My Little Pony Monthly Issue 34 (January 1, 2000)

My Little Pony Monthly
Established June 1997

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Issue 34
January 2000

Letters to the Editor Hey, Tabby! I just got through the newsletter. I think it's great! I love all the stories, quizzes, poems, and everything else that you put together. I know that it must take you a long time, and I admire what you do to make this thing happen. I would never have the patience to do that. I don't think I'd be able to write that much without screwing up or something. I absolutely love your Christmas story for the December 1999 issue. Even though it was long, it was terribly good. ^.^ You're a true friend, Tabby! Keep up the great work! ^.^ Hi, Tabby! You do such a good job on the newsletter. I remember how small it was in 1997; and now it's so nice and long, and everyone's writing has come a long way! Keep up the awesome work. :) I have read many of your newsletter issues and I have to disagree with something you state-- that you stories are for all ages. There are a great deal of stories involving ponies getting killed; hit by cars and so on. There are many little kids out there that actually believe what they read. Therefore, I would like to see less killing and violence in the stories that you allow in your newsletter. I am not in any way trying to tell you how to run your newsletter; I know you put a great deal of work into it; I am simply pointing out that the stories in your newsletters do have violence that is not always acceptable to the younger crowd. All of the stories are cute and good. Regarding "The Christmas Guest (Retold)-- Well, well done! Kudos and applause! :-) I really loved reading the story by Shining in the December issue. All of her stories have been great, and I hope I'll see more. I also enjoyed the story "The Lost Prince", and the series about Barnacle. Will those storylines be continued?


New Year's Resolutions
complied by Tabby and Sugarberry

Baby Noddins: I resolve to get married to somebody with a last name so I'll have a last name of my own.

Barnacle: I be resolvin' to finish the chroniclin' of my adventures.

Butch: I resolve to clean-up my shack some and to become the biggest country music star.

Chocolate Chip: I resolve to pick out a major field of study.

Clever Clover: I resolve to think up a New Year's resolution by 2001.

Friendly: My resolution is 800 by 600 this year, yeah, yeah.

Merry Moments: I resolve to get one of my pictures published in a professional magazine.

Quarterback: I resolve to lose some weight.

Spike: I resolve to make the world a better place by taking it over. Or maybe I'll resolve not to watch so much Pinky and the Brain.

Sugarberry: I resolve to finish my Hood story.

Tabby: I resolve to be less lenient with baby ponies' mothers.

Tamara: I resolve to become the most well-known, respected, and glamorous show-cat breeder in all of Ponyland.

Tex: I resolve to make the hottest salsa ever in the history of the world.

Thomas: I resolve to get the recipe for the magic injections from Tabby.

Tiffany: I resolve to get a diamond engagement ring from Toby.

Toby: I resolve to improve my bedside manner with baby ponies.

Vanguard: I resolve to be married to Sugarberry by the end of the year.


The Ghost of Box Five
Part One
by Masquerade
This story was inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, written by Gaston Leroux


Windsong-- a light golden yellow pony with purple sparkles in her hair. Her symbol is musical notes blowing in the wind.

Madame Moondancer-- white unicorn with raspberry hair

Young Moondancer-- white unicorn with raspberry hair

Monsieur Blackberry-- a mauve pegasus with dark purple hair. His symbol is a blackberry bush.

Monsieur Concerto-- a mint green unicorn with dark red and blue hair. His symbol is a musical note and conductor's baton. (pronounced Con-chair-toe)

La Coloratura-- a pink pegasus with a bright orange hair with deep blue streak. Her symbol is a purple song bird. ("La" was used as a high-up title at operas.)

Prince Blizzard-- a white stallion with white hair with silver streaks. His symbol is a blizzard.

Windsong left the opera in a depressed mood. She'd been there for three years and still wasn't able to please the management. She'd moved to the opera to make a new life for herself, although so far it hadn't been a good one.

Windsong had dreamed of being a famous dancer and singer. Yet, that dream remained elusive no matter how hard she worked. She'd spent five hours that day on ballet exercises and all she got for her efforts were a couple of sharp remarks from one of her instructors, and hooves covered in blisters.

Upon arriving at her small home, Windsong collapsed onto her bed in exhaustion and began crying. "I'm never going to amount to anything!"

"What's the matter?" came a voice from around the corner. It was Glider, a friend that shared the home with Windsong. She came over to her friend and put a consoling hoof on Windsong's shoulder. Windsong didn't look up from her pillow but pointed to her painful hooves. "Ah. A bad day at the opera, was it? How about I get a warm bath ready for you? It'll help the blisters heal. I hate it when you cry like this, Windsong," Glider said.

"I'm sorry. I'm just so tired of being such a failure. Look at you-- you're thin, pretty, and a wonderful dancer. You'll probably be getting the lead in a show any day now and you've only been here two years longer than me," Windsong sighed.

"Your day will come. You'll see. But in the meantime, worrying and getting yourself depressed like this won't help you at all," Glider said consolingly.

Windsong finally looked up and smiled through her tears. "I guess you're right. Things will get better," she said.

"Right! Now, dry off those tears while I get your bath ready," Glider said.

When Windsong stepped into the bath, she could already feel her worries floating away. She filled her mind instead with happy memories of her past. She'd had so much fun on travels to different countries, and had loved getting to know so many ponies. For awhile, Windsong had even lived in a palace while her father played music for the King of Taj. She'd made a lot of friends there, especially with the king's son, Little Flurry. The two were just young foals at the time and would spend their days playing hide-and-seek around the palace gardens.

Windsong sat back in the tub and smiled as she remembered those days and soon she was feeling a whole lot better than when she'd arrived home earlier.

* * *
That night, Windsong had a restful sleep and awoke the next morning feeling like a whole new pony. She was determined that things would get better for her; and as the next few weeks went by, they did. She wasn't so clumsy and the blisters weren't so bad at the end of the day. She even managed to get a small part in the ballet chorus in the upcoming production of Sleeping Beauty. Windsong was thrilled beyond imagination and couldn't wait for Glider to find out. She was supposed to meet her friend for dinner that night and would be able to tell her then.

When dinner finally came, Windsong noticed the Glider didn't seem to be quite herself. Windsong was so thrilled with her part, though, that she didn't pay much attention to Glider's behavior at first. "I've been dying to tell you all day, Glider! I got a part in Sleeping Beauty!"

"Really? That's just wonderful. See! I told you you'd get better at things," Glider said. Windsong's friend seemed genuinely pleased, and yet she still seemed rather distant.

"Is something wrong, Glider? You haven't eaten much of your salad," Windsong pointed out.

"Well..." Glider began. "I got some news today as well. I'm not so sure how you'll feel about it, though."

"What? Did you get the lead part?" Windsong asked.

"Something like that," her friend answered. "Actually, I got the lead role in Swan Lake."

Windsong sat, puzzled, for a moment. The opera wasn't doing Swan Lake this season. "Huh?" she asked.

"I was asked by the Royal Ballet to play the lead in their production of Swan Lake. After that, they want me to stay on in their company."

"What? That means you'll move away," Windsong said.

"Yes, it's a four day journey from here. I'd hate to leave you, though. You've been such a good friend these past few years," Glider said.

"That's alright. I have lots of other friends. This is very important; I don't want you to miss this opportunity!" Windsong said. It wasn't exactly true about her friends, though. She had many acquaintances, but no one that she considered a close friend like Glider. A lot of the other ballet fillies made fun of Windsong because of her troubles in her dancing; so she never hung around much with that crowd. She still put on a smile for the sake of her friend and encouraged Glider to take on the new role at the Royal Ballet. "So, when do you have to leave?"

"In three days," Glider said as she played with a piece of lettuce on her plate.

"Oh. Well, you'd better start packing tonight, then," Windsong said, trying to sound as cheerful as possible.

"Yes, I guess you're right," Glider answered.

* * *
For the next two months, Windsong was able to keep Glider's departure out of her mind by concentrating on her part in Sleeping Beauty. Once that show was over, though, she started to get lonesome for her friend. During rehearsals, she'd usually be so tired when she got home that she'd go right to bed. Then she'd lie awake, staring at the ceiling into the wee hours of the morning.

Also, with Glider gone, the ballet girls teased Windsong more than ever. Windsong had started taking training in singing, since she figured that she'd spend less time near the ballet fillies by doing so. It didn't exactly help, though; because once she was done with her singing lessons, the others would go and run off mimicking her voice exercises. "I can't stand this!" Windsong shrieked one day.

"Don't worry so much about it," said Madam Moondancer. She was a wonderful unicorn who was the head of the ballet.

"Why shouldn't I?" Windsong asked.

"They're just jealous of you. That's all," Madam Moondancer answered.

"Jealous? Of what?" Windsong asked.

"You have talent. You just haven't realized that yet," Madam Moondancer said.

"Well, if I have talent I'd like to know where it is. I'm getting rather tired of tripping over my hooves when I do a pirouette," Windsong said.

"Look, you've only been here four years. These fillies have been here almost since they learned to trot. I think that for you to get to the point your at after only four years is quite an accomplishment. Stardom doesn't just get handed down to you," Madam Moondancer finished.

"I never thought of it that way," Windsong said to the ballet mistress as she turned to leave.

Right then, Windsong felt like a yo-yo. She was forever going from feeling high-spirited to feeling like she'd hit rock bottom. She decided to go talk to the ballet girls and see if maybe she could make them see that she wasn't so bad.

Windsong came near their warm-up area when she turned a corner and slammed right into a Spanish pony named Coloratura, which was a big mistake. Coloratura was the Prima Donna at the opera and acted like she owned the place. "Ah! Why don't you watch a where you are a going!" she said in her thick accent.

"I'm terribly sorry, Coloratura," Windsong said.

"That's La Coloratura to you!" Coloratura said in a haughty tone. Then with a big, melodramatic toss of her head, she left.

Windsong pressed up against the wall and sighed. Then she heard faint giggles and saw that the entire Corps de Ballet had seen her run-in with Coloratura. "Oh, as if something like that's never happened to you!" she snapped at them. So much for making friends with them, Windsong thought to herself as she turned to go.

A few days later during rehearsal for a new show, Windsong made the mistake of blocking Coloratura's entrance onto the stage. "It's you again!" she shrieked. "Get her out of here," she commanded.

Mr. Blackberry, the stage manager, obliged Coloratura and motioned for Windsong to leave. Eyes brimming with tears, she ran off stage. Windsong made her way through the hallways and heard someone calling after her.

"Windsong! Windsong! What's wrong?" called the young voice.

Windsong turned to see young Moondancer, the daughter of Madam Moondancer. "What's wrong? Coloratura! I made her mad and she had Mr. Blackberry make me leave."

"Ah, she'll calm down in a day or two. Mr. Blackberry always does whatever Coloratura asks. He has to keep his Prima Donna happy or she might leave. You'll see, she'll forget all about whatever you did," Moondancer said.

Windsong smiled at the little filly. After Glider had left, she'd managed to make friends with Moondancer, who was not snobbish like a lot of the other dancers.

The two went to Windsong's dressing room to get away from everything for awhile. They decided to talk about what their hopes and dreams were for the future. "I'm going to be a Prima Ballerina someday!" Moondancer announced.

"I wanted to do that, too, but now I'm getting to enjoy singing more and more!" Windsong said.

"You know, I've never heard you sing before, Windsong. Can you sing something for me?" Moondancer asked.

Windsong thought for a moment for a song to do, and then got up in front of the huge mirror in the room. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and began an aria from a favorite opera of hers.

"Bravo! Bravo!" clapped Moondancer at the end. "That was wonderful!" she added.

Windsong smiled, and then suddenly swung around to face the mirror with an odd look on her face. "What's wrong?" Moondancer asked.

"Did you hear something, Moondancer?"

"Just you."

"I thought I heard something behind me," Windsong said.

"Well, there's nothing there. If there was-- well, then it must have been the ghost," Moondancer said.

"The ghost? What are you talking about, Moondancer?"

"You mean you've been here for three years and haven't heard about the Opera Ghost? Well, the opera house has about five levels that go below the ground. It's said that somewhere in those subterranean levels is where the ghost makes his home. He sometimes comes above ground and has been seen by workers here. He doesn't usually cause any trouble, though, as long as the managers give him a certain amount of money each month. He also demands that opera box five in the theater remains empty."

Windsong almost started laughing. "Okay, so if he's a ghost, then what does he need money for?"

"I don't know. He just does," Moondancer said.

"Really, Moondancer, your stories are pretty farfetched sometimes."

"But it's true, Windsong. Some of the dancers have seen him. We can go see Skydancer; she's one of them."

"Maybe another time. Right now, I think I'm going to get some rest. Thanks for cheering me up, though," Windsong said.

Moondancer shook her head and got up to leave. As she passed by the mirror, she stopped and stared at it.

"Moondancer!" Windsong exclaimed.

"Okay, okay. I'm leaving," Moondancer said.

Windsong sat alone at her boudoir and thought about Moondancer's silliness. After she got out of her rehearsal clothes, she decided to go home for the evening. She stepped outside the door but ducked her head back in for a moment. "Good night, ghost," Windsong said jokingly.

For the next week, Windsong did her best to keep out of Coloratura's way, and it seemed to work pretty well. That was about the only thing that was going well, though. There was a new dance sequence that Windsong had to learn, and she was having a terrible time getting the steps right. Moondancer did her best to help and Windsong started to get it, but then she turned on her ankle and hurt herself.

Windsong sat on the stage, flustered at herself. Almost everyone else was gone for the day, so most of the lights in the auditorium were off. "You try too hard, Windsong. You concentrate so hard that you make yourself mess up," Moondancer said.

"I think you're right. I just want so badly to be good at this."

"You need to relax yourself, Windsong. Your muscles are all tensed up when you dance. Why don't we do something to take your mind off everything, and then try it again?" Moondancer suggested.

"You know, you might be younger than a lot of the dancers, but I think you know a lot more about dance than them," Windsong smiled.

"Thanks! I suppose having my mom as the Ballet Mistress helps sometimes. She's always teaching me something. Anyway, you want to try my suggestion now?" Moondancer asked.

"Okay, but what do I do?"

"Hmm... you seemed pretty relaxed when you sang for me last week. Try that."

"Here?" Windsong asked, wide-eyed.

"Well, it is a stage, after all. Anyway, no one's here... except maybe the opera ghost."

"Oh, here we go again!" Windsong said as she rolled her eyes. Then she got up and stood center stage. She did a quick run-through on her vocal scales and then sang the song her teacher had taught her a few days ago.

As Windsong sang, she imagined that she was in the middle of an opera in full costume. The audience was packed and it was a sold-out show. Everyone had come to see her, she pretended. Then she looked up at box five and saw the curtain rustling. She suddenly stopped in midsong and stared up into the box.

"Keep going, Windsong," Moondancer urged.

"Did you see the curtain move in box five?" Windsong asked.

Moondancer shook her head "no."

"You've got to stop telling me these stories, Moondancer. You're starting to make me paranoid! I think I must be more tired than I feel. I'm beginning to imagine things," Windsong said.

"Ah, rest! That should make you feel better. You have looked kind of tired lately!" Moondancer said.

"Alright, then. Perhaps we can practice together tomorrow evening instead?" Windsong suggested.

"Sure. And by the way, Windsong, you sounded wonderful when you sang. Coloratura had better watch out from now on!" Moondancer joked.

What the two didn't know was that there was at least one pony who had seen and heard them. Coloratura had come to fetch her fur stole from her dressing room. She heard something on stage and came across the two fillies. She didn't like what she heard, especially Moondancer's last comment. "We'll see about that." Coloratura wickedly whispered to herself.

* * *
A few days later, the full effect of Coloratura's words were felt. She'd contacted Windsong's singing teacher and forced her to stop the lessons or else she'd have her fired. That day, when Windsong had arrived for her voice lessons, she found her teacher at her desk with a long, sad face.

"What's wrong, Miss Medley?" Windsong asked when she saw her teacher.

"I'm terribly sorry, Windsong, but I cannot teach you anymore."

"What? Why? Is my voice that bad?"

"No, no. You have a lovely voice," Miss Medley sighed. "La Coloratura told me that I must discontinue my lessons to you or lose my job. I have a young son and daughter. I must be able to provide for them. My husband isn't well, so it's up to me to work."

"I understand," Windsong said. For the sake of her teacher, she tried to smile. "That's alright," she added. Then she bid Miss Medley goodbye.

Windsong closed the door behind her and, for awhile, just stood there in the hall. Once again she heard the ballet ponies coming her way and knew she had to get away. There was no way that she wanted them to see her in such a state. She cantered to her dressing room and landed on the hardwood floor in a sobbing heap. This was the last straw. She'd put up with so much for the past few years and could no longer take it. Since her father died, things just seemed to continually get worse.

Windsong lay there, crying harder than she had in all her life. Then she heard a male voice. "Why are you crying, my child?"

Windsong's head shot up at the sound of the voice. She looked around the room, but there wasn't anyone there. "Who are you?" she tearfully asked.

"A friend," answered the voice.

Windsong figured that young Moondancer's stories had finally gotten to her, and she was now going a little loony. "Why am I crying? Because my entire life is falling apart. I had one thing left that brought me joy, and now even that's been taken away," she said, letting all her feelings out.

"And what was that?" asked the voice.

"Singing," Windsong said.

"Singing? Then you mustn't cry any longer, my dear."

