and Vanguard stood back and again scrutinized the remaining contestants. Most were finishing up their concoctions and cleaning up their spaces.

"Guess I'd better clean up my mess, too," surmised Vanguard as he left Tex to wonder about the cinnamon switch. Tamara to his left had already polished her area, and had only to move her kettle of chili out to the tent where the judging would occur. Butch, on the other side, was surrounded by heaps of dirty dishes and oozing dribbles of chili fixings. Vanguard noted that Butch had used the same brand of chili pepper as he had-- Spiceland; it would have been a simple thing to switch containers. But for what reason? Who had a reason? wondered Vanguard as he scrubbed the counter. And who had the opportunity?

Remembering the phantom phone call, Vanguard looked in Quarterback's direction. The stallion was totally concentrated on his chili, busily fussing over the final stages-- too busily, perhaps? Vanguard shook his head to clear his thoughts. "I'm out of here," he said to no one in particular.

Coming into the fresh summer air was a relief after the heavy smells of chili in the kitchen. Vanguard breathed deeply as if to purge himself of the morning's madness, and put it all behind him as he caught sight of Sugarberry at the edge of the crowd gathering for the chili judging. He headed straight to her, and realized that the pony next to her was none other than Merry Moments, a Friendship Gardens filly who had shared their Birdsong adventure. The three pals reunited joyfully.

"Where's this blue ribbon chili that Sugarberry's been telling me about?" inquired Merry Moments. "Do we get a taste?"

Grimacing, Vanguard related the happenings that befell him.

Sugarberry was slow to comprehend the implications. "Spiceland better improve their quality control," she began. "That spice jar looked fine last night at the store... wouldn't we have noticed? The color variation would have been subtle, but..." Suddenly a shocked look crossed her face. "Do you think someone tampered with it?"

"Who knows?" responded Vanguard lightly. "Let's not worry about it. No sense crying over spilled... chili," he quipped

Merry Moments giggled. "Let's hang around and see who the winner is! Personally, I'm rooting for Clever Clover," she admitted as she waved at the only contestant from Friendship Gardens who stood with the rest of the ponies now lined up behind their prized pots of chili waiting for the judges'-- Steamer, Pinwheel, and Rocky-- to make their decision.

Poetic justice prevailed as Butch's chili was chosen number one; and Tex, who harbored not a little animosity toward Butch over some occurrence in their hidden past (Bolivia, was it?), was forced to hand over the five-hundred jangle prize.

Getting an exuberant hug from Butch's sister, Sundance, helped to mellow the moment for Tex, however, and he magnanimously presented Butch with the prize and the blue ribbon.

After sampling several of the chili choices accompanied by big glasses of cold white milk, the threesome decided to walk through the carnival grounds. The shrill screams of baby ponies enjoying the fearsome rides punctuated the warm July air with a festive sound.

Merry Moments prattled on with Vanguard about his move to Dream Valley and about a future visit to Friendship Gardens. "Sugarberry, you do plan on coming to our town-wide rummage sale next month, don't you?" she ended. "Sugarberry?"

Sugarberry's thoughts were hung up on the chili contest. "Who would have played such an underhoofed trick on Vanguard?" She knew well all the ponies who were there, although Butch less than the others. "Would Butch do such a thing to ensure a win?" she wondered out loud.

Vanguard groaned. "So, you're playing Sherlock Holmes with our little mystery, are you?"

"Does that make me Dr. Watson?" squealed Merry Moments. "I've always dreamed of working with Sherlock Holmes!"

"We need clues!" asserted Sugarberry. "Something that would point us in the right direction!"

"I have the chili powder, alias cinnamon, here in my backpack," offered Vanguard. "But there's no way of knowing who changed the contents-- or if anyone did, for that matter."

Sugarberry looked at the Spiceland label on the bottle. "Everyone uses Spiceland spices," she worried.

"Was the seal broken when you opened the jar?" wondered Merry Moments.

"No, I'm sure I had to remove it," verified Vanguard.

"Then it was planned ahead of time,' deduced Sugarberry. "Whoever did it removed the chili powder, replaced it with cinnamon, and re-affixed the seal to the top. That would take a certain amount of time and privacy."

"But it leaves no evidence," concluded Vanguard. "Whoever made the switch only had to bring in the phoney chili powder, and switch it for mine. They could go ahead and use my jar of uncorrupted chili powder themselves."

"So who had opportunity?" asked Merry Moments bluntly.

"Well, Tamara and Butch were on either side of me, so they could have pulled it off easily."

"And Butch would be worried that your chili could beat his because he never had a chance to try it in the past!"

"But even at that, I was always right there... except for..." He glanced at Sugarberry cautiously.

"Except for what?" Sugarberry bristled.

"Quarterback came and told me there was a phone call, so I went to the front room to take it, but no one was on the line," he spilled out rapidly.

Sugarberry's eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. "Quarterback?" she gasped.

"Who's Quarterback?" piped-in Merry Moments. "Fill me in!"

"We was the stallion at the end of the row of contestants, the blue one," informed Vanguard as he kept his eyes on Sugarberry. "He's a good friend of Sugarberry's."

Sugarberry's mouth tightened in a straight line. "Was a good friend!" she fumed.

"We don't know if he did it, Sugarberry. He had the opportunity, but maybe there really was a phone call," soothed Vanguard.

"Yes, Sugarberry," agreed Merry Moments. "You still don't have any evidence."

"But it all fits, don't you see?" Sugarberry argued. "Quarterback was at the grocery store while we were shopping, Merry Moments. He saw everything Vanguard bought."