"Why not?" Windsong asked.

"Because I am going to give you voice lessons."

Windsong looked around the room again. This time she got up off the floor to check in her closet. She found no one, and yet the voice sounded like it was right in the room with her. "Teach me? You're a singer?" she asked.

"Yes, among other things," came the answer.

"Have I heard you at the opera before?" Windsong asked. There was no answer. "Well, how do I know you can sing?" she asked again.

Windsong now heard the voice again, but this time it was singing for her. She'd been pacing around the room, but as soon as she heard the music, she stopped dead in her tracks. She'd never heard anything so beautiful in her life.

"Now do you trust me?" asked the voice at the end of the song.

"Oh, yes, indeed! But sir, I really must know who you are," Windsong beckoned.

There was a long pause before the answer. "You, my dear, may call me your Angel of Music." With that, the voice disappeared and Windsong was left alone again.

Windsong sat wide-eyed, thinking of what she'd just heard. "Angel of Music," she repeated over and over again. Her thoughts drifted back to her days as a little filly. Her father used to tell her all kinds of tales about different countries he'd been to, and Windsong's favorite was about the Angel of Music. Her father told her that one day when he was no longer with her, he would send the Angel of Music to look after her. Now had he really come?


Sparkler Speculates
by Tabby

Sparkler stared down at the diamond rings in the glass display case. They didn't seem to sparkle as much as they had when she'd gotten them in at her jewelry shop about a year ago. How many diamond engagement rings had she sold since then? Two, perhaps, or maybe it was only one.

The pale blue unicorn grimaced as she turned away from the case. "All the stallions in town are being so obstinate about proposing," she muttered under her breath. "And I'm sick of it."

"Hello, are you open for business?" a voice queried.

Sparkler looked up at the slim periwinkle-colored stallion who had entered the shop. "Oh! Yes!" she exclaimed brightly.

"I'm looking for a special present for Princess Dawn," the stallion explained, coming up to the counter.

"Princess Dawn? Then aren't you that new lawyer from Friendship Gardens?" Sparkler asked in awe.

"That's right; my name is Winkle. Perry Winkle," the stallion introduced himself. "I'm taking over the family business in Friendship Gardens."

"That's so wonderful," Sparkler gushed. "I bet it's exciting to be a lawyer."

"Well, yes, it has its moments-- but do you have any gift suggestions for Dawn?" Perry gestured toward the glass cases.

Sparkler straightened up. "Of course! I have some lovely engagement rings to choose from," she suggested.

"Uh... not quite that special," Perry said, raising an eyebrow.

"I'll give you a good deal on one," Sparkle went on. Maybe she could finally make a sale if she was clever enough.

"I was thinking more of a tennis bracelet," Perry said after a pause. "Do you carry any of those?"

Sparkler sighed to herself, but tried to keep up her cheerful manner as Perry inspected the tennis bracelets that were available. Something had to be done about this lack of marriages in the Dream Valley and Friendship Gardens area!

Perry finally made his selection, a dainty diamond and amethyst bracelet. "Be sure to see me if you change your mind on the engagement ring!" Sparkler added as he walked out the door with his wrapped package.

Sparkler was suddenly seized with inspiration. If the stallions wouldn't come to her, she'd go to them-- or to their phone lines, at least. She glanced up at the clock. It was early evening; she might be able to catch them at home.

"Why, hello, Toby," Sparkler said sweetly into her phone receiver. "How are you on this fine evening?"

"Who is this?" asked a bewildered voice from the other end of the line.

"Sparkler. I run Sparkler's Jewelry Shop at the mall," Sparkler said briskly.

"Oh," Toby recalled. "That's... nice."

"I thought you might be interested in knowing that I'm having a sale on all engagement rings in stock right now," Sparkler continued. "I have in a lovely selection at low, low, prices."

"Engagement rings?" Toby echoed.

"Yes, engagement rings," Sparkler went on. "I thought I'd announce the sale to all the... the... um..."

"--to all the eligible bachelors?" Toby supplied.

"Exactly!" Sparkler said smoothly. "I'm announcing the sale to all the eligible bachelors in town."

"How long is this sale on?" Toby questioned.

"It's a month-long deal," Sparkler said. Certainly she could sell some rings at reduced prices in a month's time.

"I might drop in sometime," Toby said distantly. "Goodbye." And then he hung up.

"They are so hard to convince," Sparkler seethed. "They'll come to their senses someday-- they had better! But for now... I'll just call Tex."

Tex's reply was basically the same as Toby's after Sparkler had gone through her speel again. "Tamara might not like something I pick out, if I did pick any out," he worried. "She'd have to pick something out. I'll think about it. Thanks for calling."

Sparkler mumbled something that couldn't be made out and then stomped her hoof on the ground. "This is so pathetic," she hissed. "I have to sell some of these year-old diamond rings!"

"I reckon I could help you out there, Sparkler," a voice carried from the door. Butch trotted calmly into the shop.

"Do you need an engagement ring?" Sparkler asked anxiously.

"No, no," Butch chuckled. "I was just watching for-- I mean, I couldn't help but overhear your dilemma."

"Oh." Sparkler's face fell.

"I think you need a different advertising strategy," Butch said critically.

"What do you mean?" Sparkler asked curiously.

"You scare the stallions off by calling them engagement rings, and the mares wouldn't buy an engagement ring for themselves," Butch said matter-of-factly. "Just advertise them as straight diamond rings."

Sparkler's face lit up. "Brilliant, Butch! Brilliant!" she cried out. "That's so-- perfect! Why, I--"

"All in a day's work," Butch said modestly. "Hey, are you busy tomorrow night?"

"Tomorrow night?" Sparkler mentally made plans to close up early the next evening. "Oh, no, nothing at all. Why do you ask?"

"Why not come to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe with me then?" Butch suggested. "My treat."

"That would be wonderful," Sparkler beamed. "You're so nice, Butch."

"I'm always nice to jewl-- I can't help but invite a beautiful mare like yourself out," Butch corrected himself quickly.

"I'm sure I'll make tons of sales tomorrow, thanks to your advice," Sparkler gushed. "You're simply so clever."

"Aw, stop the compliments," Butch laughed, putting his hooves up in the air. "Just don't forget our date."

"Oh, I definitely won't!" Sparkler promised.

* * *
"I had no idea you were selling such glorious diamond rings," Powder cooed the next day as she stared at the merchandise under an attractive sign. "And they're on sale?"

Sparkler nodded happily. "Twenty-five percent off the marked price." Butch's theory had been correct. The interest in her diamond rings was certainly soaring today.

"That one's just what I need for my New Year's Eve party," Powder declared, pointing at the centrally-located ring. "May I purchase it?"

Due to her shop's prominent placement in the mall and the catchy sign out front, Sparkler was able to drawn in many of the affluent mares in Dream Valley-- and some of the affluent stallions, but these were few and far between. But, she had already sold three of the rings she had so tired of.

"I can't wait for tonight with Butch," Sparkler sighed blissfully during a lull when the shop was empty of customers. "He'll be so happy to know how well his suggestion worked. And he's actually pretty cute."

By the end of the day, Sparkler was overjoyed by how sales had gone up. A young stallion she had never seen before had even purchased one of the glittering rings. "At least there should be one wedding in this town after all this time," Sparkler reflected.

And finally it was time to close up for the day. Sparkler hurried to meet Butch, and the two were soon together at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe.

"This is so nice of you," Sparkler bubbled over enthusiastically. "And that idea you gave me last night really did work. I'm so excited."

"Oh, it's no problem at all to help the occasional damsel in distress," Butch said nonchalantly.

"You wouldn't believe how well sales went today," Sparkler continued. "You should make a career of advertising."

"Well, now, I'd never thought of that before," Butch pondered.

"Maybe you could even take a little job from me to plan advertising campaigns for the shop," Sparkler suggested.

Butch frowned in thought. "Why, Sparkler, that's awfully kind of you to be offering. But what would this job involve?"

"Designing fliers and posters, coming up with slogans, taking the finished layouts to the print shop," Sparkler explained. "And I'm sure you could do most of it from home."

"Home?" Butch looked a bit crestfallen as if the last word had just broken a dream of his; but he quickly recovered, taking note of Sparkler's sweet smile. "Sparkler, I think that'd be just great."

"You'll have fun with it, I'm sure," Sparkler beamed.

"If I'm working for you, Sparkler, it certainly will be."

Sparkler blushed at the compliment. "Well, we can get off that topic for awhile. How's that duck of yours doing? It is a duck you have, isn't it?"

"Yep, my Quackers. He's doing mighty fine. He even found himself a nice little mate in the woods one day."

"That's so sweet! I think ducks are so cute."

"I'd never thought about them either way until I ended up with Quackers. How about you-- do you have any animals?"

"Oh, yes, there's--"

And so their conversation continued. It appeared that they were getting to know each other quite well by the end of the evening. And, perhaps, the engagement rings were directly responsible for getting them together.


Rena & Friends
The Black Jack Syndrome
Chapter Two: A Huge Black Question Mark
by Cinnamon Sugar

"So, what do we do?" asked Cocktail, overhearing what Cola had said. "Find out if it's just somebody who looks like Black Jack?" She leaned over the back seat.

"Nah, let's just watch where he goes," said Rena. As the pickup driven by the mysterious black stallion turned around a bend to drive down a dirt road, Rena followed him. Twinkle Hearts was trying hard not to look scared.

"Uh-oh! He saw you!" said Cocktail.

"Oops," said Rena. It was true-- the driver had spotted her, and was driving faster.

"Let's forget about this and go to the zoo. How about we go there and then come down this road on the way back?" asked Cola.

"I'm for it!" said Cocktail. Twinkle Hearts nodded slowly.

"I-- I guess I'll do it, though I don't think there'll be any clues to find later," said Rena. She turned around and started back. Cocktail smirked.

Soon the car was pulling into the parking lot in the zoo. There were several seagulls around, feeding on scraps of food that picnickers at the zoo had left. Cocktail liked gulls. "Um, do we have any bread?" she asked. No one answered.

"Oh, fine," said Cocktail. The four ponies went into the zoo. "Gee, noisy place," remarked Cocktail as a parrot squawked.

Soon the ponies found themselves driving home after three hours of walking, buying candy, and eating lollipops. All but Rena had forgotten about the pickup incident.

"Where're we going?" asked Cocktail as they drove onto the dirt road.

"To see where that pickup went," said Rena.

"Oh, right, I'm sleepy," said Cocktail.

They drove up and down, but saw nothing. Finally, they started home again. Cocktail pretended to go to sleep in the car, but when they stopped at Rena's house she "woke up" with a jerk and a yawn.

"Oh, gimme my blankie, Mommy..." Cocktail murmured. Then she burst out laughing.

Twinkle Hearts gave her sister a little look of disgust. "You couldn't scare me," she said.

"Yes, I could!" Cocktail shot back. She held up her arms and front hooves and snarled, stepping towards Twinkle Hearts. "GRRR! I'm a monster, and I'll eat you!" Twinkle Hearts screamed. Cocktail slapped her hooves against her sides and laughed.

Soon the ponies were sipping strawberry milkshake in the living room-- all except Cocktail, that is, who was listening to her walkman. "Oh, YEA-A-AH," she sang.

"Oh, stop it!" said Rena playfully. Cocktail yelled "YE-E-EA-A-AH!" even louder. Rena gave Cocktail a playful whack. Cocktail gave her an elbow back. Soon the two were in a play-fight, while Twinkle Hearts nervously sipped her milkshake and Cola read the newspapers.

"Girls," said Cola, "Black Jack apparently broke into other homes besides ours." This made Rena stop fighting with Cocktail, and Cocktail turned to look at Cola.

"Huh?" asked Cocktail.

"He robbed two other houses in this neighborhood," said Cola. "He got in one house by going down the chimney."

Cocktail burst out laughing. Rena looked at Cocktail curiously. "You know, ‘Black Jack' is supposed to be black... and soot from the chimney is black. Perhaps... he goes down chimneys to get black, and to disguise his real color; and then goes out, after taking a few things," said Rena.

"Yup. ‘Oh, I'm sorry, but I was cleaning your chimney, madam,' " kidded Cocktail. She giggled at her own joke.

"Uh... somebody is watching us through the window," said Twinkle Hearts. Three other heads turned to look. They barely had time to make out the figure of a running black stallion.

To be continued...


by Tabby

Tabby stared out the glass doors of the Pokèmon Center. Her gaze wasn't centered on Tarquin, who was just coming up the steps; or on the well-worn path to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe; or even on the soft snowflakes that had just begun to fall. It was on the mansion directly across from her current place of employment.

How Tabby thought she'd left that place behind forever! It was the place of her old dreams, hopes, and aspirations; of her old heart-breaking incidents; of her old life-- and now it stood out to her as clear as anything. She wondered why she hadn't paid more attention to it in past months.

Yes, the mansion across from the Pokèmon Center had been Tabby's home in days-gone-by-- the home of Tabby and her mother, that is. All the occurrences from her schooldays that Tabby was now recalling were nearly overwhelming. The stately manor had blended into the scenery since Tabby had left it behind after graduating from college-- until a comment from her mother the previous week before she returned to Italy unlocked a flood of memories.

"You know, Tabitha," Agatha had remarked to her daughter one morning, "I'm looking into getting the old mansion fixed up."

"Mm," Tabby had nodded absentmindedly.

"It's only right that you should inherit it, of course," Agatha had continued.

"Ah, yes, of course."

"And it would be a wonderful place to raise a family."

"Quite fascinating indeed," Tabby had murmured in an uninterested tone.

"You'll be very anxious to get your hooves on it after you see the old place fixed up, I'm sure," Agatha had said knowingly.

Tabby was brought out of her reverie and back into the present. But still, had her mother been serious when she had brought up the mansion that morning? Knowing her mother, she probably was. Agatha Fershund always had plenty of money to throw around. More importantly still, was Agatha really going to sign it over to her daughter?

Tabby's mind wandered over past events, such as impossible English tests, worm-filled lunchboxes, gifts of My Little People on Christmas...

"Tabby? Were you listening?" Tarquin jumped up on the desk in front of Tabby's head and peered intently into her eyes.

Tabby blinked several times in succession. "Eh... no, not particularly."

"It's fifteen minutes after you technically got off work," Tarquin pointed out, "which you've spent staring off into space."

"I did? It is? Oh! I was just... that is... thinking," Tabby said falteringly, pushing back her chair and standing up.

"Let's get home," Tarquin urged, jumping down onto the ground. "Tess said she would call."

"Yes, yes, of course. Chansey, make sure that all the doors are locked securely," Tabby instructed her other staff member.

"Chan-sey!" the pink egg-shaped Pokèmon said responsibly as Tabby and Tarquin exited the center.

"I still can't believe we treated two Mews today," Tarquin commented. "They're supposed to be rare, but they keep popping-up."

"Yes, that is strange, isn't it?" Tabby said distractedly, and was silent for several moments more before continuing. "You go on home, Tarquin. I've got something to do. I'll catch up to you in a bit."

Tarquin looked at her questioningly, but didn't say anything. With a quick wave of his paw, he was soon dashing off and out of sight.

Seeing that no one else was around now, Tabby scurried across the path to the mansion grounds. She simply couldn't resist the opportunity. She had to see the place again and relive old memories.

Agatha had never sold the property after she had moved to Italy and Tabby was settled on her own. Perhaps she had always meant for her daughter to inherit it, or the memory of her lost husband kept her from parting with it. Whatever the case, however, the front door was still locked when Tabby tried opening it.

"If they think that's going to keep me out..." Tabby sniffed, promptly walking around to the back where a thick, bushy patch of shrubbery grew. She swiftly pushed several branches aside (there was quite a bit more to push through than the last time she had done this) to reveal the well-hidden back door. In the days of her youth, this door had always been kept unlocked; even back then, it had been well-camouflaged by the vegetation and only Tabby and her mother knew about this way in the event that they should get locked out by all other means.

Luck was with Tabby, for the creaky door was still unlocked. She stepped inside and securely closed it behind her, hastily checking again that no one else was in the vicinity. Now she stood at the end of a dark, musty hallway; but she still knew her way around.

The house remained fully furnished, but everything showed signs of wear. Tabby paused in a doorway for several moments, looking intently at the old but familiar surroundings.

And then she crept up the stairway, the flowered wallpaper on the walls peeling and the varnish on the banister faded. There was one room in particular that she wanted to see on this excursion. The route was familiar to her after all these years. Upon reaching the second floor, she turned to the right and opened the first door she came to.

"It is still here," Tabby breathed, spellbound, as she bounced down on the mattressed bed. "My room! It really is still here."

Indeed, it was Tabby's old bedroom. Her personal belongings had all been long ago taken out, but some things still remained, such as her bed, desk, wardrobe, and her favorite feature of all-- her windowseat.

Squealing softly, Tabby rushed to seat herself in the old beloved windowseat. It had been such a quiet and serene place to think, and still was. She stared out over the town with wide, curious eyes. How fascinating it was to be here again!

Tabby was not entirely sure what she wanted to accomplish on this venture, if she wanted to accomplish anything at all. She couldn't tell how long she sat there in her old windowseat in silence. How eerie it was to be alone in her old house, now empty and devoid of life. Impulsively, she pushed up against the purple velvet pillows trimming the windowseat.

Upon hearing something crinkle as she did so, Tabby was naturally curious. She lifted one of the pillows from behind her. Firmly pressed down over the years, a yellow piece of paper was revealed under the pillow.

Tabby cautiously reached for the paper. Who knew what ghost of the past might be hidden in it, and why did it happen to be there? She opened up the folded slip, and a stormy expression crossed her face as recognition flooded her mind.

What she held in her hoof was a letter from Tex from their high school days. "There shouldn't be a comma there," Tabby scowled as she reread the message for the first time in years.

Tabby, I know, what you think of me after what I did to you with those worms. Believe me this time, I didn't mean it to hurt you so bad. I really do care about you, a whole lot. Honest, I like you better than all the other girls at school, and better than any girl anywhere. You're a lot prettier than them, too. Please, can't you just let the worms go? I'd really like to get to know you better. Would you come with me to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe tonight? I'll even try to stop using my accent if that would help. Please.



Tabby was compelled to crumple the paper, but refrained herself from doing so-- to keep it as a memento of the past, if nothing else. "Flattery will get you nowhere, Tex," she muttered softly. "He really thought we could be a couple, eh? I can't believe he had the nerve to, after putting worms in my lunchbox. He cared about me? Hah! Not after worms in my lunchbox!"

Tabby suddenly cringed at the realization of how pathetic of an excuse that sounded like for putting someone on her blacklist. Why was she so down on Tex? Was it entirely because of the trivial worm incident, or did it go deeper?

"It's because he was so annoying, following me around every chance he got begging for my forgiveness," Tabby scowled. "I really hated that. I couldn't stand it. He acted to-o-o pathetically lovesick for my tastes."

Perhaps Tabby really didn't hate or despise Tex, after all. It had certainly been fun flaunting around spreading rumors about how evil he was, but it had become so natural for her to do so she really didn't think seriously about why she was doing it. "I should be glad he's obsessing over Tamara now, so he doesn't worry about me," Tabby said slyly to herself. "Now, back then, 4-Speed was pretty annoying, too. And then there was Slugger. Plus..." Tabby thought back to all the dates she had turned down throughout her school years. Why, she hadn't accepted a single one. Perhaps it was because she could only see Tex in all the stallions trailing after her. Perhaps she had been blinded by hatred on the topic of romance. But perhaps it had worked out better for her that way.

The letter dropped unnoticed from Tabby's hooves and swished down onto the floor. "It was for the better," she whispered. "It was. I probably would have gotten married years ago had it not been for those years. And then... and then... there wouldn't be any Thomas."

Tabby stood up abruptly and snatched Tex's note off the floor, shoving it back under the pillow. She returned to staring out the window, and her thoughts wandered back onto more recent times, starting with the arrival of Thomas in Dream Valley a year ago. How bitter was the resentment Tabby had felt when he had first infringed on her veterinary clinic! And how sweet it had been when she had first opened her heart up to him.

Tabby's eyes misted over. She was viewed by most as a pony without much respect or feelings for anyone. But she really did care about things more than anyone suspected, and she truly did love Thomas, even if she didn't show it openly. She only prayed that he understood. For Thomas had been the first to melt her icy heart, and Tabby would not lose him easily.

Tabby stretched and yawned. That's enough deep thinking for the day, she decided. Her mind feeling at rest now, she skipped to the doorway and surveyed her room one last time before leaving. Tex's letter could stay where it had been, for she had no need for it. More memories could wait for another day. And she had things in the present to attend to.

Perhaps she would come to live at the mansion one day. And perhaps any number of numerous things could happen to her. But only the future could tell what was next in store for Tabitha Elaine Fershund.


Tabby Trivia
by Tabby

Here's another quiz on our stories for you, similar to last month's contest on "Christmas in Dream Valley, 1999". You will be able to find the answers to the following twenty-three questions throughout the stories documenting Tabby's previous adventures. Unless you remember the answers from reading my stories in the past, you are free to look at the past Tabby stories I have posted on the internet at the following address:

The grand prize of this contest, as last month's, is a complete set of five Smilemakers My Little Pony stickers (Light Heart, Sundance, Morning Glory, Ivy, and Sweet Berry). These will be awarded to the first respondent who gets all twenty-three questions correct. Anyone after the first prize winner who e-mails me all the correct answers will have a choice of ONE of the Smilemakers My Little Pony stickers (while supplies last).

You may e-mail me your answers to these at Big fun!


#1. Where were the Sunstone, the Moonstone, and the Earthstone (the key to Atlantis) found?

#2. Through what item did Nur-Ab-Fin posses Tabby?

#3. What was Tabby's pay after she was hired at Thomas' clinic?

#4. What incident caused Tabby's extreme dislike of Tex?

#5. What creature was terrorizing Tabby and was later taken in by Butch?

#6. What present did Tabby receive on her birthday in 1999?

#7. Who gave Tabby an ancient treasure map?

#8. Where did Toby first lay eyes on Tabby?

#9. What episode of Pokèmon was Tabby watching when she decided to catch a Meowth?

#10. What did Tabby use to heal her first patient as a Pokèmon nurse?

#11. Where did Tess live before coming to Dream Valley?

#12. What started the conversation on childhood experiences among the gang?

#13. What are the names of Callie's father and mother?

#14. What aliases did Callie, Fuzz, and Fluff use on their quest?

#15. What is the one difference in looks between Tabby and Tamara?

#16. Who is Cataline's owner?

#17. What baby pony was Tabby responsible for at the Pokèmon Center on Take Your Daughter to Work Day?

#18. What is Tabby's full name (first, middle, and last)?

#19. What is one of Tabby's great fears in life?

#20. What is the name of the human Tabby and Clever Clover turned into a whale in Atlantis?

#21. Which Pokèmon of Tabby's battled the Hitmonlee she caught?

#22. What is Cliff's profession in the alternate future?

Bonus Question-- What is your favorite Tabby story?


Invento Ponies
by Applejack

Name: Sunberry

Symbol: Raspberries

Color: Light Pink

Hair: Bright Red

Breed: Unicorn

Name: Custard Creme

Symbol: Pie

Color: Creme

Hair: White

Breed: Earth

Name: Key Lime Surprise

Symbol: Lime Fruit

Color: Mint Green

Hair: Creme

Breed: Pegasus

Name: Strawberry Soufflè

Symbol: Pink Puff

Color: Light Pink

Hair: Lighter Pink

Breed: Unicorn

Name: Blueberry Dream

Symbol: Blueberries

Color: Light Blue

Hair: Dark Blue

Breed: Earth

Name: Blackberry Tart

Symbol: Blackberries

Color: Mauve

Hair: Dark Purple

Breed: Pegasus

Name: Tangerine Innocence

Symbol: Tangerines

Color: Creamy Orange

Hair: White

Breed: Earth

Name: Sweet Pear

Symbol: Pears

Color: Light Pea Green

Hair: Light Yellow

Breed: Earth


The Land of Nod
by Tabby

"Tabby, it's just not possible for me to get out and buy items for Baby Noddins' birthday except on weekends, which is when she's home all day, so would you mind watching over her for me tomorrow afternoon?"

Such was the request made of Tabby by Frostflake, Baby Noddins' mother. Tabby, for her part, just dangled the phone receiver in the air for several moments before replying. "Baby-sit her tomorrow afternoon?"

"I would really appreciate it. You can't imagine how much I'd appreciate it," Frostflake said enthusiastically. "You'll do it, then?"

"Wait a sec--" Tabby started.

"I'm so grateful, Tabby," Frostflake went on. "I'll drop Baby Noddins off at your house at one, okay?"

"Eh, I was--"

"And I'll be back for her at four. I'm sure she'll have a great time with you," Frostflake finished before hanging up.

Tabby was only dimly aware of the dead ringing in the receiver as she stared blankly at the ground. "I have to baby-sit that nuisance for three hours tomorrow," she murmured to herself.

It had always amazed Tabby that even her arguing skills could not be beaten by that of a parent. There had been the time last spring when Firefly had convinced her to let Baby Firefly work at the Pokèmon Center on Take Your Daughter to Work Day; and some time later, Surprise's fast defense of her daughter which Tabby feel like a complete idiot even if Baby Surprise had been responsible for shoplifting a My Little People doll; and now this deal with Frostflake. Tabby sighed. She gave up.

However, all hope was not lost. Tabby soon regained her scheming nature and was immediately on the phone. "Sugarberry," she said coaxingly into the receiver, "would you mind helping me out tomorrow?"

"Why?" Sugarberry asked curiously. "Need some cartoon recorded for you?"

"No, it has to do with baby-sitting." Tabby twisted the phone cord around her hoof. "Frostflake just called and wants me to watch Baby Noddins for three hours."

"The poor mare could use a break from Baby Noddins' infernal flow of questions," Sugarberry said sympathetically.

"Well... let's see here... would you happen to mind doing it for me?"

"Oh, Tabby, I'm sure you'd have a much better time with Baby Noddins than anyone else. Besides, Frostflake did call you, didn't she?"

"Yes... but... that Baby Noddins is such a nuisance."

"I'm sure you can handle it, Tabby," Sugarberry said reassuringly. "But if you need any assistance, let me know."

Tabby muttered as she hung up the phone. That hadn't been as easy as she thought it would be. She'd have to try her other sources.

As it turned out, Tamara seemed to remember an important meeting with another show-cat breeder on Saturday; Merry Treat's time would be consumed by repainting the Pokèmon Gym; Tiffany would not be bothered with the "affairs of peasants" that day; and Chocolate Chip had an important exam to study for. They all knew what Baby Noddins was like.

But one o' clock of the next day finally came around, and Baby Noddins was successfully dropped off at Tabby's house. "Oh, Tabby, me gets to spend the whole day with you!" Baby Noddins squealed, running into the house first thing. "I just simply idolize you."

"Remember, I'll be back at four," Frostflake said cheerfully to Tabby-- who was currently petrified with fear-- before departing to do her errands. "Baby Noddins, dear, behave yourself!"

"I always behave myself," Baby Noddins boasted, waving to her mother. "Bye, Mommy! You gettin' me something for my birthday? Whatcha gettin' me, huh? And--"

Tabby pulled Baby Noddins back in by grabbing her around the neck and clamping a hoof over her mouth. "What in the world am I going to do with you for three hours?" she sighed.

"Can I see your My Little People?" Baby Noddins asked eagerly, squirming free from Tabby's grip. "You've got lots, don't you? You've collected ‘em for a long time, haven't you? And you've got all the mail-order ones, right?"

"You will not be permitted to see my collection," Tabby said crisply. "Baby ponies are prone to destroy such things."

"Oh, I know," Baby Noddins nodded in agreement. "Like Baby Falling Leaves. I was playin' with her yesterday, and she got marker all over the nice Cynthia doll you got me for Christmas. I was gonna stop her, but no, she had to go ahead and get the marker out. I don't like her, Tabby."

"The Cynthia doll I got you is destroyed already?!" Tabby shrieked.

Baby Noddins looked sorrowful. "Yes. Only because of Baby Falling Leaves. But I do not do such things, Tabby."

"Baby Noddins, is there anything you want to do besides see my My Little People?"

"Oh, I want to gossip. Will you gossip with me? I just love gossipin'."

Tabby clenched her jaw as Baby Noddins made herself at home in her living room. Still, gossiping would be more undestructive than showing off her My Little People.

"First, I would like to gossip about Baby Falling Leaves," Baby Noddins declared, bouncing up and down on the sofa. "I don't like her."

"You don't say. Why not?"

"She's boring," Baby Noddins said venomously. "She always does borin' stuff, like building borin' forts out of snow. No exciting stuff. And she gets markers on my toys."

"As you mentioned before," Tabby murmured.

"She always wants to do something outside," Baby Noddins prattled. "But it's so cold outside. I don't like goin' outside all the time like she does. I like doing interviews. Can I interview you, Tabby?"

"Certainly. Ask away," Tabby sighed.

" ‘Kay," Baby Noddins said. "Lemme think. Okay. Who is your bestest friend."

"Sugarberry, I suppose."

"Oh. I guess mine is Baby Fallin' Leaves, but I don't like her. I'm your favorite baby pony, though, right?"

"I dislike all baby ponies, Baby Noddins. I can't have a favorite."

"I must be your favorite. You like me bestest, don't you? ‘Cause I like you."

"Wasn't this an interview?"

"Oh, yes. I was taking notes. I was taking notes in my head by talking. Anyway. What do you do for a living?"

"I'm the Pokèmon nurse, Baby Noddins."

"Okay. Do you work at the Pokèmon Center?"

"Yes, Baby Noddins."

"Just gettin' all the details," Baby Noddins explained. "Where did you used to work?"

"Baby Noddins, you already know all this, don't you?"

"Yes, but I need it for my interview. It is very important."

"Would you like a summary of my entire life, then?"

"Yes, please."

"Forget I said that, okay?"

"I'm starvin', Tabby," Baby Noddins complained.

"Your mother didn't say anything about feeding you," Tabby snapped, getting up from her seat.

"Wait, no, I'm thirsty," Baby Noddins corrected herself. "May I have something to drink, Tabby?"

"How about a delightful glass of water?" Tabby suggested.

"That sounds very nice," Baby Noddins said seriously.

A few moments later, Baby Noddins was seated at the kitchen table with a glass of water in her hooves, courtesy of Tabby. "You've already wasted a whole half hour with your talking," the pink unicorn commented cheerfully.

"Ooh, really? That sounds impressive, whatever it means," Baby Noddins breathed.

Tabby raised an eyebrow. "Tell me, Baby Noddins, why do you ‘idolize' me so? It's annoying."

"Oh, because you are so kind and honorable," Baby Noddins said earnestly.

"Nobody else thinks that," Tabby pointed out. "Why do you?"

"And you have a Furby, too," Baby Noddins continued.

"Ah! A Furby makes me kind and honorable?"

"Yes. May I see your Furby, Tabby?"

"He's not working, Baby Noddins."

"What's his name? What's he look like? Or is he a girl? I got a Furby, too. I love ‘im."

"Ah-Loh is kept in a special place that isn't open to visitors," Tabby said briskly.

"Oh! He's too sick to have visitors?" Baby Noddins asked.

"Something like that," Tabby said quickly. If it would keep Baby Noddins away from him, she'd play along with it.

"My Furby's name is Waylo," Baby Noddins prattled on. "I think that's what it is, anyway. What's ‘waylo' mean, Tabby?"

"It's the Furbish term for ‘sleep'," Tabby said without missing a beat.

"Oh. He sleeps a lot, so it makes sense. He's real pretty, Tabby."

"What does he look like?"

"Oh, he's lavender n' pink n' aqua. I think he's real pretty. My brother doesn't like him, though."

"That's probably because Furbys are so much more intelligent than he is."

"You think so? Cool! I'll tell him you said that when I get home, ‘kay?"

"Fine with me."

"Do you really think Furbys are really alive, Tabby?"

"Of course. It's--"

"Oops, Tabby," Baby Noddins interrupted. "I think I spilled my glass."

Tabby just stared venomously at Baby Noddins as the remainder of her water oozed across the table's surface and cascaded over the edge. "Baby Noddins..." she hissed.

"I spill things all the time at home," Baby Noddins prattled on. "My mommy's used to it, though. Will you clean it up for me?"

"No, I will not," Tabby snapped. "Get some paper towels and do it yourself."

" ‘Kay. Where are those? Will a napkin work instead?"

Tabby sighed as she thrust a pile of paper towels at her charge. "Here. Get to it."

Baby Noddins nonchalantly pushed one paper towel across the table. "It's all wet now, Tabby. Am I done?"

Tabby wordlessly grabbed the towels from Baby Noddins, seeing that it would be faster to do it herself. Baby Noddins watched in awe as Tabby, fuming, had the mess cleaned up in a matter of moments. "Ooh, you work fast when you're mad, Tabby."

"Thanks for the compliment," Tabby muttered.

And so the afternoon went on. Baby Noddins seemed satisfied to simply keep talking and not pry into Tabby's possessions. Tabby, after listening to the constant stream of words, was not sure which of the two evils she would prefer.

"Tabby, you ever gonna get married?" Baby Noddins asked cheerfully at one point.

"Why do you care, twerp?" Tabby snapped.

"Oh, I am just looking out for my friends. I must make sure they all get married."

"How thoughtful of you," Tabby said sarcastically.

"I know. I only want the best for my friends. I'm gonna marry someone with a last name," Baby Noddins explained.

"Fascinating. You still want a last name?"

"Oh, yes, I need a last name like you. How'll I find someone with a last name to fall in love with me?"

Tabby sighed. What had she gotten herself into? "Perhaps he will just drop out of the sky one day."

"Ooh, really? Fun!" Baby Noddins squealed. "When will he drop out of the sky?"

"I don't know, Baby Noddins. Just be quiet for once."

"Oh, okay. Tabby, what'll happen if you marry somebody with a different last name? Does Thomas have a last name?"

"Baby Noddins, stop this obsession with last names."

"Will my Furby have a last name when I'm married to someone with a last name?"

"Ask Waylo yourself."

"He'll know? Okay. Does Ah-Loh have a last name?"

"Not that I know of, Baby Noddins."

"Have you asked him?"

"I never thought of doing so."

"I'm gonna ask Waylo as soon as I get home."

"Baby Noddins, do you want to do anything besides talk for three hours straight?"

"Will you tell me a story, Tabby?"