"Even so..." Merry Moments began, but Sugarberry was unstoppable.

"And on the way home, Vanguard, he suddenly left me with Thomas because he had ‘remembered something he had to do'. Don't you see? He was jealous of you, and thought of a way to get back at you."

"I don't know, Sugarberry," frowned Vanguard.

"Dr. Watson says you need more proof," stated Merry Moments. "You're too emotionally involved to think straight."

Sugarberry thought that over, and calmed down a little. "You're right, Watson. I let myself get carried away." She grinned sheepishly.

"Okay. Let's put that behind us and enjoy the rest of the day," suggested Vanguard.

"Good idea!" agreed Merry Moments. "What's going on over in the meadow?"

"Oh, the Pokèmon battles! I almost forgot!" exclaimed Sugarberry. "Come on!"

By the time they arrived at the roped-off area that served as an arena, the trio had succeeded in putting the chili cook-off behind them. They watched as Likatong and Wartortle competed, with Wartortle coming out a sure winner. Then Clever Clover's Rattata battled Merry Treat's Spearow. Rattata came out on top. As more events took place, Vanguard, Sugarberry, and Merry Moments moved around the field to the tent where Tabby, as Pokèmon nurse, was stationed in case any Pokèmon were injured. Thomas was also there to lend a hoof if needed.

"Keeping busy, Tabby?" asked Sugarberry.

"Actually, no," replied Tabby. "No one is getting hurt. And Meowth ran off with Tess to ride the ferris wheel."

"Sound like fun," hinted Thomas.

But Tabby had caught sight of Vanguard. "Who won the chili cook-off?"

"Not me," responded Vanguard. Then he looked quizzically at Sugarberry. "Holmes, is this Tabby-pony capable of the foul deed that was perpetrated?"

Confused, Tabby queried, "You made your chili out of chicken?"

"F-o-u-l, not f-o-w-l," corrected Sugarberry.

"What did we miss?" asked Thomas.

So Sugarberry and Merry Moments relayed the unsolved mystery to them.

Tabby immediately blurted out, "Tex! It had to be Tex!"

Now it was Vanguard's turn to look confused. "How do you figure that, Tabby?"

"The worms," Tabby offered.

"The worms?" Vanguard was becoming more puzzled by the second.

"Tex put worms in Tabby's lunchbox back in sixth grade, and she hasn't trusted him since," clarified Sugarberry.

"If he's capable of putting worms in my lunch, he's capable of substituting cinnamon for chili."

"Our list of suspects grows," grinned Merry Moments.

At that moment, Blue Belle's Hitmonchan soundly defeated Dainty's Raichu who subsequently was in dire need of Tabby's nursing talents. Vanguard, Sugarberry, and Merry Moments left Tabby and Thomas to their work, and moved off in the direction of the river.

Dotting the bank were the fisherponies who hoped to pull in the biggest fish of the day. Current, one of the Brilliant Brothers, was there, as well as Sky Skimmer from Friendship Gardens. Even Baby Bright Bouquet was there with her parents, and Wigwam, and Pinwheel. Further down the stream, they came across Quarterback silently watching his fishing line.

Sugarberry was unsure as to whether or not he would mind being interrupted, but Quarterback caught sight of them and waved them over. "It's too early for the fish to be biting good, but the big ones are down there." He looked closely at Merry Moments. "Have we met?"

Sugarberry realized her oversight and introduced the two. Merry Moments was intrigued with the possibility of catching a fish and Quarterback was soon demonstrating the proper technique to throw out the line and how to reel it back in.

"Not bad," he complimented Merry Moments as she made her first cast. "Now just wait quietly for a fish to bite." He then set about explaining all the finer points of fishing, with Merry Moments being an apt pupil. She was genuinely enjoying this experience.

Sugarberry and Vanguard bid farewell to the two as Quarterback and Merry Moments progressed from their fish discussion on to baseball. "I think Quarterback has met his match," whispered Sugarberry to Vanguard as they moved off back to the bustle of the festival grounds. Once there, they ran into Tabby and Thomas who were on their way to the ferris wheel.

"Come with us," urged Tabby, who well knew Sugarberry's fear of heights. "It's only a little ferris wheel!"

"Let's go!" exclaimed Vanguard, steering Sugarberry in the direction of the towering circle.

Oh, great, thought Sugarberry as she silently wished she'd stayed at the riverbank with Quarterback and Merry Moments. At least sports talk was only boring, not scary.

But before she knew it, she was seated next to Vanguard on the ferris wheel. He valiantly drew her within the comforting embrace of his foreleg as the wheel began turning. This isn't so bad, thought Sugarberry as the contraption moved up the backside of its circular path. She had just relaxed to enjoy the ride when the seat crested the top, and nothing but emptiness hung before her. Sugarberry turned her face into Vanguard's shoulder, and closed her eyes. She was faintly aware of hearing Tabby's voice screaming in terror. "Serves her right," Sugarberry muttered as she remembered Tabby's words-- It's only a little ferris wheel!

"Hey, Braveheart, you're missing the scenery," teased Vanguard. "Look over there-- you can see Pony Pride University."

Stealing a peek, Sugarberry grudgingly had to admit that the view was rather pretty from this height. By looking to the distance rather than down, she was able to survive the ride. Even Tabby's shrieks became less frequent. And then the ride was over.