"Will you be quiet if I do?"

"I think so. Maybe. Tell me about Atlantis. You were in Atlantis, weren't you? What is it?"

"You want to hear about Atlantis?" A slight smile crossed Tabby's face and her eyes gleamed.

"Yes, please. Can I sit in your lap?" Without waiting for an answer, Baby Noddins crawled up into Tabby's chair. " ‘Kay. You can start now."

Tabby winced at having a baby pony sitting contentedly in her lap, but began her tale of Atlantis anyway. "Now, it all started on the fateful day when Sugarberry and I made Clever Clover clean out his house. Fascinatingly enough, he discovered that he had the key to Atlantis buried in his junk drawer..."

Surprisingly, Baby Noddins kept her mouth shut as Tabby continued on. As the end of the story drew near, Tabby was pleasantly surprised to look down and see that Baby Noddins had fallen asleep. She wasn't really concerned over wondering if Baby Noddins had fallen asleep because she was a boring storyteller or not; she was just glad to have her quiet.

Tabby quickly finished the tale. "And then Clever Clover and I turned the guy into a whale like he'd demanded, and then we made a run for it..."

It was at that moment that the doorbell rang, and Baby Noddins was immediately back on her hooves. "Tabby, Tabby!" she yelped, slipping down onto the ground. "The doorbell! Get it!"

"You didn't say a word in there for a whole fifteen minutes," Tabby commented, heading to the door.

"Were you really in Atlantis, Tabby? Did all that really happen? It sounds cool. Is Mommy at the door? Does she got presents for me, huh?" Baby Noddins asked expectantly.

"You were better when you were asleep," Tabby sighed. "Oh, Frostflake, it's you!"

"Hello, Tabby," Frostflake said cheerfully, stepping into the hallway. "Baby Noddins! How are you? Did you have a good time?"

"MWOMMY!" Baby Noddins shouted, streaking towards her mother. "Did you get presents for me?! Huh?!"

"They'll wait for your birthday, dear." Frostflake embraced her daughter. "Did you have a good time with Tabby?"

"Yes," Baby Noddins said solemnly. "She didn't yell at me as much as you do."

"Certainly," Tabby said under her breath. Where did Baby Noddins get all this confidence in her, anyway?

"Wonderful, Baby Noddins," Frostflake smiled. "Tabby, you really did a great job. I'll be sure to call you next time I need a baby-sitter."

"Eh... um... whatever..." Tabby trailed off.

"Come along, Baby Noddins. It's time to get home," Frostflake prodded. "Say goodbye to Tabby."

"Gwoodbye, Tabby!" Baby Noddins called merrily as she skipped down the porch steps. "I will call you later!"

"Oh, goodbye," Tabby sighed in relief as the two disappeared out of sight. "I actually survived three hours with the nuisance! I can't believe I lived through it. Sugarberry'll never believe it!" She grinned as she ran across her yard to Sugarberry's door. What a story she'd have to tell.


The Evil Dragon
Part Seven
by Princess of the Stars a.k.a. Starr a.k.a. Marissa

The next morning, the ponies and the tunnel dwellers all met in the Great Hall, where they had eaten the previous night.

"Attention, everyone!" Father shouted over the talking between friends that was taking place. "Our guests will be departing shortly on a trip that will take them farther into the tunnels. They must find a dragon I banished from here many years ago."

"Mouse knows where that is!" Mouse shouted excitedly.

"Yes, I know. That is why you will join them on their quest," Father said gravely.

"No!" said Vincent, for the first time his voice rising above a whisper. "They mustn't go by themselves."

"What do you mean?" Father said, looking puzzled.

"Father, you know of all the terrible things that lurk down here in the tunnels. You couldn't expect them to go without me."

"Yes, I suppose you're right, Vincent. You will go, too. Would you lead our friends to our weaponry room?" Father requested.

Vincent nodded in approval and lead the party to the chamber where all the weapons were kept. He opened the door to the armory.

"Oh, my goodness! I thought you said that your world was based on kindness!" Opal Dreams exclaimed when the door opened, revealing swords of pure gold, maces of silver, daggers with elaborately carved handles, and more.

"These weapons are mainly for defending ourselves, nothing more. This room hasn't been opened for seventeen years," Vincent explained. "Look around and choose a weapon for yourself; many of these swords are magic." He picked up a sword and fixed it to his belt.

Everyone else chose a magic sword and headed to the kitchen to pack food for their journey. After lunch, the group set off deeper into the tunnels.

Send your comments and criticism to


Writer's Block
by Sugarberry

Sugarberry was pleasantly surprised to see Chocolate Chip come into the vet clinic on a wintry Friday afternoon in the company of Prime, the mathematically-inclined Brilliant Brother.

"Hi, you two. What's up?" she greeted the college students. "Nothing is wrong is it?" Sugarberry had the unfortunate ability to suspect the worst in any situation.

"Hi, Sugarberry!" the vivacious pair responded. "And, no, nothing is wrong," continued Chocolate Chip. "We were just studying at the library, and Streaky asked us if we'd help her hang these."

The sleek brown filly pulled a poster from the stack that Prime was holding, and held it in front of Sugarberry who read it out loud.

Attention, writers!

Come to the first meeting of the newly formed

Dream Valley Writer's Block.

We will meet in the library conference room

on Tuesday evening at 7:00 PM.

Bring a paragraph-long sample of your writing

to share with the group.

All ages are welcome.

Refreshments will be provided.

"Hey, that sounds like fun!" exclaimed Sugarberry. "Are you two going to be there?"

"Doubtful," replied Prime. "I've got a paper due on Wednesday, so I'll be doing my writing for that."

"Same here," agreed Chocolate Chip. "But maybe I can join this summer when classes are over."

"What's going on out here?" asked Thomas, coming from his office with a black-and-white kitten riding on his back.

Sugarberry lifted the kitten down and snuggled it lovingly. "Aww, is the poor little kitty feeling better?"

"She's going to be just fine!" Thomas assured her. "The antibiotic is clearing up her eye problem, and soon she will be back to normal."

As Sugarberry returned the kitten to its holding cage, Thomas read the poster that Chocolate Chip presented him. "May we hang this on your bulletin board?" she asked.

"So Streaky's starting a writer's group!" Thomas said. "Sounds like your kind of enterprise, Sugarberry."

"It should be fun finding all the talent out there," Sugarberry grinned at Thomas. "Are you willing to share a sample of your writing style?"

"I think not," returned Thomas, "unless you want a medical paper on animal disease."

"Ah, maybe we should hang this somewhere else," giggled Chocolate Chip as she took the poster from Thomas. "I don't think that's what Streaky has in mind."

"You know, Chocolate Chip, if we go to the meeting late, we'd at least get some free food out of it without having to write anything," planned Prime.

"Just hang the poster!" Chocolate Chip shoved him toward the bulletin board. "Are all the stallions going to be this difficult?" she directed to Sugarberry.

Sugarberry grew thoughtful. "Well, I know Quarterback has a story he's been working on from time to time. And Clever Clover writes when he can."

"And Ed will probably be interested," added Prime. Ed was another Brilliant Brother at Pony Pride University, majoring in journalism.

"Which of the mares do you think you'll see there?" wondered Thomas. "Besides Sugarberry, of course," he added.

Their discussion was cut short, however, as Powder came into the clinic with her cocker spaniel, Jo-Jo, for a two o'clock appointment. Chocolate Chip and Prime moved on to get their supply of posters hung. Thomas, Powder, and Jo-Jo disappeared into the examining room.

Sugarberry stood in front of Streaky's poster. "I wonder who will show up?" she asked herself softly. As she reread the poster, a twinge of bitterness began to creep into he heart. "Streaky could have conferred with me about this new group. After all, I am one of the few ponies in Dream Valley who has had books published." She frowned deeply.

Her brooding thoughts had to wait as the ringing of the phone broke the silence. Sugarberry dashed to her desk to answer and was soon caught up in scheduling an appointment for the next day. As she hung up the receiver, her mind began searching for more fuel to feed her smouldering resentment.

"You'd have thought Streaky would come to me for advice, at least. Sure, she's a librarian; but I'm a writer!" she grumbled.

The more she thought, the deeper her spirit sank. "I'd have been happy to address the group about my experiences with publishers and all the things I've learned-- like rejections accumulate a lot faster than acceptances."

Thomas, reappearing in the reception area followed by Jo-Jo and Powder, reminded Sugarberry, "We're running low on syringes."

"I ordered more last week," Sugarberry snapped back. "They'll be here by Monday."

Thomas looked questioningly at his usually pleasant receptionist. "Is anything wrong, Sugarberry?"

Feeling like a naughty foal, Sugarberry blushed. "No, Thomas, but thanks for asking." She hurried into the examining room to clean things up for the next appointment. When she finished, she returned to her desk and got busy addressing reminder cards for the next day's mail until Tiffany arrived with Theodora.

"Oh, Sugarberry, doesn't this writing group sound thrilling?" trilled the white princess pony. "I'm going straight home after Theodora's appointment to start my novel."

Sugarberry petted Theodora's sleek black head. "I didn't know you did much writing, Tiffany." She led the princess and her Bombay cat to the spotless examining room.

"I've always wanted to write a romance," declared Tiffany. "And this writer's group is just the thing to get me started."

"Another budding authoress?" asked Thomas as he came into the room carrying Theodora's chart. "You've got competition, Sugarberry."

"So it seems." Sugarberry forced a smile, and returned to her desk as Tiffany's chatter filled the office.

Glancing at the clock, Sugarberry groaned. "Another hour of work." She tidied up the reception area, and updated Jo-Jo's medical history on the computer. Tiffany and Theodora left the clinic, and Thomas retreated into his office to catch up on the day's mail and converse with Doo-Moh on important matters, as no more appointments were scheduled.

Sugarberry punched the keyboard to bring up her private file. She passed her hoof over her eyes and leaned back in her chair as the words she had written for her work-in-progress appeared. Who was she trying to kid? She hadn't had a book published in ages, and at the rate her current mystery was going, it would be a long while yet until another novelette hit the stands.

Scrolling down the pages before her, she began to get edgy to start working on the story again. "I'll go straight home after work and write until I fall asleep," she decided.

Another peek at the clock told her it was time to close up. She shut down the computer, locked the files, and rapped on Thomas' door which stood partly open.

"I'm heading home," she informed the unicorn as he looked up from his paperwork. "See you tomorrow!"

"What? No Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe tonight?" he teased.

"I've got some things to do," Sugarberry replied. "Give my love to Tabby!"

Hurrying as quickly as she could over the snow-covered paths home, Sugarberry was lost in thought as she mentally composed lines for her main character, Hood, to say.


Surfacing to reality, the twice-as-fancy earth pony glanced behind her.

"Sugarberry! Wait up!" Trotting in her direction came Vanguard. "What's your hurry?"

"Hi, Vanguard. I've got some writing that needs to get done."

"I tried to get to the clinic before you left, but Thomas informed me that you had gone home already. I was hoping we could go somewhere to eat."

Sugarberry smiled graciously, but shook her head. "Thanks for asking, but I've really got to buckle down on this novelette I'm writing."

"You've got to eat, don't you? Come with me, and I promise to walk you home as soon as we're through," Vanguard begged.

Standing firm, Sugarberry declined. "Have you heard of this new writer's group Streaky is forming?"

"Chocolate Chip and Prime put a poster up outside my office," replied Vanguard as he fell into step beside Sugarberry. If he couldn't take her to dinner, at least he could accompany her back to her house. "Are you going to address the group?"

Vanguard was relatively new to Dream Valley, having left a teaching position at Binks University to become head of the mathematics department at Pony Pride. He was well aware, however, of Sugarberry's love of writing, and considered the autographed copies of her published works to be treasures.

"Actually, I didn't know about the group until this afternoon," Sugarberry admitted. "Not everyone thinks as much of my abilities as you do, I guess." She cast a soulful glance toward Vanguard.

"Hey, is someone feeling put-out?" he asked, stopping in the path to face her. "You're a very good writer-- excellent, in my opinion-- and everyone loves your work."

"Says you," Sugarberry retorted. Dusk was falling fast as the two continued on.

When Vanguard had left Sugarberry safely at home, he retraced his steps to downtown Dream Valley. Thomas was just leaving the vet clinic as Vanguard came by.

"Off to meet Tabby?" he queried of his friend.

Thomas sighed. "I wish! I tried to reach her at the Pokèmon Center, but as closely as I can figure, Chansey said she had gone home early to do some serious writing."

"This doesn't bode well for us, buddy," Vanguard joked. "Sounds like the girls are going to be unapproachable until after this meeting Streaky's holding."

"I hope it loses its appeal fast," considered Thomas. "If all the mares in Dream Valley get caught up in this writing frenzy, it's going to be awfully quiet."

Thomas' words proved prophetic. That evening at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe was indeed quiet. Sugarberry and Tabby weren't there, of course, but neither were Tamara, Clever Clover, or Quarterback. Friendly and Spike came in and joined Vanguard and Thomas, and Tex showed up eventually; but without the girls, the ice cream shop didn't seem quite so much fun... no gossip, no arguing, no matchmaking.

The fellows were compensating by ordering a second round of sundaes from Scoops when Tiffany breezed through the door, followed by Toby. The princess was loquaciously discussing her masterpiece in progress.

"Where is everyone?" Tiffany queried as her gaze swept over the empty tables of the shop. She and Toby joined Thomas' downcast group. "Isn't Tabby feeling well?" she directed at Thomas. "And Sugarberry, too?" she quizzed Vanguard. "Where's Tamara?"

"As a matter of fact, they are all home writing," informed Tex.

"Oh, I've been writing for hours and I've made so much headway that I felt I owed myself an outing," purred Tiffany, batting her eyelashes furiously at no one in particular. She was well aware that she was the only mare at the table with four good-looking stallions, not to mention a Bushwoolie and a dragon of the male gender.

"Toby, please order me a banana split," Tiffany requested, then began a run-down of her story. "It's about a beautiful white princess pony who has to choose from the many admiring suitors who are plying for her hoof in marriage."

Winking at his cronies, Tex teasingly asked the princess, "Are you modeling the heroine after yourself, Tiffany?"

"Well, she does share my poise and beauty and glamour and nobility," smoothly smiled Tiffany, "but she does get an engagement ring and her stallion in the end." Here she frowned at Toby as he delivered the banana split to her.

"Hey! What did I do?" the puzzled stallion asked.

Tiffany waved a hoof in Toby's direction. "Oh, nothing. I was just discussing my story with these attentive listeners."

"Have you written much before this?" asked Vanguard politely.

"Actually, no," admitted Tiffany. "But I seem to have a knack for it." She ran a hoof through her mane so that the silver sparkles caught the light in a cascade of white brilliance, then continued. "The words simply pour from my pen as if the story has been inside of me forever. I can't understand why Sugarberry is always complaining about meeting deadlines and finishing a story. It seems very easily done for me."

Vanguard opened his mouth to say something in Sugarberry's defense, then thought better of it as Tiffany continued her prattle.

"I can't imagine what Tabby thinks she can find to write about," Tiffany was on a roll. "She hasn't even begun to experience life like I have. And Tamara," the princess shook her head, "is so caught up in her show cats that I can't begin to see her writing anything but pedigree reports."

As quickly as she had swept in, Tiffany was ready to leave. "Toby, I feel inspired to start the next chapter. If you will kindly walk me home, I'll get right to it."

Rising from the table, she condescended to bestow a parting glance on each of the table's occupants before turning to leave. Toby shrugged his shoulders and smiled apologetically at his friends before following Tiffany to the door.

Tex, Vanguard, Thomas, Friendly, and Spike sat in stunned silence until Friendly spoke with amazing perception. "Writer's group make trouble, yeah, yeah."

The others readily agreed.

* * *
Saturday dawned with new snow falling. Sugarberry rolled out of bed to the brassy beeping of her alarm clock. She looked at the sheets of paper scattered across her bed; she'd written late into the night-- early morning, as it were-- as ideas kept bombarding her.

Now, in morning's dim light, her head ached and her eyes burned. She felt like a complete zombie. Feeling the brush of Fluff's soft fur against her leg, she reached down and scooped him up.

"Nice kitty needs some sleep," she mumbled as she laid back down in her warm bed and pulled the covers over her and Fluff. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow, and Fluff's gently purring only lulled her more deeply into dreamland where the characters from her book rubbed elbows with the inhabitants of Dream Valley.

When Sugarberry groggily regained consciousness, her bedside clock informed her it was ten-thirty. She stretched and yawned and felt for Fluff at her side, but he had already gone his way. After a shower and the usual routine, Sugarberry hungrily headed for the kitchen.

Once there, she found Fluff's food dish empty and Fluff himself curled-up in the living room on the sofa fast asleep. Sugarberry made some instant coffee and warmed-up a cinnamon roll in the microwave, then collapsed into a kitchen chair. From this vantage point, she could watch the white snowflakes batter the windowpane as she ate breakfast. Before long, however, the notepad on the table was covered with further notes for development in her Hood story.

After finishing her roll and refilling her coffee mug, Sugarberry collected all her papers and deposited herself in front of the computer. "I'll get everything keyed in before I start on new material," she decided, although she continued to jot down ideas as they crossed her mind.

"Bring! Bring!" The sound of the phone caused Sugarberry to jump as her entire concentration was directed at the imaginary world of Woodlawn.

"Hello?" Sugarberry spoke into the receiver.

"Hey, Sug!" Tabby's voice came through loud and clear.

"Hi, Tabby! What's up?

"I'm writing an Atlantean drama-- well, I don't know if it's really a drama, but it does sound so very impressive that way-- and I have a question. What are some other words for ‘said'? I'm trying to come up with something, and it's simply driving me nuts."

"Look in a thesaurus, Tabby.

"But that would take time, Sugarberry."

Sugarberry smiled. Tabby had a phobia about using dictionaries and related items that stretched back all the way to grammar school. " ‘Instructed' would be one," instructed Sugarberry.

"Something better than that," requested Tabby. "Some good ones for Furbys to use."

"Smirked, taunted, wavered, heralded, suggested..."

"Hey! Give me time to write."

Once Tabby was satisfied with her word list, Sugarberry commented on the enchanting snowfall.

"What? It's snowing?" asked an out-of-touch Tabby. "I hadn't noticed."

"Have you stopped to eat or sleep?" worried Sugarberry.

"Huh? No, not much. I've been so busy writing, Sug. Who has time to eat?"

"Streaky's poster only asked for a sample of your writing, not a complete manuscript," reminded Sugarberry.

"And, pray tell, what are you doing, Sug? Hmm?"

"Point taken, Tabby."

"Well, must keep at it. Goodbye!"

Sugarberry sighed. She wished Tabby would be knocking on her door to cart her off to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe like normal.

"That's why I'm not a good author," Sugarberry thought dejectedly. "I'm distracted too easily." She pushed back from her computer and trotted to the window. The snow was ending, but an inch or two of the fluffy stuff coated the outside world in pristine loveliness. Sugarberry drank in the beauty of it before her dark thoughts clouded the scene before her.

"The reason I'm not a good author," she continued her downward reverie, "is that I don't have a decent writing style. If the publisher hadn't been desperate for something to print, he never would have accepted my work in the first place."

She returned to her computer, and reread the last lines she had written. "Hmm. They don't sound too bad," she pondered.

She read them again, trying to put herself into someone else's place, trying to find what was wrong with her style. She scrolled back through the developing story, looking for flaws. Suddenly it hit her.

"It's too boring, that's what's wrong with it!" She was tempted to delete the entire thing, when Fluff jumped up on her lap and licked her face.

"Hungry again, aren't you," she murmured as she buried her face in his soft, thick fur. At that moment, the phone rang again; and as she answered it, she realized that dusk was falling and she really hadn't accomplished anything.

The voice on the other end of the line was that of Vanguard. "I'll be there in half an hour to take you out to eat." he said quickly before she could object. "No excuses accepted."

"I'm too depressed to offer any," she admitted.

"Knowing that, I'll be there in fifteen minutes. See ya!"

Sugarberry tickled Fluff under the chin and then lifted him down off her lap. "Guess I'd better straighten things up a bit," she said to her portly feline. "Bet you wish you could go with us, don't you?" Fluff responded with a scratchy-sounding meow, and then jumped up on the sofa for yet another nap.

Sugarberry brushed her hair and tied a bright blue ribbon around her tail. She was fussing with the bow when Vanguard arrived at her front door.

"Hi. Come on in," she greeted him, her glum countenance breaking into a pleasant smile.

"Thanks," he replied as he stepped into the house, stomping the snow off his hooves. "Here, this is for you." He handed her a wrapped package.

Sugarberry undid the ribbon and removed the paper to reveal a framed picture of herself and Vanguard taken on Christmas Day.

"Oh, this turned out really nice," she gasped. Clever Clover had been snapping pictures of the ponies and others who had congregated at Sugarberry's house for Christmas. He had caught Vanguard and Sugarberry while they were standing together in front of the Christmas tree, smiling at each other tenderly.

"Yes, I thought so, too. When Clever Clover gave me the picture, I had it enlarged-- one for each of us," he grinned.

"That was very thoughtful of both of you," Sugarberry replied as she set the eight-by-ten on the end table by her rocking chair. "Thanks for brightening my day," she added as she gave Vanguard a hug.

"My pleasure," he teased, causing a pink blush to spread across Sugarberry's cheeks.

Quickly changing the subject, Sugarberry asked, "Didn't you mention something about eating out when you called?"

"Yes, I did," Vanguard verified. "I made reservations for two at the Estate Manor."

"Wow. Top of the line," a reasonably impressed Sugarberry responded. "Are you sure you can afford it? I'm awfully hungry," she taunted him.

"Not to worry," he assured her as they left the house. The snow glittered under the street lights; and the dry, puffy flakes swirled in eddies around their hooves as they walked to the restaurant.

The Estate Manor was decorated in a medieval style, reminiscent of the days of knights and ladies. The furniture was dark, solid wood; and a huge fireplace ruled over the dining room. Heavy, beautifully-woven tapestries covered the walls and hand-forged sconces and candle-holders bathed the room in mellow light.

"Ah," sighed Sugarberry as Cosmic seated them near the center of the room close to the fireplace. "This is so wonderful, Vanguard. Lots better than worrying about Hood in front of the computer screen."

"And how is your story line progressing?" asked an interested Vanguard. He took the menu that Cosmic handed him, and he and Sugarberry began perusing their choices.

Sugarberry looked up from her menu, and frowned.

"Okay, forget that I asked," Vanguard hurriedly reversed himself. "Let me see that smile back on your face."

Sugarberry obliged by forcing a weak smile, which became the real thing as Cosmic came with their earthenware mugs of coffee. She wrapped her hooves around the hot cup as if to absorb some hidden energy from its warmth.

The atmosphere of the Estate Manor had a calming effect on Sugarberry, and the food was delicious. She and Vanguard enjoyed their meal together, and lingered over their coffee as if holding back the problems of the real world.

But all too soon, the enchantment of their quaint surroundings could no longer shield Sugarberry from the nagging doubts about her ability to write a saleable novel. Vanguard saw the worry appear on her face, and asked, "Shall we be on our way?"

"Yes, please," Sugarberry responded.

The check paid, Vanguard and Sugarberry once more stepped out into the wintry pathways of Dream Valley. They walked in silence, and Vanguard sensed that Sugarberry's thoughts had turned inward to the imaginary world of her story.

Upon reaching her front porch, Sugarberry shook her head as if the chase away what was on her mind. "I'm sorry, Vanguard. I wasn't very good company."

"We were together. That's enough for me."

"Thanks, Vanguard! You're the greatest!"

The two ponies exchanged a lingering hug; then Sugarberry whispered "Good night," and disappeared into her house. Vanguard looked after her, then turned and headed for home.

* * *
Sunday dawned, a day of sunshine and warmer temperatures. Once home from church, Chocolate Chip prepared for a skating party with a bunch of school friends and Sugarberry sat down in her computer chair and closed her eyes.

Some lines came to light, and she began keying them into her computer. She read them back to herself. "That sounds good!" she complimented herself. A flood of images came to her mind, and she began typing to avoid losing them. When she next glanced at the clock, she was surprised to see it was two o'clock already.

She fixed a snack for herself and refilled Fluff's empty bowl, then returned to the computer until nearly bedtime, barely looking up when Chocolate Chip returned home. She made a quick call to Vanguard to tell him that things were going better, then got ready for bed, and fell asleep lulled by the rhythmic breathing of Fluff at her side.

At work the next morning, Sugarberry felt refreshed and set for anything. She greeted Thomas in her usual good humor, and informed him of the delivery of the awaited syringes. She greeted the first patient of the day, and set-up new appointments for pets due their routine exams and shots. She was humming contentedly to herself when her gaze fell inadvertently on the poster that had caused the whirlwind of writing. And in that moment, all her doubts and worries overwhelmed her again. She shuddered as she realized her dilemma. "I've got no self-confidence," she whispered. "I'll never finish this book."

Pulling up her story file, she quickly hit the delete button and cried out,"Yes, I'm sure I want to delete this stupid file!" She looked up to see Thomas staring at her strangely.

"Sugarberry, would you help Chief here? His ferret is in excellent health, but he needs an appointment for a second one he has picked out at the pet shop."

Embarrassed by her show of temper at the computer, Sugarberry felt tears welling up in her eyes, but fought back the urge to run from the room. She turned to her appointment book which gave her a chance to regain her composure. After scanning through the open appointments, she was able to fit Chief in on Wednesday morning, and she could even smile at him when he thanked her for her help.

Once the door closed behind him, however, Sugarberry scowled at her computer screen. She felt good about deleting her Hood story, yet she knew that the more up-to-date version was in her home computer. She wondered if she'd have the courage to delete that, too.

"How's Tabby doing with her writing?" queried Thomas. Sugarberry jumped, as she thought he had returned to his office.

"Tabby? I don't really know. We talked briefly on Saturday, but I haven't seen her in person since last week."

"Me neither." Thoms looked so forlorn that Sugarberry set her own problem aside.

"The meeting is tomorrow night," comforted Sugarberry. "After that, the novelty will be worn off and things will return to normal." She paused for a second. "At least, I hope so!"

"You must be getting close to completing that novel you're working on, I suppose."

Rising and walking to the file cabinet, Sugarberry avoided the question while she returned the manila folder to its proper place. When she'd finished that task, she closed the drawer, and turned to Thomas.

"It's going nowhere. I think I'll have to shuck the entire project."

"That seems a bit extreme."

Sugarberry sighed deeply, but was saved from an answer by the entrance of Wigwam with his wolf, Manitou. It was always a special occasion when Manitou came in for a check-up. He was a beautiful animal, and responded companionably to Wigwam's soft-spoken commands.

Wigwam led the grey creature directly to an examining room, and it wasn't until the exam was finished that Sugarberry had a close-up look at the wolf, admiring his wild and rugged beauty.

Wigwam himself moved across the room to the library poster. Thomas noticed his interest and asked, "Thinking of a literary career, Wigwam?"

"I wonder if there would be any interest in the native pony tales passed on from earlier generations."

"This is your opportunity to find out. I've heard about a number of ponies who are excited about the writer's group." Looking back at Sugarberry, he continued. "Sugarberry is an author; she will be at the meeting."

Wigwam looked at Sugarberry as if he just realized she was in the room. "Ah, yes, Sugarberry. I have read your books."

Sugarberry stood with her hoof on Manitou's head. Wigwam's words hung heavy on her heart. I have read your books. The words seemed to echo off the clinic walls. No praise, no comment, no observation... just that blank statement.

It would have been more compassionate to tell me my work stinks, Sugarberry wanted to spit at the orange stallion, but she kept her temper in check and simply gave Manitou a final pat, and crossed to her desk. Wigwam signaled to the wolf, and the two left the clinic.

"Certainly not one of my fans," grumbled Sugarberry as Thomas now patted her shoulder.

"Take it as a compliment that he has read your books. His actions speak louder than his words."

"Sure. The tall, silent type," she sulked.

Thomas grinned. "You know what you need? You need an evening at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe! You and Vanguard, and Tabby and me..."

As the phone rang, Sugarberry picked up the receiver.

"Oh, hi, Tabby. Sure, he's right here."

She winked at Thomas as she handed him the receiver. "It's for you."

Thomas took the receiver. "Hi, Tab... But what about... Can't you... Maybe... Bye, Tabby."

Sugarberry couldn't help but giggle as Thomas reset the receiver on the phone. "I take it Tabby has her own plans?"

Thomas' hoof tapped the desk impatiently, a habit he was picking up from Tabby. "She says she has to finish her epic adventure tonight."

"All Streaky wants is a paragraph."

Thomas became aware of his hoof-tapping, and stopped abruptly. "Well, it sounds like she's going to be in for a big surprise! Every pony I've talked to is writing way more than a paragraph." He grinned, regaining his good humor. "Including you."

"I had a reason to be writing long before anyone heard of a writer's group." retorted Sugarberry. "Now, go help your next client."

Minty had entered the clinic carrying a snowball-white kitten ready for some booster shots. The routine of the day carried Sugarberry to closing time. Before leaving, she checked in on Thomas. "Remember that Vanguard has a faculty meeting to attend this evening. Your Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe gang will be even smaller."

"Great. That leaves Friendly, Tex, and I to bear the brunt of Tiffany's gloating over her literary talent."

"Tiffany? Isn't she busily writing, too?" Sugarberry asked in surprise.

"It appears that Tiffany would rather talk about her abilities than write. Suffice it to say, you don't have to worry about any competition from the princess... unless your style is autobiographical."

* * *
At home in front of her computer that evening, Sugarberry stared at her Hood story on the screen.

"I can't delete this," she convinced herself. "Even if it's never published, I'll know I did the best I could do."

Chocolate Chip came into the room carrying a pile of notes for her history paper. "Um, Sugarberry, could I possibly start entering all this stuff in the computer tonight? I've got to work at Bushwoolie Bargain Books all afternoon after classes tomorrow, and the paper has to be done by Wednesday."

Closing up her file, Sugarberry smiled at her hard-working boarder. "Sure thing. Who am I to stand in the way of education?"

"Torture is more like it," groaned Chocolate Chip as she set the stack of papers by the keyboard. "Do you know how utterly boring the political history of Grundleland is?" She tossed her brown mane in exasperation.

"I've never delved too deeply into it," admitted Sugarberry as she relinquished the chair.

"And you know the worst part?"

"No, but I think I'm going to hear it really soon."

"They say that Historia grades by dropping the completed reports from the top of the stairwell, and the one that travels the farthest gets the ‘A'!"

"Probably just a horrid rumor started by upperclassponies to strike fear into the hearts of the insignificant underlings."

"Well, they succeeded," grimaced Chocolate Chip.

Suddenly, leaning back in the chair, Chocolate Chip began thinking out loud. "Using what I know from physics class, the paper with the most weight should carry the furthest, in which case the sheer number of pages would have a greater effect on the grade received than the quality of the information on those pages."

"You're beginning to sound like Windwhistler here."

"Heaven forbid!"

The two ponies giggled, which went a long way in relieving the stress both felt themselves under. Chocolate Chip then asked, "Have you decided what you'll be sharing at the writer's group tomorrow night? Ed was reading his article to us at the Student Center this afternoon, but it wasn't too exciting."

"To each his own," murmured Sugarberry, temporarily reminded of her self-doubts. Then, brightening, she relayed her experience with Wigwam, repeating his words with the proper inflection of voice to make the meaning clear. "I have read your books."

Laughing, Chocolate Chip commiserated with her friend. "Why, that inconsiderate stallion!" Giggling some more, she added, "Maybe he was awed by your presence-- a real authoress, you know-- or subdued by your dazzling beauty, or..."

Sugarberry sternly tapped her hoof on the pile of notes lying untouched on the computer table. "Doesn't some filly have an assignment to finish?"

"Yes, Mother," Chocolate Chip mocked meekly, setting to work on her task.

Dropping into her rocking chair, Sugarberry contemplated her choices for tomorrow night.

"Number one. I could stay home."

"Number two. I could read a paragraph from the Hood story."

"Number three. I could write something new."

She closed her eyes, and listened to the clicking of the keys as Chocolate Chip typed in her information. Ideas for Hood's finale began flitting through her head, and she hastily grabbed a pad and pencil and began jotting down notes.

Satisfied with the path the story was taking, Sugarberry finally set her material down, and took leave of Chocolate Chip.

"I'm turning in. Don't stay up all night."

Not missing a beat, Chocolate Chip mumbled goodnight, and Sugarberry left her in peace.

* * *
Tuesday passed quickly and without incident. Vanguard called the clinic to verify that the writers would definitely stop by the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe after the meeting. Thomas, too, reminded her that she and Tabby and the others would be expected to appear at their favorite haunt once they were finished at the library.

It wasn't until she and Chocolate Chip were tidying up the kitchen after supper that Sugarberry decided what sample of her writing she'd take to the meeting. She printed it off quickly so that Chocolate Chip could again buckle down to her history paper.

Sugarberry was heading for the door to leave when a knock sounded.

"That's Tabby's knock," both she and Chocolate Chip said simultaneously.

Grinning, she opened the door.

"Ready to go to the writer's group, Sug? This is so exciting, isn't it? It's so fascinating writing a story about Furbys. I'm sure it's better then Tiffany's romance, and Tamara's cat-show mystery. Just wait ‘till you hear it, Sugarberry! It's a riot!" Tabby chattered excitedly.

With a wave to Chocolate Chip, Sugarberry exited the house with Tabby, and the two hurried to the library through the quiet nighttime streets.

"Isn't it great when all the baby ponies are home in bed?" remarked Tabby.

"Don't look now, but they're not all tucked in yet," warned Sugarberry as she caught sight of a small shape moving ahead of them.

Hearing voices behind her, Baby Noddins stopped and turned around. "Ooh, Tabby! And Sugarberry! I'm goin' to that writer's meeting thing! Is that where you're going?"

"Baby Noddins," Tabby said firmly, "you're too young to attend."

"Oh, but the sign said that all ages are welcome, Tabby," Baby Noddins wisely contradicted. "Does that mean you are going? Can I read what you wrote?"

"Why, you--"

"Now, girls," Sugarberry mediated. "Let's just get on our way so we won't be late." She took Baby Noddins by the hoof, and they continued on their way.

* * *
All paths seemed to lead to the library that evening. The girls overtook Miss Hackney, who was delighted to see her current and former students taking part in this new venture of Streaky's

Tiffany came from the direction of the Royal Paradise, and Windwhistler just rounded the corner when Sugarberry and crew reached the library.