Sugarberry and Tabby fell into each others forelegs in relief once they were on solid ground. Thomas and Vanguard chuckled uncompassionately, but led the girls to an empty park bench nearby. "Ready for the next ride when your are," taunted Thomas. He and Vanguard shared a smug male moment while Sugarberry and Tabby caught their breath.

"Humph," grumbled Tabby. "I'd rather be battling Pokèmon."

"I think I need to rest awhile," stammered Sugarberry. "Maybe a cup of coffee?" she pleaded.

As Thomas and Vanguard went off in search of a refreshment booth, Tabby and Sugarberry managed to calm down and regain their composure. They were spiritedly discussing suspects in the chile mystery when the stallions returned not only with soda and coffee but also with a box of cinnamon raisin bars to nibble on. "Tamara and her show cat group were selling these for a jangle raiser," explained Thomas.

"These are very good," said Sugarberry between bites. "Excellent with coffee."

"But you know I don't like raisins," complained Tabby.

When the ponies were sated, they went their separate ways to prepare for the evening picnic. Tabby went with Sugarberry to help fix fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy, although Tabby's assistance was-- for the most part-- simply to stay out of Sugarberry's way in the kitchen.

"What if everybody brings chicken and potatoes? Not that I'm complaining, but it could happen. All chicken and potatoes-- no salads, no desserts, no veggies, no bread. Did you even think of that, Sugarberry?" chattered Tabby.

"Yes, I guess that could happen," agreed Sugarberry. "But I've never known it to. Tabby, get your hooves off of those brownies!"

Tabby had found the brownies Chocolate Chip had ready for the pot luck and had helped herself to one. Sugarberry scowled at her, but the brownies looked so good with their chocolate frosting that she ended up snitching one herself. "Chocolate Chip will never notice," declared Tabby.

"Notice what?" Chocolate Chip entered the kitchen from the living room. Seeing the two ponies with guilty faces and half-eaten brownies clutched in their hooves made her break out in laughter. "You two are worse than baby ponies!"

"How dare you compare me to a baby pony!" retorted Tabby.

"Your brownies were just too good to resist," admitted Sugarberry as she finished hers off. "And besides, Tabby made me do it!"

The smell of chicken frying on the stove reminded the ponies that there was still work to be done if they were to be ready for the picnic. Sugarberry mashed the potatoes while the chicken finished cooking; Tabby and Chocolate Chip sat at the counter arguing over which eighties toys were the neatest.

Before long, the food was ready and packed into the picnic basket. The three friends took off for the park where the picnic was being held. They deposited their food items on the already loaded serving tables, then hunted for a spot to settle. Chocolate Chip wanted to spread the picnic cloth directly on the ground while Tabby and Sugarberry held out for a picnic table-- "to avoid the nasty bugs." Chocolate Chip won out, however, as the last available table was snatched up by a group of princess ponies while the girls were still debating.

"The nerve of those princesses!" ranted Tabby as she prepared for a showdown. Luckily, Thomas and Vanguard showed up in the nick of time with the news that they had reserved a table across the way; Prime was watching it for them.

"Prime's here?" brightened Chocolate Chip. "I'll go wait with him if you ponies want to go get your food now." With that, she set off across the park.

Sugarberry and Vanguard, along with Tabby and Thomas, headed for the food tables where they loaded up their plates with every type of culinary dish that Little Ponies could desire.

"Hmm," observed Thomas as they reached the dessert table. "I think we'll have to come back later. There's no more room on our plates."

"Yeah," Tabby consented. "I hate mashed potatoes stuck to my brownie."

The others agreed, so they continued on to where Prime and Chocolate Chip were holding down their place, now joined by Friendly and Spike.

"This is great!" exclaimed Sugarberry. "It's almost like an evening at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe." She had no sooner said that when Clever Clover showed up with an overloaded plate of food. He was followed by Merry Moments and Quarterback.

"How did the fishing contest turn out?" asked Vanguard of the two sunburned fisherponies.

"We lost, thanks to me," complained Merry Moments. "Quarterback had hooked a humongous fish, but he let me reel it in. I lost it," she ended dejectedly.

"Sounds like a typical fish story," harassed Thomas.

"It was a big one," Quarterback confirmed. "Merry Moments did a good job trying to land it." He looked at Merry Moments admiringly.

"It looks like the only winner today in this group was Clever Clover in the Pokèmon battle," observed Spike.

Sugarberry looked around at the eclectic group gathered together. In a burst of sentimentality, she pronounced, "We are all winners because of our friendship!"

Tabby groaned. "Enough already, Sugarberry."

"But I agree with Sugarberry," Vanguard defended. "I just arrived yesterday, and I feel like I've known you all forever." His gaze swept over the group, ending with a special wink at Sugarberry.

"That does it!" bewailed Tabby. "I'm out of here! Anyone want dessert?" As Tabby took off for the dessert table, Thomas shrugged his shoulders and tagged after her.

Friendly and Chocolate Chip began cleaning up the used plates and carting them to the trash can. Merry Moments pulled Sugarberry aside to ask, "Any more clues as to who messed with the chili powder, Holmes?"

"Why, Watson, I'd been having so much fun, I'd completely forgotten about it," admitted Sugarberry. "It doesn't seem to matter anymore."

"You mean my first case has to remain unsolved?" Merry Moments grinned. "That won't look good on a resume."

Just then, they heard Tabby complaining as she and Thomas returned to the table. "I hate raisins! Why would anyone put them into an otherwise perfectly tasty dessert?"

Thomas, carrying a tray of cinnamon raisin bars, explained. "All the desserts were gone except for this batch of Tamara's bars. She had to hurry and make more after selling all her others this afternoon. That's why she was late with them."