Upon entering the building, the ponies heard the sound of voices emanating from the conference room. Tamara was already there, as was Butch, Ed, and Bright Glow. Clever Clover and Perry Winkle from Friendship Gardens came in shortly after, as well as Ringlet and Quarterback.

"My, my," beamed Streaky. "This is a better turnout than I anticipated. Baby Noddins, does your mother know that you are here?" To her assistant, Bright Glow, she whispered, "Are we going to have enough cookies and punch?"

Just as the ponies were taking their seats around the conference table for the start of the meeting, Wigwam arrived and quietly joined the group.

Streaky stood and welcomed all the ponies. "This is the official beginning of the Dream Valley Writer's Block, a group dedicated to the sharing of ideas, the improvement of efforts, the learning of new techniques, and the critique of the written word. Now I know that you are all anxious to show-off your unique talents, but first I'd like you to introduce yourselves and tell one important fact from your life that you think would be most interesting to the rest of the group. Baby Noddins, would you like to start?"

From her niche between Tabby and Sugarberry, Baby Noddins leaned forward to better see the faces around the table. "My name is Baby Noddins." She paused momentarily, then asked, "Only one ‘portant fact, Miss Streaky?"

"Yes, Baby Noddins."

"Okay then. I have a Furby. His name is Waylo. That means ‘sleep', you know. But I would like to read my story now."

"Not yet!" Tabby hissed. "It's my turn." She straightened her stance and addressed the group. "I am, of course, Tabby--"

"Tabitha El--" Clever Clover began to whisper under his breath until Tabby silenced him with a venomous glare.

"--and I have been honored to be the first pony to rediscover Atlantis," Tabby finished. Clever Clover looked like he was going to protest, but decided against it.

The introductions snaked around the table, eventually ending with Sugarberry. She hated this kind of thing. All eyes were on her, and she knew she would inevitably stutter or goof-up somehow. But she smiled, and spoke as confidently as possible. "My name is Sugarberry. The most important fact from my life is that Tabby and I have been best friends since we were little fools." Sugarberry gasped as her error became apparent. Ripples of laughter rang through the room. "I mean foals."

"You were right the first time, in Tabby's case," Clever Clover snickered. More laughter followed.

Streaky tried to hide her smile and motioned for the ponies to settle down. Sugarberry tried to disappear into thin air, she was so embarrassed.

"Now," said Streaky," we will get to the heart of this meeting of the Writer's Block-- to share our original work and discuss its merits and improve its flaws."

Baby Noddins' foreleg raised high in the air as she jumped from her chair, begging, "Me first! Me first! Please?"

Tabby swiftly clamped a hoof over the baby pony's mouth and pulled her back down to her chair.

"Thanks for volunteering," Baby Noddins," officiated Streaky, "but I had previously asked Bright Glow to begin this part of the meeting." Beckoning to her assistant, Streaky sat back to listen.

Bright Glow cleared her throat, and began to read. "The air grew balmy and some big, soft clouds swept across the moon. The Harvester felt the dampness of rising dew, and went to the cabin. He looked at it long in the moonlight and told himself that he could see how much the plants, vines, and ferns had grown since the previous night. Without making a light, he threw himself on the bed in the outdoor room, and lay looking through the screening at the lake and sky. He was working his brain to think of some manner in which to start a search for the Dream Girl that would have some probability of success to recommend it, but he could settle on no feasible plan. At last he fell asleep, and in the night soft rain wet his face."*

When she finished, Baby Noddins immediately shot her foreleg up again. "Now me!" she cried.

"I think I should be next," sniffed Tiffany. "After all, I am a princess!"

"Just a moment," cautioned Streaky. "We haven't discussed Bright Glow's work yet."

"Hmm... boring," Tabby sighed, intoning the phrase as a Furby would. Sugarberry shot her a disapproving glance.

"I agree with Tabby," concurred Ringlet. "It was boring."

Streaky appeared upset. "As facilitator of this meeting, I must explain what's expected here. Bright Glow was kind enough to share her reading with us." She glowered around the table. "I would expect that everyone be kind enough to compliment the good points and to offer any constructive criticism in a positive manner."

After letting her words sink in, Streaky invited Baby Noddins to read her contribution.

"Finally? I can read my story? Okay. Here it is." She held her paper high and began reading. "I was walking along home one day when I happened to stumble into a strange and mystical portal made of swirling, mystical energies. It took me to my bedroom. I couldn't find any more portals for awhile, but then I found another that led to my kitchen. A little while later, I found one that took me to Tabby's house. And then--"

"That is enough, Baby Noddins. You can stop now," an agitated Streaky interrupted.

"But I'm not done yet!" Baby Noddins wailed.

Looking at her watch, Streaky explained to the baby pony that time was limited, and to give everyone a chance, she would have to restrict their reading times. "I think for this first meeting, we better just listen to what you have, and we will discuss ways to improve next time. Tiffany, why don't you go next?"

"Thank you. I think I did an exceptional job on this masterpiece of mine." Her face glowing with pride, Tiffany began her literary accomplishment. "One time in a very rich kingdom an extremely far distance away from here lived an extremely beautiful, glamourous, and intelligent queen. She was a glittering pure white pony, and attracted attention wherever she went. All her life she had been pursued by thousands of very handsome and rich suitors, and the day finally came when she had to choose one to marry. It was quite a difficult task to choose between these wealthy stallions, and the beautiful queen lay awake several nights in a row worrying over how she would handle it. She naturally possessed great pose, charm, and grace; and she only worried because she felt herself to be personally involved in such important affairs of her kingdom as this."

"Excuse me, Tiffany, but that will do."

"But the best part is coming up," lamented the princess.

"Time constrictions," Streaky reminded her.

Raising her hoof high, Tamara volunteered for the next reading. "This is my favorite part out of what I wrote," she explained. "I can't believe I never tried writing before. I have such a talent for it." She continued on with her story. "Just as the glamourous Clarissa looked up, another very dignified-looking mare entered the room. Clarissa was very caught-up in the mystery on her hooves, and immediately went over to the newcomer whom she recognized right away as the wealthy Lily.

"Lily was wearing a glorious jewel-studded necklace. The centrally-located gem was an emerald, with shining pearl placed on each side of it. A ruby followed the pearls on each side. There was another set of two pearls after that, followed by diamonds. The clasp was made in an intricate design of genuine gold. Lily also wore a bracelet similar in design to her necklace, but this only included the ruby, two smaller emeralds, and pearls. The clasp on this was also made of pure gold.

"Lily herself was a brilliant yellow with orange mane and tail. Her mane was done in loose, flowing waves; and she wore five diamond-studded barrettes in it. Her tail was also done in this style, but displayed ten of these diamond barrettes.

"Her thoughtful green eyes surveyed Clarissa, who had changed necklaces since the last time the two had met. This necklace was--"

Streaky was beginning to look visibly distraught. "Thank you, Tamara, for sharing that with us." She searched the faces around her, and lit on Ed. "Your turn."

Fortunately for Streaky, Ed had prepared an excellent example of journalistic writing, followed by a paragraph from Tabby's Furby adventure, and Wigwam's native pony tale. Streaky began to relax as more quality pieces were read by Clever Clover, Sugarberry, Windwhistler, Quarterback, and Ringlet.

Miss Hackney offered a glimpse into her autobiography and Butch revealed some startling facts from Bolivia. The evening wound down with a portion of a legal transcript on how to make a will by Friendship Gardens' premier lawyer, Perry Winkle.

Leading a round of applause for the efforts of all concerned, Streaky thanked everyone for attending and invited them to mingle over cookies and punch.

Sugarberry guided Baby Noddins to the snacks and got her situated at the table. Quarterback approached her with several cookies in hoof and harassed her about her slip of tongue. "Fools, foals. I'm sure Tabby finds the words synonymous!"

Sugarberry ignored his remark, and complimented him on his science fiction writing. "I'm happy that you have continued to write your book."

"In another ten years or so, you'll have to advise me on how to get it published," observed Quarterback.

Streaky, who was nearby, overheard the comment. "Oh, Sugarberry," she interrupted, grabbing her foreleg and pulling her to a quiet corner. "I agree with Quarterback that you should address this group concerning the procedure of actually publishing one's work."

"I'd be happy to."

Streaky appeared surprised. "You would? To be honest, Sugarberry, I didn't think you'd be interested in this group at all since you've already been published."

"There's no great call for my work."

"Why, Sugarberry! That's not true! Your books are checked out a great deal, and patrons often ask when your next one will be out."

"They do?" Sugarberry asked in wide-eyed amazement.

"Here comes one of your fans now," whispered Streaky in Sugarberry's ear. Then, out loud, she said, "I'll contact you in a few days about speaking at next month's meeting."

It was Wigwam who had joined the two mares. "Wigwam, you did a wonderful job on your interpretation of the ancient story!" Streaky bubbled before wandering off.

"Yes," agreed Sugarberry. "You must continue to document them." It was then that she noticed a book in Wigwam's hoof-- her first book.

He saw her glance, and held the book out to her. "I would like your autograph, Sugarberry," he stated simply.

Stifling a gasp, Sugarberry smiled warmly and took the book. "My pleasure." And she quickly inscribed in it

I look forward to an autographed copy of your published native pony tales in the near future. Your friend, Sugarberry.

As Sugarberry wrote, Ringlet came to commandeer Wigwam, but he was able to express a brief "thank you" to Sugarberry before he was lugged away.

Tabby now appeared before Sugarberry. "Sugarberry," she raged, "have you any idea how long it's been since we've been to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe?"

"Well, let's go then!" agreed the berry-patterned pony.

Grabbing Tamara, Tiffany, Clever Clover, and Quarterback, the ponies made their escape just as Frostflake appeared to fetch Baby Noddins.

"Mommy, can we go to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, too? That's where Tabby's going."

"No, Baby Noddins. You have school tomorrow and it's already late."

"But, Mommy..." wailed the tired and unhappy foal.

"Don't be foolish, Baby Noddins," reprimanded Frostflake as she took her young one by the hoof and headed down the street.

"Foolish... foalish! Hmm, they are a lot the same," Tabby observed as they, too, got under way.

There were four happy stallions at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe when the assemblage arrived, not to mention Berry Bright and Merry Moments who were also there waiting for Clever Clover and Quarterback.

"How'd it go?" asked Vanguard as Sugarberry collapsed into the reserved chair beside him.

"Not too bad," reflected Sugarberry as she leaned into his solid shoulder. "Not too bad at all."

*excerpt from The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter


The Story of the Magic Injections
by Tabby

All was quiet in Tabby's house. Tabby herself was wasting time staring down at the surface of her table, appearing to be thinking deep thoughts before leaving for work that morning. Tarquin was staring at a picture of Tess. Callie was curled up in the hallway with one eye open, always on the alert. Not a sound pierced the air.

That is, until Tamara ran downstairs screaming, "The flower deliverer is here! Quick, somebody get the door!" However, she was running so fast that it was most convenient for she herself to open the front door.

Tabby tentatively trotted after her cousin. You never knew what Tamara might do when in a frenzy over a flower delivery. She peered out a window, and saw that, indeed, the mysterious cloaked flower deliverer's cart was parked outside. The cart was a rugged and heavy-duty affair, but easily manageable for pulling.

Tamara left the door hanging wide open as she rushed down the porch steps. "Hello! Hello! Mr. Flower Deliverer, do you have something for me?" she said excitedly.

"Won't it be a disappointment if she finds out he stopped at the wrong house?" Tarquin commented as he walked by, on his way back upstairs.

"Yes, and it'd be rather amusing to see," Tabby said, nodding, as she took a step up to the door. "Tamara! You left it hanging wide open," she chided. "Do you know what could happen if-- Callie, get back here!"

All of a sudden, Callie, who had been laying low in the hallway, jumped up and bolted out the door. Tamara had just finished talking to the cloaked flower deliverer, and was walking back to the house with her bouquet. The cart began to pull away.

"Callie! Get back here!" Tabby said coaxingly, following slowly after her cat. Callie just backed away. Tamara was not aware of the situation, as she was staring dreamily down at her bouquet.

At one point, Tabby thought she had Callie cornered, but the fluffy calico was not going to be apprehended that easily. She darted around Tabby and ran away from the house. Unfortunately, her path took her directly under the back of the now-moving cart.

Tabby let out an ear-splitting scream as the fluffy white body disappeared under the turning back wheels. Tamara's eyes opened wide as her flowers fell unnoticed to the ground. The mysterious cloaked flower deliverer, after realizing that a misfortune had occurred, stalled his cart.

"This is a very bad happening indeed," he commented. "I certainly wish I would have seen the scenario sooner."

"Is she going to be all right? I should have remembered to fill her food dish last night. Maybe then she wouldn't hate me so. Oh, I should have paid more attention to her. What am I going to do?" Tabby babbled, dropping down on her knees next to the bleeding body of the cat. Callie looked up at her owner and attempted to stretch out a paw to her.

"You're still a vet, aren't you?" Tamara managed to squeak out.

"I can transport your cat to the clinic," the flower delivered offered. "Put her in the cart." Without waiting for an answer, he carefully lifted Callie's mangled body into his cart. "She's still breathing," he noted as he began to pull away again.

Tabby and Tamara were silent for several moments. Tabby blinked rapidly. "Callie..."

"Is he taking her to the vet clinic?" Tamara asked shakingly.

"I hope he's taking her to the clinic." Tabby regained some of her composure and righted herself again. "I'd better check things out. Tamara, tell Tarquin to go on to the Pokèmon Center. Callie--" With that, Tabby dashed off in the direction the flower deliverer had gone.

"Mr. Flower Deliverer! That's my cat! Wait for me!" Tabby called, starting after the cart. It had gotten a head-start on her, though, and she was only able to catch up to her cat after the cloaked figure had dropped off Callie and was driving away again.

Tabby breathlessly pushed through the entrance door of the clinic. "Is she here? Did he bring her here?" she gasped out.

"Tabby, what in the world happened?" Sugarberry, wide-eyed, was already pacing the room. "The mysterious cloaked flower deliverer ran in with Callie just as the clock struck eight, and..."

"She got run over by the cart. She's going to be okay, isn't she?" Tabby asked anxiously.

"You'll have to ask Thomas." Sugarberry's eyes swept the floor. "He took her into the emergency room."

"She's in pretty bad shape, isn't she?" Tabby said chokingly, recalling how Callie had reached out to her. She'd never done such a thing before in her life. Maybe she really did care about Tabby, after all. Without another word, Tabby headed down the hallway without hesitation to check in on her cat.

"Um, is everything okay here?" Night Glider asked timidly as she entered the clinic with a pet carrier in hoof.

"We're just having a bit of an emergency," Sugarberry swallowed, trying hard to still look professional. "Would you mind seating yourself in the waiting room for awhile?"

Night Glider sensed the tension in the air, and obligingly went in the direction of the arrangement of chairs. Tabby, in the meantime, had taken it upon herself to throw open the door to the emergency room without bothering to announce herself.

"She's going to be okay, isn't she? Won't she? She's got to be!" Getting right to business, Tabby leaved over the counter and stared at the body of Callie.

"Tabby... Tabby, it may not be that easy," Thomas said slowly.

"It won't be? Isn't there anything that can be done?" Tabby's voice rose to the tone of desperation. "You've got to save her!"

"I wish I could, but..." Thomas trailed off, searching for the words to say. "She was hit pretty hard, Tabby."

Tabby stared at Callie's limp body, knowing what was going to come next. "No..." she whispered.

"She's just in pain now. The damage is too extensive." Thomas paused. "She would be best off to be put to sleep."

"Put her to... sleep?"

"It's the only thing I can do for her."

"You can't do it." Tabby said this quite simply and firmly as she straightened.


"Because I'm going to get a magic injection for her."

"A magic injection?" Thomas looked rather startled at this statement, not having heard the term for quite awhile. "I still can't fully believe those things really exist."

"That's because you're upset that I wouldn't tell you where to get them," Tabby said matter-of-factly. "But, no, they are quite real and I'm going to get one for Callie."

"Just where do you get them?" Thomas asked skeptically.

"I wouldn't tell you before, so why would I now? I'm supposed to keep it a secret, and I intend it to stay that way."

"Wouldn't it be easier if you--"

"Just be sure Callie doesn't fade away before I get back," Tabby instructed, walking purposely back to the main room. "And I will be back. With a magic injection."

"Tabby, wait! Shouldn't you--" Thomas tried to keep up with her, but only found that she had already exited the building.

"What is that pony up to now?" Sugarberry looked at Thomas, bewildered.

"I have strict instructions to keep Callie alive until Tabby gets back with a magic injection," Thomas repeated slowly.

"Oh, my..."

"And I still can't understand why she's so secretive about her precious magic injections," Thomas fumed slightly. "The one useful secret is the one she won't say anything about."

"What... what are you going to do about Callie?" Sugarberry said timidly.

"I'll just have to attend to keeping her alive," Thomas sighed, turning. "For Tabby's sake, if nothing else."

After Thomas had disappeared again, Night Glider spoke-up. "Um, Sugarberry, should I come back another time?" She glanced at Bowtie, who had just come in holding a pet carrier as well.

"Eh..." Sugarberry smiled nervously. "Um... Thomas..."

* * *
Tabby trotted defiantly down the path, her thoughts lost in memories of the magic injections.

Magic injections truly did exist, and they truly were magic. They had the power to heal any wound in an animal, no matter how great, in a matter of moments.

It had been a long time ago when Tabby had first ran across the supplier of them in the Dark Forest. She had quickly bought a supply from him, thinking of how easy it would make her job from then on.

As it was, the magic injections had meant the downfall of Tabby's old clinic. Once a pet had been injected, they were immune to nearly every disease they were exposed to. And they therefore had no need to come back for more of Tabby's care. It definitely did make Tabby's job easier-- maybe a little too easy. She didn't feel like she was doing what she had trained for, and with no patients coming in, there was no need to be at her clinic much.

But, apparently, the effects of the magic injections had not lasted forever. At one point, patients started to trickle in again. Tabby used her magic injections on the pets with reservations, knowing that she would soon be in the same situation as before. But it was then that Thomas' clinic had opened, and Tabby had to fight the competition somehow. What better way than with her magic injections?

It was a losing battle, however. Tabby was soon forced to shut down her clinic and go to work for Thomas-- which, in the end, had probably worked out for the better. However, Tabby had still refused to tell anyone where she had gained this mystical medicine. She kept it as a closely-guarded secret. She did this partly because she enjoyed having such a secret to keep from Thomas, and partly because she knew the consequences of using them.

But was it pure greed on Tabby's part to refrain from using the injections? She had to stop and think about that. Certainly they made less work for veterinarians, but the pets were all healthy and it saved the owners a bit of money to only have to pay for one injection. So would it be better to... Tabby shook the thought off. All she was going to worry about now was getting a magic injection to save Callie. She'd ponder over ethical questions later.

The first stop Tabby made was her old vet clinic, which was still left standing abandoned. She could always hope that she had somehow left a magic injection behind, and she could get this over with quickly and easily. She swiftly unlocked the back door and walked inside.

Clever Clover still didn't get the Whale Machine out of here, Tabby thought in annoyance as she peered into the back room. The hulking Atlantean artifact still stood there after an incident last summer. Clever Clover had said he would use it in the museum he was going to start, but he obviously hadn't gotten to that yet.

After scouring all the rooms as closely as she could, the only thing Tabby unearthed was an old crate with the words "MAGIC INJECTIONS" scrawled on the side. However, it was empty.

Well, Tiny will be sure to have one for me, Tabby thought, trotting back outside. She hurried to find her supplier in the Dark Forest.

Tabby could still remember the route well, and she soon found her Bigfoot acquaintance seated in a green clearing in the forest. He was surrounded by Pokèmon, including a Nidoran, Squirtle, Growlithe, and Weedle.

"Hello, Tiny," Tabby greeted him cheerfully.

"Hey, Tabby," Tiny grunted, looking up. "Long time since you were here last."

"Yes, it has been awhile. It would have been... well, anyway." Tabby smoothed back her mane. "I need your help, Tiny."

"What with?" the Bigfoot asked curiously.

"I need a magic injection," Tabby explained. "Do you have any ready?"

Tiny sat in silent contemplation for several minutes. "I don't think so," he finally said.

"Well, can you make one for me, then?" Tabby prodded.

Tiny stayed silent again. "I think I threw the recipe away," he stated.

"What?!" Tabby gasped.

"Or else I sold it at my garage sale last summer," Tiny pondered. "I don't remember. Maybe you can come back another day."

"But it's an emergency!" Tabby wailed. "My cat got run over by the mysterious cloaked flower deliverer, and she's..."

"Wait, I think I remember!" Tiny recalled.

"You mean you still have it?" Tabby said eagerly.

"No," Tiny stated. "I did sell it at my garage sale."

"Well, who'd you sell it to?"

"A guy in a cloak, I think."

"The mysterious cloaked flower deliver bought it?" Tabby's voice rose.

"It might have been him," Tiny said slowly. "One of them."

"One of them?" Tabby looked at him curiously. "Do you know where he lives?"

"I think so," Tiny said. "Wait a second. I get my map." The Bigfoot turned and disappeared into his cave.

While waiting for him to return, Tabby got to know his Pokèmon. "Squirtle squirtle!" Squirtle declared.

"Gro-o-owlithe," Growlithe agreed.

"I found it!" Tiny exclaimed jubilantly, running back outside waving a paper in the air.

"You found the map with the location of the mysterious cloaked flower deliverer?"

"No, I found the recipe for the magic injections."

"What? You said you sold it."

"I guess I didn't," Tiny shrugged. "Now we gather the ingredients."

"What do magic injections require?" Tabby asked cautiously.

"Let's see." Tiny stared down at the paper. "Two and a fourth cups flour. One tablespoon baking soda. One cup of softened margarine. A fourth cup of sugar. Three--"

"Tiny, let me see that." Tabby snatched the paper away and skimmed it over. "Tiny! This is a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, not magic injections!"

"Oops," Tiny scratched his head. "Guess so."

"Tiny, where did you first get the recipe?"

"Oh, that would be my mom."

"Your mom knew how to make magic injections?"

"No, my mom knew how to make chocolate chip cookies."

Tabby sighed. "Where did you get the recipe for the magic injections, then?"

"Some guy. He had a dog along with him."

"Was it a St. Bernard?"

"He didn't tell me his name."

"The dog! Was the dog a St. Bernard?"

"I dunno. He didn't tell me the dog's name either."

"Was the dog's breed that of a St. Bernard?"

"Oh, the breed. Yeah, I guess so."

"I know who he is, then!" Tabby said excitedly. "He's the one that gave me that treasure map, remember? Of course... I don't know where to find him."

"He usually shows up if you're looking for him," Tiny said. "He's very strange. I've seen him several times."

"Well, then, let's start looking for him, shall we?" Tabby prodded. "We haven't time to waste!"

"Okay." Tiny began rustling through the nearest patch of bushes.

"Hey! Mysterious dude with the St. Bernard! We need help!" Tabby shouted out into the forest.

"He ain't in there," Tiny noted, turning away from the bushes.

Tabby went on with her calling, and Tiny kept on beating bushes. After half an hour of this, Tabby grew impatient. "Tiny, will you give me the details on all the times you met this guy?"

Tiny paused. "One time I was walkin' along and he showed up. That was when he gave me that recipe for the magic injections. The other time I was walkin' along and he showed up. That time he gave me my Growlithe. The next time I was walkin' along--"

"Didn't you say that he showed up when you wanted him to?"

"Yes. After he'd showed up, I wanted him to show up."

Tabby sighed and slumped down on a tree stump. The sun was fairly high in the sky, and it shone off the Furby medallion strung around Tabby's neck.

"Your necklace is glowin' pretty," Tiny noted.

Tabby looked down. "Oh, it is, isn't it?" She picked the medallion up in her hoof. The sun certainly was making it glow. Tabby thought it looked mysterious somehow, though.

Not too long after that, the pony and the Bigfoot heard footsteps coming in their direction. They both stared intently into the surrounding forest. And suddenly, before them, stood the man with the St. Bernard.

"I said he came when you wanted him," Tiny said to Tabby.

"Oh, you're just who we wanted to see!" Tabby exclaimed, jumping up from her seat.

"You need my assistance?" the man queried, his St. Bernard sitting obediently next to him.

"Yes, um... Mr. Mysterious Guy with the St. Bernard," Tabby said quickly. "It's concerning a recipe for magic injections... do you remember that?"

"You sold it to me," Tiny reminded him.

"Ah, yes," the man recalled. "You got good use out of it, I presume?"

"We did, but I have an emergency now that requires a magic injection, but Tiny can't find the recipe you sold him," Tabby explained. "Do you happen to have another copy?"

"I thought that might be what you needed." The man immediately pulled out a piece of paper, and looked it over. "This is it. My last copy," he said, handing it over to Tabby.

"Cool, just like the one I had," Tiny said, looking at the sheet over Tabby's shoulder.

"You'll have to get it together quickly," the man advised. "You reached me just in time."

"What do you mean?" Tabby questioned, staring at the bold title at the top of the sheet: MAGIC INJECTIONS.

"Oh, they'll stop working this evening," the man said calmly.

"Stop working?" Tabby gasped. "What...?"

"That's the way with some spells. The warranty runs out," the man explained. "Unfortunate sometimes, but you should still have time to get one together. Goodbye!" And with that, he and his dog were gone.

"Look. It says that on the bottom," Tiny pointed. Tabby was still silent, soaking in the information from the mysterious guy. But Tiny was right; at the bottom of the recipe sheet, printed in small letters, was written, "Offer good through this evening at eight o' clock. No further use will be allowed."

"It says that?" Tabby stared at the paper intently. "Tiny, did yours say that?"

"No. It changed every day."

"What do you mean, it changed every day?"

"One day it said three hundred and seventy-five days left. The next day it said three hundred and seventy-four days left. The next day it said three hun--"

"Creepy," Tabby breathed. "Now, what are the ingredients for this thing... oh, there's only three?" She read them aloud. "Sphinx mushrooms... krulototite... and black blood of the earth?"

"Yeah," Tiny nodded.

"Tiny, do you know where to find any of this stuff? I've never heard of it, let alone found it..." Tabby trailed off.

"Sure," Tiny said nonchalantly. "I found them lots before."

"Where do we go?" Tabby prodded. "We've got to get going!"

"I'll lead you there," Tiny said. "Come on." He headed into the forest.

Tabby sighed as she followed after. Somehow, she didn't think it'd be this difficult to get one magic injection. But she couldn't forget the way Callie had looked at her when she'd stretched out her paw, and Tabby continued on without complaint.

* * *
"Sugarberry, what does getting a magic injection require?" Thomas demanded later that day.

"Well..." Sugarberry paused in thought. "I don't know. Tabby never said anything about how she got them."

"Why is she so secretive over them?"

Sugarberry shrugged. "I don't know that, either."

"It's nearly noon, and she's still not back," Thomas noted.

"How is Callie doing, anyway?"

"She's in stable condition. That's about all I can say."

"I'm sure she'll get back soon," Sugarberry put in kindly, noting the concern in his voice-- whether more for Callie or Tabby, she wasn't sure.

"I certainly hope so," Thomas said softly, staring out the window.

* * *
Meanwhile, Tabby was still walking along behind Tiny. "Tiny, are you sure you know where we're going?"

"I think so," Tiny grunted.

"You know, the scenery is beginning to look awfully familiar," Tabby noted. "We haven't already been this way, have we?"

Tiny paused. "Not that I know of."

"How long is it until we get to the place we're going?"

"I don't know. Not too long."

Suddenly, the trees began to thin out on the path they were walking. A patch of grass was revealed ahead. And beyond that... a rugged, sloping, gray mountain range.

"That's it!" Tabby cried. "This is where I went to find that treasure!"

"Oh, that time," Tiny recalled. "Did you ever get that?"

"Mm... no," Tabby said quickly, leaving it at that. She didn't add that she had simply chickened out that time.

"Start climbing," Tiny instructed, pulling himself up over a large boulder at the base of the mountain and waiting for Tabby to follow.

"Big fun," Tabby murmured, jumping up after him. At least the Bigfoot seemed to remember the trail to the place he was seeking, as he managed to lead Tabby to the place fairly quickly, even if it was a ways up the mountain.

The two now stood before a small opening in the rocks. "In here," Tiny motioned, ducking his head down and disappearing inside. Tabby followed.

"I think this is the place the map said the treasure would be," Tabby said in interest, looking around at the dark, rocky surroundings inside the tunnel in the mountain. "I wonder if I'll find anything."

"We look for ingredients now," Tiny decided. "What were they?"

"Umm... let's see..." Tabby looked at the recipe again. "Sphinx mushrooms, krulototite, and black blood of the earth. Are you sure you know where to find this stuff? Is it all in this cave?"

Tiny scratched his head. "That's what I remember." He turned left in the tunnel.

"What're you going to look for first?" Tabby asked, running after him.

"Whatever we find first," Tiny replied.

"Ah," Tabby said, lapsing into silence.

Tiny kept making turns in the passages, but Tabby wasn't sure if he really knew what he was doing. However, much to her relief, the Bigfoot finally stooped down to the ground and said, "Here something."

Tabby looked around in the passage they had just entered. There didn't seem to be anything, but then she noticed a white powdery substance covering the floor. "Oh, this stuff?" She stooped down and scooped some up in her hoof.

"Yep. Krulototite," Tiny said, pulling out a small glass vile. He filled it with the fine powder and then stood up. "Now for sphinx mushrooms and black blood of earth."

"What's this black blood of the earth? Oil?" Tabby questioned.

"No, it's black blood of the earth," Tiny answered.

"Ah, of course," Tabby nodded. "Are you sure you know your way?"

"I'll find it," was all Tiny answered.

Tabby found that walking through dark stone passages could become rather boring when you didn't exactly know what you were doing. Tiny never stopped, so she could only hope that he knew where to go.

"Tiny, I think this is a dead-en--" Tabby began at one point, but suddenly stopped as she felt the elevation lower under one front hoof. She quickly pulled it up, and saw that it was covered with a thick, black substance. "What in the world? There's some kind of pool here!"

The darkness was greater in this tunnel, and after their eyes had adjusted to it, the two could make out a small, deeply-recessed pool. A stalagmite rose out of the center. The liquid looked extremely dark, and did not appear to be water.

"Black blood of the earth," Tiny said simply, pulling out another vile and dipping it into the pool.

"Wow, cool!" Tabby was trying to rub as much of the stuff off her hoof as she could.

"Now mushrooms," Tiny said, capping off the vile and heading back down the tunnel.

"Tiny, do you hear something?" Tabby held her ear up against the cave wall. There seemed to be a muted humming of sorts coming from beyond it.

"Maybe," Tiny decided after listening on his own.

"You said these caverns are uninhabited, didn't you?" Tabby questioned cautiously.

"They were last time," Tiny said.

"It doesn't seem like anybody would move into a cave..."

"Unless there were low mortgage rates," Tiny corrected. "Let's see." He turned right, heading towards the noise.

As Tabby and Tiny proceeded further, the noise became louder. The made turns in tunnels several times, but suddenly emerged into a huge circular cavern with a high ceiling. And, much to Tabby's surprise, it was packed full of... mysterious cloaked flower deliverers! There was no doubt about it; this band of human figures were all dressed identically, and looked exactly like the well-known flower deliverer in Ponyland. They were all synchronized in chanting a strange rhyme.

"I hope flower deliverers are fairly easy on intruders," Tabby said weakly.

"Somebody must have moved in," Tiny said casually, obviously not too frightened by all the figures. "Look. Sphinx mushrooms!" He pointed across the floor, where bunches of these orange mushrooms were scattered around in clusters.

"Are you sure they're sphinx mushrooms?" Tabby whispered. "Keep your voice down!" The two were still on the edge of the cavern, and the cloaked figures had their backs turned to them.

Tiny was already busily picking several of the fungi and throwing them in a container he had brought along for the purpose. However, as he reached for one last mushroom, his hand brushed against the cloak of one of the chanting figures.

The figure slowly turned around, and the others around him followed suite. Soon, the whole congregation of mysterious cloaked flower deliverers had turned to face Tiny and Tabby, pointing and murmuring among themselves.

"Um, Tiny," Tabby swallowed, "I think we should get out of here."

"Okay. I got the mushrooms," Tiny consented.

However, a row of the figures had somehow managed to slip behind the unicorn and the bigfoot, sealing the way they had come in. Now they were entirely encircled by the foreboding figures.

"Tiny," Tabby said softly, "I think there's another tunnel entrance on the other side. We're going to make a run for it on the count of three."

"Cool," Tiny said.

Tabby looked around nervously as the mysterious cloaked figures began to advance in on their ground even further. "Alright. One... two... three! Run, Tiny!"

Tiny and Tabby took off running, plowing their way through the rows of figures. The cavern was absolutely packed, and not knowing what powers these people possessed, neither of the two could tell if they would make it to the tunnel entrance or not.

They managed to make their way to the passageway, however, after dashing through the horde. The two ran as quickly as they could down the passageway. They didn't stop to look, but they could hear the swishing of cloaks as the figures filed into the tunnel and chased after them.

Tabby and Tiny kept running. The cloaked figures were fairly quick and agile in the tunnels, however, and were still directly behind the two. Even Tabby did not care now whether they knew where they were going or not.

The mysterious figures suddenly began murmuring amongst themselves again. Tabby didn't know what they were saying, and wasn't in too much of a hurry to find out. However, luck was on her and Tiny's side. As they turned a corner, bright sunlight flooded in the corridor from an opening on the other end. The figures shied back in obvious discontent.

Tiny and Tabby dashed through the hole in the mountain, and emerged back into the outside work. They stumbled down the slope, but they hoped the mysterious figures wouldn't be following them.

They finally reached the bottom of the mountain, and stopped to catch their breath. Tiny cautiously looked up. "No flower deliverers," he said.

Tabby stared up the slope as well. There wasn't a sign of the mysterious figures. "I guess they didn't like the sunlight," she theorized. "Lucky for us."

"All the ingredients are here now," Tiny said, making sure his containers were still on him. "We go back to my cave to make the injection."

"I hope it's not too late for Callie," Tabby worried. "This is taking longer than I expected."

"Wait. We on the other side of the mountain now," Tiny said suddenly.

"The other side?" Tabby said in alarm. "We're not going to have to go back through..."