"Lucky for us!" exclaimed Sugarberry. "Those bars of Tamara's were delicious... especially with coffee." She frowned as she realized there was no coffee at the picnic.

True to form, Clever Clover and Spike grabbed greedily for the bars; Clever Clover took a bite of his, and began choking. Spike did the same.

"What's wrong with you two?" Tabby tormented. "Choke on a raisin?"

"Water..." croaked Clever Clover as Merry Moments handed him a cold soda and Prime whacked him on the back. Friendly did the same for Spike.

"You guys are very funny," chided Sugarberry. "Make them look bad so you can eat them all yourselves." She defiantly took a bite of her bar; but after one chew, she ran to the trash can and spit it out. The sweet, cinnamony taste she'd expected had in actuality been a hideous hot pepper flavor. She gulped down a glass of milk provided by Vanguard. Her eyes were big, if not a bit teary, when she exclaimed, "That's chili powder in the bars, not cinnamon."

Everyone was speechless as their thoughts whirled. If someone had switched the chili powder for cinnamon, it would stand to reason that the someone would have ended up with a cinnamon jar full of chili powder. And who else but Tamara? She had the opportunity to make the switch as she had been next to Vanguard in the contest. And she had admitted to being rushed at baking the bars this afternoon.

"Tabitha! Sugarberry! Everybody!" came Tamara's voice as she and Tex came toward the stunned group still sorting out the implications of what had transpired.

Even Tabby was at a loss as to what to say to Tamara. Why was her cousin involved in this cinnamon-chili switch?

Tamara was too excited to notice the silence hanging over her friends. "I've been so busy today! We raised two thousand jangles for our show cat building fund. I haven't had a chance to eat!" She snatched a cinnamon raisin bar from the table and took a huge bite. Everyone watched in anticipation and were aptly rewarded as Tamara clutched her throat, screaming for water. Chocolate Chip handed her a glass, asking, "Didn't you know about the chili powder?"

After gulping down the water, Tamara was able to choke out a response. "What chili powder? What happened to my bars? Is this some kind of joke?" she glared threateningly at Tabby.

"If you didn't put the chili powder in, then who did?" questioned all the onlookers.

Now it was Tex's turn to add some information. "This is getting really strange." He shook his head. "We all know about Vanguard's mix-up this morning, but only Tamara and I know where her cinnamon came from." He stopped and took a deep breath. "She was in a hurry to get home and make those bars, but knew she'd used the last of her cinnamon when baking the first batch of bars this morning."

"And Tex had a jar of cinnamon at the salsa shop which he gave to me to save time!" Tamara continued, stopping quickly when she realized where this was leading.

"That's all the proof we need," declared Tabby, pleased that the guilt was falling on her antagonist. "Why would Tex have cinnamon at his salsa shop unless he was hiding the evidence?"

"Not so fast!" petitioned Tex bewilderedly. "I keep other spices on hand other than chili spices. Dessert salsas contain cinnamon."

Clever Clover backed Tex up. "Yep! Tex makes some mighty weird combinations in that shop of his-- I've tried them all."

"Are you saying that you don't know how that counterfeit cinnamon got in your supply cabinet?" quizzed Vanguard.

No one moved or spoke as they curiously awaited the outcome of this strange run of events. In the dead silence, Tex's answer came through loud and clear-- "I don't know."

Everyone was so intent on the drama before them that no one noticed that Sundance and Butch had joined their cluster until Sundance's voice caused them to turn in surprise. Events were moving swiftly along to an unknown conclusion; all ears were strained to hear the next detail.

"Butch has something he would like to say about this matter," Sundance announced evenly. She turned expectantly to her brother, and her eyes flashed fire.

Butch stepped forward and cleared his throat. He appeared to be in control of the situation, and directed his first words to Vanguard. "The cinnamon that ended up in your chili? That was my doings."

"But why?" questioned the mystified stallion.

"I knew my chili could beat all the local cooks, but I never had the chance to try yours. So when I saw you shopping at Oakly's, I though I'd give myself an advantage." After a pause, he added, "Guess I should say I'm sorry."

"You owe me a fair contest."

"Name the time and place. I'll be there," grinned Butch. "Remember, I saw you make your chili now. Mine's better."

"We'll see about that!" countered Vanguard.

"What about my cinnamon raisin bars?" spoke up Tamara. "Why did you mess with those?"

"For that I'm really sorry," Butch admitted. "I should have quit while I was ahead." He took a deep breath and continued. "If I'd have only substituted Vanguard's chili pepper with cinnamon and stopped at that, no one could have traced it to me... or anyone else. But rather than throw out the empty cinnamon jar, I refilled it with the chili pepper and resealed it."

"And planted it in my supply cupboard to cause me trouble in the future," Tex finished for him.

"Seemed like a good idea at the time." Butch glanced uncomfortably at Tamara. "Never meant to involve you in this," he finished.

The suspense that had frozen the observers was ended. They began excitedly discussing the details of all they had heard, milling about, and then rehashing it again.

Sundance approached Vanguard and Sugarberry apprehensively. "You're not angry, are you?"

"No, Sundance," Vanguard assured. "I'm just glad to have all my questions answered."

"Oh, thank you," she gushed. "Butch has a strange sense of humor sometimes-- I think he spends too much time alone in the Dark Forest."

Tabby intervened. "It's that green-headed duck he's got." Sugarberry and Sundance laughed while Vanguard looked lost again.

"That's another story," Sugarberry gleefully informed him. "I'll enlighten you another time."

Evening had settled over this gala event of Summer Celebration. A bright orange starburst of fireworks exploded high in the sky at the edge of the park. Revelers hurried to find comfortable vantage points for the coming show. The vibrant bursts of colored lights elicited a chorus of "oohs" and "aahs" from the entranced onlookers. And from her place at Vanguard's side, Sugarberry had never seen her world look brighter.


Tabby's First Cooking Lesson
by Merry Treat

Merry Treat was busily pulling things out for dinner preparation. "Tess, where's the chicken??" she asked from inside a cupboard while trying to find the spices. She was very absent-minded, so she had somehow managed to misplace all of them.

Laughing, Tess tapped Merry Treat on the shoulder and handed the package of chicken to her. "It was sitting on the counter thawing. Right where you put it this morning before you left for the Pokèmon Gym, remember?"

Merry Treat smiled sheepishly as she accepted the chicken from Tess's paws. "Oh, yeah... heh, heh, heh... I guess I sort of, um, forgot."

Tess rolled her eyes and whispered to Spearow, "I'm surprised she remembered that Tabby was coming over here tonight!"

"Row spear," Spearow added as he handed Merry Treat the lemon pepper that was sitting on the counter.

"Thanks, now we'd better-- ow!" Merry Treat said as she started to stand up but bumped her head on the cupboard. "Dumb shelf!" she grumbled, taking the lemon pepper from her Pokèmon. Rubbing her head, she set the food back on the counter as the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it!" Tess cried and streaked towards the door. Expecting Tabby and Tarquin, she flung the door open. "Hi, Tar-- oh! Hi, Salty!" she said in surprise.

Salty laughed. "Hi, Tess! I was told to come here. I've got the ice cream that Merry Treat asked me to bring. Where is she?"

"She's in the kitchen," Tess responded just as a loud crash was heard from that precise area which was followed by a groan from Merry Treat.

The two looked at each other and hurried to the kitchen. When they got there, they saw that Merry Treat had managed to bump into the table and drop the pile of plates she was carrying.

"Oh, shoot!" Merry Treat grumbled, and glared at the table.

"Are you all right?" Salty asked as he helped her up.

Merry Treat smiled meekly at her boyfriend. "Yeah, I guess so, as long as that dumb table doesn't try to hog the floor space! Thanks."

Salty put the strawberry ice cream on the table. "I hear that Tabby is coming over here, too," he commented as he helped pick up the fallen plates. Fortunately, they were made of plastic.

"Yeah, she's gonna cook the potatoes," Merry Treat said with a grin. "She says she always burns them, but I don't believe it. Mashed potatoes are very easy to cook. Even Tabby can do it!"

"I hope you're right," Salty added with a wide grin as the door bell rang again.

"And that would be her right now! Tess, would you get that?" Merry Treat extracted a large butcher knife from a drawer and proceeded to start cutting the chicken into strips.

Tess sprang to the door and a moment later she, Tabby, and Tarquin entered the kitchen.

"Hey, guys!" Tabby said brightly. "When do we start? Ooh! Strawberry ice cream! I love that! Are we having grape juice? We simply have to have grape juice!"

"We start after we've washed our hooves," Merry Treat told her friends. The group hurriedly did so.

"You didn't answer my other question!" Tabby blurted out.

"Of course we're having grape juice!" Tess giggled. "Now, settle down and start peeling the potatoes, would you?"

Tarquin lifted a potato from the large pile in the middle of the table and unsheathed his claws. "That's easy!" he said as he moved his paw around the potato; and an instant later, the skin fell off in a neat coil.

"That's my job!" Tabby said eagerly as she snatched the potato away. "I can do that, too!" She picked up one of the knives sitting on the table.

"Do you really trust her with that?" Salty asked Merry Treat skeptically.

"Not with a knife, no! Tabby, use this!" Merry Treat quickly handed Tabby the vegetable peeler.

"What's this?" Tabby asked as she set the knife down and turned the interesting device over.

"It's a vegetable peeler. You have less of a chance of cutting yourself with it. Here, do this..." Merry Treat picked up a potato and made a slow motion with the peeler against the potato and a thin strip of the skin fell off. She was careful not to push towards her body. "You see? It's that simple. Don't use the knife until you have them all peeled. Tarquin or Salty can help you if you think you need it."

"No, thanks; I'm helping Tess," Tarquin said distantly as the two Meowths were tearing apart fruit for the salad. But it looked like Tarquin was paying more attention to Tess than to the orange he was holding.

"Are there strawberries in there?" Tabby asked eagerly; she loved strawberries.

"Yup! And apples, and oranges, and peaches, and cherries..." Tess started rambling on and on about the salad.

"Sounds good!" Salty licked his lips.

"Yes, it does! Now... let me try this thing..." Tabby slowly started with the peeler.

Merry Treat turned back to the chicken and finished cutting it into strips. Then she put the strips into a bag filled with a bread-crumb spice mixture. She shook it hard to coat them with it. After taking them out, she put them on a greased cookie-sheet and set them in the oven.

Salty helped set the table with Spearow while Tabby finished the peeling. The trio chatted for a little bit, and then Tabby suddenly cried, "There! Finished!" She proudly set the peeler on the table and threw the last peeled potato in the bowl.

Merry Treat glanced at the peeled potatoes. "Good work! Now you need to cut them."

Tabby blinked. "Cut? You want me to use one of those?" She pointed at the knives sitting on the table.

"Yes; and for Pete's sake, do be careful with it! We don't want you to get cut!" Merry Treat said quickly. "Here, do it like this..." She picked up one of the potatoes and set it on the cutting board. She carefully sliced through it, cutting it in half, and then into fourths. "There! You see? It's easy! Cut away from yourself, not toward."

"Okay, looks simple enough!" Tabby took the knife, another potato, the cutting board, and set to work. She managed to cut them all without cutting herself.

"Good job, Tabby!" Salty complimented her.

"Thanks! Now do I get to burn them?" Tabby responded cheerfully.

"You're not gonna burn them, Tabby!" Merry Treat laughed. "You just gotta boil them until they're soft; then you need to mash them."

"Boil them? Okay..." Tabby said slowly. "How do I do that?"

Merry Treat opened the oven and the wonderful smell of the chicken floated out. "Mmmmmmmm... they look like they're not quite ready yet, but they will be soon!" Merry Treat said as she breathed in the delicious scent. She closed the oven and turned to Tabby. "All right. Get a pot from my cabinet over there, and fill it with water," she instructed.

"Then you put it on the stove, put the potatoes in, and turn the knob to high," Salty finished, grinning at Merry Treat.

"Thank you." Merry Treat grinned back at him.

Tabby rolled her eyes at all this mush and carried out the instructions. "Okay, I did everything you asked, so now what?" She turned to her friends expectedly.

"Now we wait," Tess said as she and Tarquin put the fruit salad in the fridge so it would be cold for dinner.

"No, now we clean up!" Merry Treat corrected. "We need to clean up all those peels and wash the dishes that we used and put things away. Plus, wash our hooves. Salty, wipe the counter; Tabby, put the peels in the compost; and I'll do the dishes!"

In a flash, the kitchen looked like new. Merry Treat glanced at the pot on the stove. "Tabby, the water's boiling!"

"It is?" Tabby looked at it for herself. "Yeah, so?"

"Check to see if the potatoes are soft yet!" Merry Treat sighed in annoyance.

"Oh! Okay! How?" Tabby asked, cautiously peering into the boiling water with potatoes floating in it.

"Take a fork, fish one out, blow on it, and then eat it to see if it's soft," Merry Treat instructed.

"Hmmm... it's... very... HOT!... soft," Tabby said a couple minutes later, her mouth full of potato.

"Good! Now, here's the tricky part," Merry Treat continued. "Turn the heat off, take a plate, pick the pot up by the handle, put the plate on top, take it to the sink, and very, very, very, very carefully hold the plate on and poor the water out. Try not to burn yourself!"

"Uhh... okay, I can do that... I... think..." Tabby nervously did as she was told, and just barely missed burning herself. "Okay, now what?" she asked five minutes later.

"Now you get to mash them!" Merry Treat said cheerfully. "Use this." She handed Tabby a potato masher as Tabby set the pot back down on the stove.

"Don't forget to use milk and spices!" Salty reminded his friend.

"Oh, yes, of course!" Tabby said quickly. "Now... what spices should I use?"

"First, pour about a fourth cup of milk in there; then you select the spices," Merry Treat explained as she handed the milk jug to Tabby.

Tabby worked for five minutes under careful instructions from her friends, and managed to make a decent batch of mashed potatoes.

"Good job, Tabby-chan!" Merry Treat said proudly.

"Yeah, looks good!" Salty added.

"Thanks!" Tabby said proudly. "Now, where's that chicken? I'm starving!"

Merry Treat extracted the delicious chicken strips from the oven, and the friends settled down to a fantastic meal.


Put on those thinking caps!

Windwhistler wants to keep your minds sharp this summer, so she wrote this logic problem for you:

Baby Starbow and four of her friends have pets. None of them has the same kind of pet, and none of the pets has the same name.

1. Neither Baby Starbow nor Baby Beach Ball owns Tony.

2. Baby Soft Steps and Baby Crumpet's pets have fur.

3. Tony and Ralph do not have fur, but Ruth does.

4. The pony who owns the rabbit often visits Baby Beach Ball's frog, Jerry.

5. Baby Sweet Tooth's turtle doesn't get along with the hamster or with Baby Soft Step's rabbit.

6. Baby Crumpet has never met the pet named Ruth.

7. The pet named George is not the lizard.

What kind of pet does Baby Crumpet have?

What is Baby Crumpet's pet's name?


Bouncy's Hope
Part Two
by Bouncy

As Bouncy realized how badly in need of rain Dream Valley was after ages without any, she set out to find the magical Wish Stone, which could bring to existence anything she wanted. She knew she must save Dream Valley from this terrible drought, and what she brought into being to help turned out to be another pony...

Bouncy looked at Fractal, and as she realized what he said, her eyes opened wide. "I wished you into existence?" she asked. Then she stared at him in shock. "You can cure the drought? Then hurry, we have to save Dream Valley!" Noticing his lack of wings, she added, "We'd better start walking."

Fractal laughed, then suddenly from his bare back grew a set of golden wings, matching his coat perfectly and similar to Bouncy's sunny yellow ones.

Bouncy looked at him, and with awe in her voice, she asked, "What did you just do?"

Fractal laughed again, then in his golden voice he responded by saying, "Ah, you mean the wings. Why, I can shape shift!"

Bouncy's look of awe left her face, and she thought, This is one insane pony! She doubtfully said, "Okay, turn into a Grundle, then."

Fractal nodded, a smile on his face, and suddenly before Bouncy there stood a small, mushroom-colored gnome-like creature.

With a little cry, Bouncy said, "Oh, I'm sorry I doubted you! Quickly, we must fly to Paradise Estate!"

The Grundle turned back into Fractal with wings, and the two left the forest and launched into the air.

Bouncy quickly led the way back to Paradise Estate, and she hoped that there was still time to save Dream Valley.

After what seemed like ages to Bouncy, she thought, Finally, we're almost there! As she was about to land, she saw a frightful scene.

A huge black dragon stood on the barren, cracked ground of Dream Valley, and enormous jets of blue flame issued from its mouth toward Paradise Estate. Ponies were frantically running out of the burning building, and a chain of ponies scooped up salt water from the ocean and tried to extinguish the fire. They were having no luck, though.

Bouncy turned to Fractal in midair. "We have to do something!" she exclaimed, despair strong in her voice.

Fractal looked at her, concerned and somewhat confused. "Why don't you use your magic?"

Bouncy stared at him blankly and asked, "My magic?"

Your water magic! Fractal thought urgently, then directed her in how to use her power.

"Rain!" yelled Bouncy. Clouds quickly covered the sun; and cool, clean water began to fall out of the sky. As the first drop touched the dragon, it disappeared.

Bouncy and Fractal spiraled toward the ground, landing before their wings became so soaked that they couldn't fly.

Then Bouncy concentrated, and the rain intensified, soaking the plantless ground and the still burning Paradise Estate.

The blue flames licking at the building slowly died down and eventually disappeared entirely. Paradise Estate still stood, but only as a shadow of its former splendor.

When the fire was gone, Bouncy again concentrated, and the rain slowly turned into a drizzle and then stopped. The clouds broke, and a brilliant rainbow shone over the charred Paradise Estate.

There was quiet for a moment, then cries of joy arose from all the ponies. They galloped towards Bouncy and Fractal from all directions, laughing happily. "Wow, you got rid of the dragon!" Confetti exclaimed. "How'd you cause the rain?"

"That was so amazing!" Gingerbread bubbled enthusiastically. "I didn't know you had magic!"

"Neither did I," Bouncy admitted, then turned in wonder and confusion to Fractal. He stood there, quietly smiling at her as she asked, "How did YOU know?"

Before he could respond, a harsh, evil laugh came from Paradise Estate. The ponies turned, and saw a black unicorn standing in the entrance to the burned building. He had a black mane and tail, dark eyes, and no symbol. "Well done, ponies," he taunted in a rough, deep voice. "Celebrating so soon? The best is yet to come!"


After being shown a vision of a dark future for Ponyland by the mysterious flame-maned unicorn, Epona, Brightblade set out to recover the legendary Warrior's Horn to prevent the vision from coming true. Having recovered the Horn, Brightblade now travels with Epona and the warrior raven, Breeks, to confront the source of the darkness as he tells his companions of his adventures recovering the Warrior's Horn.

Brightblade Warpony
An Epic

Recorded by Clipper as dictated by the bard Ramon

Chapter 16

In the great cavern of the fortress, Epona led Brightblade and Breeks along the curving wall, toward the great graven fortress. Not more than one-third the distance to the fortress, which was still a considerable distance considering the mammoth size of the cavern, the heroes came to an almost invisible narrow ledge snaking its way up along the cavern wall.

"Atop this path, unknown to its denizens, is an entrance to the fortress-- last I was here anyway," Epona explained.

"You've been here before?" Brightblade asked.

"Of course she has," Breeks cawed. "Many times, no doubt."

"There have been many times of great need that have required that I venture into these dark nether-regions," Epona admitted as she began the treacherous ascent.

Brightblade, with Breeks perched on his horn, followed with little hesitation. As hazardous as this trek promised to be, he had undertaken a similar one after leaving the village of the rats.

As there was no great danger in the Valley of Thorns, Breeks flew ahead to Ponyland while I made the crossing on foot. With the Warrior's Horn, I was sure that the creatures on the far side of the valley would not bother me. I reached the chasm at the center of the valley by noon on the second day of my trip; unfortunately, the bridge that had collapsed when Ramon and I had first crossed the valley was still out. I had hoped that the creatures, or whoever had originally built the bridge, would have fixed it by now, but they had not. I had to find another way to cross.

The thorns did not grow all the way to the brink of the chasm so I was able to make my way along the abyss in hopes of discovering another way to cross. I considered climbing down one cliff and back up the other, but the cliffs were sheer. Late in the afternoon, about a mile north of the path, I discovered a narrow ledge , much like the one that we are climbing now, zigzagging down the face of the cliff. Because of the late hour I returned to the path and made camp for the night.

The next morning I proceeded directly to the ledge and began my descent. The narrow precipice was smooth and rounded from rainwater running into the chasm. At some places it was worn down to little more than a slight bulge on the cliff face. I stepped carefully and took my time to insure I kept my footing and didn't fall.

It took me half the day just to reach the bottom of the chasm where a deep, swift river ran. On the opposite cliff I could see similar ledges to the one I had descended, but there was no way to cross the river. The ledge, however, continued along the river so I decided to follow it downstream in hopes of finding a crossing. My hopes didn't last long as the ledge soon sank into the river. I continued along the sunken ledge until the current became too strong. As I carefully turned around to go back, I noticed a deep crack in the cliff face that appeared to open into a cave.

"Maybe the cave will lead to another ledge or crossing, or maybe even go right under the river," I mused.

I squeezed through the crack into a low cave. I had to bow my head because of the low ceiling. The Warrior's Horn glowed dimly to supplement the light from the crack. To my right the cave seemed to slope up steeply. To my left it gradually sloped downward. I decided to follow the downward passage.

The further from the crack I got, the darker the cave got, but the Warrior's Horn did not glow brighter. It was not long before I could not even see my own hooves in the darkness. I was just about to turn back when I heard the sound of running water ahead. A short time later I saw the glint of my horn's light reflecting off the surface of an underground river.

The river intersected the cave at a sharp angle and looked shallow and swift. The cave continued on the other side of the river so I decided to try and cross it, hoping that this river corresponded to the river on the surface. When I reached midstream, which was deeper than I had imagined, I slipped on the uneven floor and was swept away by the swift current.


An End and a Beginning
by Barnacle

Barnacle let out a mournful sigh as only a pirate could as he sat on the wind-swept beach of Judgement Day Island and looked at the burnt-out hulk before him. Once it had been a proud and tall sailing ship which had traveled the seas with ease. Now it was nothing more than a collection of charred and mangled timbers lying on its side on this lonely beach like the carcass of some great beast, picked apart by scavengers and left to rot in the sun.

Back when it had been a ship, it had been Barnacle's The Lucas! -- the greatest pirate vessel anyone had ever laid eyes on. But now, it was just a shadow of its former self. It sat here day in and day out as a constant reminder that its fine crew was stranded on the deserted atoll of Judgement Day Island. Just when Barnacle was about to get really angry with the situation for the fifth time that day, he heard a pair of familiar footsteps in the sand behind him.

"Hey, mon," Davey, the Bushwoolie, called out with his ever-present good humor.

"Yeah, yeah, mon. You busy?" his brother, Jones, echoed with more of the same.

Barnacle cocked an eyebrow (not that anyone could have seen it with his eye patch covering it) and slowly turned to the two little Bushwoolies. With a good deal of contempt in his voice, more than enough to counteract both of the Bushwoolie's jovialness, he replied, " ARR, and what exactly do you imagine me ta be busy with? Ever since you two blew-up me ship, my hobbies have been a little limited."

"Um..." Jones nervously scratched the back of his head. After that night when The Lucas! had accidently been destroyed, Barnacle had understandably been a little upset. But after a few months, he managed to let it go. Now it seemed like a bit of that anger was seeping back to the surface.

Davey, however, quickly jumped in to save his brother. "Kracken be having something up on the hill that he be wantin' to show you, mon."

"Yeah, yeah, mon, up on the hill!" Jones added.

"ARR," Barnacle sighed. "Very well, let's be goin'."

The two Bushwoolies happily turned and hurried across the beach the way they had come. Barnacle rose to his feet and followed after them at a slower pace.

Back around the cliff which framed off the beach and up the steep tree-covered slope behind, Barnacle followed Jones and Davey up a path they had all walked quite a bit in the past months. As the hill began to flatten off at the summit, the trees thinned somewhat and then abruptly ended all together, opening into a clearing overlooking the beach below.

In the center of the clearing stood a huge chunk of jagged crystal which, even in the daylight, glowed with a faint unearthly glow.

On a large rock a short distance away sat Kracken, Barnacle's human first mate, so intently examining the crystal he didn't even notice Barnacle's entrance into the clearing until Jones shouted out, "Hey, Kracken, we got ya Barnacle!"

"Yeah, mon, Barnacle," Davey added.

"Thanks, guys," Kracken said to the Bushwoolies. To Barnacle's dismay, Kracken seemed to be in quite a good mood as well.

"ARR, so what do ya have ta be showin' me?" Barnacle asked.

Kracken, leaning back somewhat on the rock, said, "I've been thinking about those little Bushwoolies of the Apocalypse we buried in that cave down there." He pointed off to the beach.

"Aye, a fitting end for those evil little creatures," replied Barnacle. "ARR, so what of it?"

"Well, the way I figure it, we didn't really stop them. We only delayed them a while," Kracken explained.

"ARR, and why do ya say that?"

"They're supernatural beings. Just because we sealed them up in a cave doesn't mean anything. Eventually, they'll find a way out; and when they succeed, all they have to do is come up here, recharge their staffs at the crystal, and then unleash their masters, the four Ponies of the Apocalypse.

"ARR..." Barnacle said thoughtfully, "I never thought a' that. So what do ya propose we do?"

"Simple," Kracken said, standing up at this point. "We smash the crystal. That way, even if they do get out, they can't recharge their staffs."

"ARR, an excellent idea," Barnacle agreed. But he would have agreed even if he hadn't thought it was a good idea. After months on that island with no excitement, anything, even smashing a big rock, would be a welcome relief.

Drawing his massive sword, Kracken said, "Would you like the honor of the first swing?"

"ARR, I would indeed!" Barnacle said with a smile as he drew out his own sword and took a hack in the same motion. Much to his satisfaction, a large piece of the crystal cracked off and fell clear and lifeless to the ground.

"That's what I'm talkin' about!" Kracken shouted and lifted his sword overhead with both his hands for a powerful swing. Striking the crystal on its peak, the blow split it wide all the way down to its base.

But in the same instant, the pale blue light that was shining from within the crystal seemed to explode out in a blinding flash. The blue energies arched from the center out into Kracken's sword and then shot out to engulf everyone present!

"Whoops!" Kracken said meekly, and then in another flash, the four pirates vanished and Judgement Day Island was once again a deserted island.


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.


My Little Pony Monthly is a publication of Nematoid (Electronic) Publishing.

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