"No, there's a passage through it," Tiny assured her. "But it's a ways down from here. We get through that, and then through the forest to my cave. Follow me..."

* * *
Tabby was not sure how long it took to get back to Tiny's cave in the Dark Forest, but it seemed like hours; and by the darkening in the sky, it appeared to be late afternoon. Would Callie still be...?

"Can I see recipe?" Tiny questioned, sitting down on the ground with his array of ingredients surrounding him. His Pokèmon were still loose, and had been waiting for his return.

"Oh, yes, of course." Tabby quickly handed the paper over to him, and Tiny got to work. "It doesn't take that long to make a magic injection, does it? There's still time, isn't there?"

"There should be, I think," Tiny said, engrossed in the mixing of the ingredients. He had brought out a variety of small bowls and was busy mashing things together. "It still says it's good through eight o' clock tonight."

"If it's four o' clock now, that's only four hours left," Tabby figured. "And I've left Callie for eight hours... oh, I hope it's not too late!"

"Magic injections only work on living creatures," Tiny noted.

A chill ran up Tabby's back. "Oh, Tiny, don't say that!"

Tiny nodded, and the clearing was silent except for the noises of Tiny's mixing. Tabby paced around nervously. Tiny's Pokèmon tried to cheer Tabby up.

Tabby thought an eternity had passed before Tiny announced, "Magic injection all ready." He held up the bowl with a strange-colored mixture in it. "Let me find a syringe." He placed the bowl on the ground and disappeared into his cave.

Tabby watched over the bowl carefully, making sure it did not leak out or some such evil. Now she was beginning to get really nervous.

Tiny managed to find one last syringe from his supply, and thoughtfully poured the mixture in. He held it up in the air. "Finished!"

Tabby took the syringe from him with trembling hooves. "Oh, thank you, Tiny," she said earnestly. "I'm really eternally grateful to you. And now I've got to get back to Dream Valley with this."

"Don't tell anyone where it came from," Tiny reminded. "I don't want a lot of visitors out here."

"I won't, Tiny," Tabby winked. "Goodbye!" With that, she took off running through the forest.

* * *
"Sugarberry," Thomas said firmly, "no matter how magical they are, it shouldn't take a full day to get an injection ready."

"She... I don't remember her being gone this long myself," Sugarberry confessed.

"And I don't think Callie's going to last much longer," Thomas said with regret.

"You did the best you could," Sugarberry said consolingly.

"That still won't change the fact that Tabby has vanished," Thomas snapped.

"I know, but..." Sugarberry said helplessly. "You've got to trust her. She said she'd be back, and she will."

"That's what you said four hours ago."


"I'm sorry, Sugarberry. I didn't meant to snap at you like that."

"That's okay. I understand."

"You're free to go home now, you know. It's after four."

"No," said Sugarberry firmly, "I'll wait with you."

"Hey, guys, miss me yet? This is when you're getting all sappy over me, right? Just as I thought." Tabby's arrival was a bit of a shock to Sugarberry and Thomas, especially considering her flippant matter.

"But, before you say anything, I really must give this to Callie. It isn't eight o' clock already, is it? I certainly hope not, or it won't work..." Tabby breezed on down the hallway, wielding her syringe.

Thomas and Sugarberry hurried after her. "Is that really a magic injection?" she breathed in awe.

"What other kind of an injection would I have come back with? No, this is the real thing." Tabby posed it over Callie's body. "Ah, good, she's still alive."

"This I have got to see," was all Thomas could say.

With one quick movement of Tabby's hoof, Callie was injected. Tabby stood back, a bit smug, while the other two watched in amazement. The open wounds which had been inflicted by the cart healed over in record time. Fur grew back where it had been tore off. The cat's breathing began returning to normal.

"I told you I could do it," Tabby said triumphantly.

"I didn't think you could," Thomas said, mystified.

Tabby picked up the sleeping body of her cat. "Poor thing. She'll still have to sleep off the excitement from today."

"After this, though, I'm not going to be so quick in demanding magic injections," Thomas said wryly.

"Why's that?" Tabby questioned.

"Well, we didn't know where you were or what you were getting yourself into the whole day," Thomas pointed out.

"Besides, the recipe for the magic injections runs out tonight, anyway," Tabby said matter-of-factly.

"What do you mean by that?" Sugarberry asked, raising an eyebrow.

"That's what the guy with the St. Bernard said, at least," Tabby continued. "But-- oh, I won't get into that," she yawned, burying her face in Callie's fluff.

"Shall we head to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe now?" Sugarberry anticipated.

"No, I was thinking I'd just go home," Tabby replied, much to the surprise of Sugarberry and Thomas. "It can be very tiring to escape hordes of flower deliverers. She made her way wearily down the hallway with Callie in hoof. "G'night, everyone," she mumbled before slipping out the door.

* * *
Several days later, Tabby received an envelope with an unique return address--

Tiny the Bigfoot

Cave in the Dark Forest

Dream Valley

"Hm, Tiny's never sent me anything through the mail before," Tabby said curiously. "I wonder what he's up to." She quickly slit the envelope with a letter opened.

She extracted a piece of paper from the envelope, and upon unfolding it, she immediately recognized it as the recipe for the magic injections. A note from Tiny was scrawled on it--

Look, Tabby. It did run out. You can keep it.

Tabby glanced down to the bottom of the page. Indeed, the line now read, "Offer expired. Thank you for using our service."

"Most fascinating," Tabby murmured. "Weird. Oh, I'm so glad we got Callie back!" She sentimentally reached out to pick up her cat, who was just walking through the area. Callie immediately hissed and ran out of the room.

"Oh, well," Tabby sighed. The way Callie had stretched her paw out to her was obviously a coincidence, and the experience had not changed the cat any. She was still the same obstinate Callie as before. "Still, she's awfully pretty to have around, even if she hates me," Tabby reasoned.

Tabby tucked the recipe back in its envelope, and hurried upstairs to stick it in one of her desk drawers, lest prying eyes should see Tiny's address. That was it for the magic injections. Now they were gone forever.

*If you would like to read about Tabby's, Sugarberry's, and the rest of the gang's past adventures, you can view them all at the following address:

Plus, for pictures and profiles of all the main characters, you can go here:


The Insane Crossover Story
Chapter Seven
by Tabby, Merry Treat, and Barnacle
With some help from Vixie

To the leaders of this group:

Whereas I'm certain you will protest against our ways parting, I find it necessary that I and my assistant Pinky return to my lab so I can continue to try to take over the world. The amphibious creature known as Jar Jar has decided to depart along with us.


Your future world leader,


P.S. from Pinky: Narf. Poit. Goodbye, Merry Treat and the rest of you.

P.P.S. from Jar Jar: Meesa goin' now! Maybe meesa seein' youssa guys again!

Such was the letter that Tabby found stuck under Tarquin's backpack the morning after they had departed from Tokyo. "Mm, that's unfortunate," she mumbled, fairly unconcerned.

The rest of the group was beginning to stir from their night's rest. "What's that?" Merry Treat asked curiously as she noted the paper Tabby was staring at.

"Our numbers are really dropping," Tabby said simply, handing the note over to Merry Treat.

"Oh, no!" Merry Treat gasped after scanning it over. "Jar Jar-- and Pinky-- and the Brain--"

"What's going on?" Sailor Jupiter yawned, rolling up her sleeping bag.

"No trouble, I hope," Sailor Mercury added in concern.

"Hey, the mice are gone!" Tarquin said suddenly, rising from his slumber and just beginning to take note of the commotion around him. "They were next to me last night."

"They've left, along with Jar Jar," Merry Treat lamented.

"Oh, dear," Tess sighed. "That means that there's only Tarquin, Spearow, and I--"

"--and me and Merry Treat," Tabby added.

"--and us scouts left," Sailor Venus finished.

"Hey, what are we, chopped liver?" Max demanded.

"Well, you have been known to resemble that particular organ from time to time," Sam added good-naturedly.

"But only when I've had too much to drink."

"You don't drink, Max!" Sam chuckled.

"Oh, yeah," Max replied. "Maybe I should just go take down some wild game for breakfast?" He pulled out a gun.

"I'm beginning to see why Petunia Petal gave up on that Max," Tess sweat-dropped.

"Well, we can't just stand around all day," Sailor Mars prodded. "Let's get moving."

"Right," Sailor Jupiter agreed. "We've got to... we've got to... what was that we were doing?"

"It was something to do with snakes and movies," Tabby recalled.

"Look," Sailor Mars groaned. "Sailor Moon hasn't gotten up yet. We're going to be here all day waiting for her."

"It's really not good to sleep late like she does," Sailor Mercury agreed. "It could--"

"Do you suppose we should wake her up?" Tess asked tentatively, stepping over to Sailor Moon's still body.

Tarquin stepped forward, unsheathing his claws. "I can take care of his." Before anyone could stop him, he had leaped onto the girl's face and had left some burning red marks on it.

"Tarquin!" Tess gasped.

"I couldda done that," Max said.

"You don't even have claws, Max," Sam remarked.

"But I do have big teeth!" Max added.

Tarquin's move did the trick, however. Sailor Moon was immediately back up on her feet. "What happened?! My face!!" she wailed, holding her hands up to it in an attempt to numb the pain. "Who did this?! It hurts! Hey... where am I? Somebody help me!!"

A little while later, the situation had been explained to Sailor Moon, and she was beginning to calm down once some ointment had been applied to the scratches on her face.

"You should get that feature built into your alarm clock, Sailor Moon," Sailor Venus giggled.

"Grr, don't even think it!" Sailor Moon growled.

"Have some cherry pie filling," Tabby offered. "It'll make you feel better."

After everyone had eaten a refreshing breakfast of cherry pie filling, they headed onwards. Spearow scouted ahead, and it didn't seem like they'd be running across any landmarks that would lead them to whatever they were looking for. Not very long after they had started out again, Sailor Mercury made an announcement.

"I have bad news, everybody," she stated, tucking away her palm-top computer.

"A message from the commissioner?!" Sam gasped.

"No, I just got a message from Luna," Sailor Mercury said, looking strangely at Sam.

"Luna? Is everything okay?" Sailor Moon asked anxiously.

"She says we're needed back in Tokyo," Sailor Mercury clarified. "There's a monster attacking."

"The Negaverse must have just been waiting for us to leave," Sailor Mars fumed.

"C'mon! We've got to hurry back!" Sailor Venus cried.

"Eh... what should we do?" Tabby questioned.

"You'd be best to stay out of this," Sailor Jupiter advised. "We wouldn't want you getting hurt."

"I think we should go with them," Merry Treat said firmly. "Or at least I will."

"Oh, a monster is the most fun we've had on this whole trip," Tabby yawned. "I'll tag along."

The Sailor Scouts had already run ahead, and the two ponies and their Pokèmon hurried to catch up, and Sam and Max came along as well. "Won't the city already be ravaged by the time we get back there?" Tabby queried, but no one answered.

The group arrived back in Tokyo in record time. They could see the form of a giant, feathery orange bird hovering over the city.

"That thing would look great mounted on our wall back home!" Max exclaimed.

Luna and Artemis, the two cats, came running towards the scouts. "The Giant Condor was certainly sent by the Negaverse," Luna fretted. "Oh, I'm glad you girls are here!"

"We hurried back as fast as we could," Sailor Venus said.

"It must have struck a deal with them to gain infinite power," Artemis noted. "Be careful, scouts."

"We will!" Sailor Moon promised, and the scouts ran towards the hulking bird in order to unleash their powers upon it.

"Venus Crescent Beam Smash!" Sailor Venus cried.

"Jupiter Thunder Crash!" Sailor Jupiter shouted.

"Mercury Bubbles Blast!" Sailor Mercury screamed.

"Mars Fire Ignite!" Sailor Mars yelled.

"Moon Tiara Magic!" Sailor Moon expressed.

"Ooh, fun," Tabby breathed, watching the impressive show of fire, lightning, fog, and such from the Sailor Scouts' attacks. "Dramatic, too."

"That thing looks almost like a giant Fearow," Tarquin theorized.

The Giant Condor didn't appear to be phased at all by the attacks, and went on flying over the city. The Sailor Scouts were shocked.

"It's very powerful indeed," Sailor Mercury noted.

"We can't give up," Sailor Venus pledged.

"This may be your toughest battle yet, scouts," Artemis said in concern, he and Luna catching up to the girls.

"But if we didn't hurt him at all this time..." Sailor Moon faltered.

Just then, there seemed to be a commotion over on the shore side of the city. A huge, hulking green mass was emerging from the water. It was... Godzilla! The humongous monster crashed through buildings, heading towards the Giant Condor.

"EEK!" Max shrieked. "It's a guy in a big rubber suit and he's smashing a model of Tokyo!"

"Wrong, little buddy," Sam said calmly. "That's Godzilla, king of the monsters and star of numerous Japanese monster flicks."

"OOH! Do ya think Raymond Burr might be around somewhere?"

"It's Godzilla!" Sailor Mars exclaimed. "What's he doing here?"

"He must have come to help fight against the Giant Condor," Luna reasoned.

Godzilla was steadily making his way towards the condor. Buildings fell in his wake as he let out the occasional scream. The gathered assembly, even the Sailor Scouts themselves, stood motionless in spellbound silence as the scene before them unfolded.

Godzilla was obviously getting excited, as he was jumping up in the air and throwing his arms up, still screeching from time to time. This behavior really only caused more destruction to the city, but everyone was rooting for the mutated dinosaur. He let out another screech as he made more movements with his arms.

All of a sudden, Godzilla blasted the Giant Condor with a hazy green blast emitted from his mouth. Again, it appeared to have no effect on the bird.

"Giant Condor, Gust Attack, N--" Tabby began to shout out before stopping herself . "Oh, yeah!" she recalled. "This isn't a Pokèmon battle, is it?"

"The Giant Condor is gaining more power," Artemis noted.

The Giant Condor began to flap his wings, creating a powerful wind, hanging in the air as if suspended there. The gust caught Godzilla, and he was pushed to the ground and proceeded to pretend as if he were being blown from side to side, screaming all the while. The stray piece of debris flew by once in awhile, along with dust, as if giant fans were blowing just off camera.

Just as everyone thought all hope was lost, Godzilla managed to right himself, destroying another building in the process. Godzilla was back in the action! He jumped up and down several times triumphantly.

"Personally, I think this would be a lot better with a big American budget and some extensive CGI special effects," Max commented.

"Maybe with Matthew Broderick in the starring role," Sam added.

"Yes, but the critics would never go for it," Max corrected.

"Anything would be better than this crud, Max," Sam said.

The Giant Condor circled in the sky again and came back with another attack at Godzilla. White streaks of lightning-like energy came out of his eyes, striking everything around Godzilla. The occasional blast did hit Godzilla, creating a large booming explosion and an insincere howl of pain.

Godzilla had only managed to knock into a few more buildings before getting knocked down again by the Giant Condor's eyebeams. Godzilla tossed around, his tail striking several complexes.

"He's down again!" Sailor Moon said anxiously.

Luckily, Godzilla was still not done for, and got back up on his hind legs, doing another victory dance. He waved his arms at the Giant Condor.

Without warning, the Giant Condor swooped down from the sky towards Godzilla. The scouts stifled a gasp, but Godzilla was quick and grabbed the bird as it came past him. The Giant Condor screeched, and Godzilla screamed back.

"Godzilla has nearly defeated him!" Sailor Mercury cheered.

"I like Pokèmon battles better," Tabby commented. "There's usually less of a mess afterwards."

Godzilla kept a firm grip on the Giant Condor while doing a few more dance steps. He charged back towards the bay, smashing more things and creating more destruction while wielding the condor.

"Row, spear, row!" Spearow chattered excitedly. Perhaps this Giant Condor was a distant relative of his.

With a humongous smash, Godzilla slammed the Giant Condor into the sea. Everyone hardly dared breath to see what the outcome would be. But, after the waves had calmed, there was no sign of the bird. He was gone, sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

Godzilla jumped and waved. He had had his fun for the day. He turned back to the ocean himself, his tail managing to strike one last standing establishment. Wading in, the giant monster swam away into the sunset.

"Yes! Godzilla saved the day!" the Sailor Scouts cheered.

"And caused more damage than the condor, too!" Max added.

"That's such a nice ending," Tabby sniffled.

"Do you think we defeated the Negaverse this time, Artemis and Luna?" Sailor Venus questioned.

"You girls did a good job," Luna confirmed. "I'm sure your attacks did weaken the Giant Condor. Godzilla couldn't have done it without you."

"I guess we'd better stay here now," Sailor Jupiter commented. "If we leave again, the Negaverse will just do this same thing over."

"We'll miss having you guys around," Merry Treat said. "Maybe we'll meet again."
"Spear, row," Spearow agreed.

"I'm getting sick of this adventuring, anyway," Tabby sighed. "What do you say we just head back to Dream Valley?"

"That's probably not a bad idea, considering we don't know what we went out to do," Tess commented.

"It was nice having you ponies around," Luna said graciously. "Good luck on getting home!"

"Yes, we'll always remember you," Sailor Mercury added.

"As for me, I could really go for some cheesecake after this," Sailor Moon said suddenly. "I don't think the cake shop was destroyed."

"Sounds great to me! Alright! Let's go!" With the chorus of replies, the Sailor Scouts ran off down the street. Luna and Artemis followed after at a slower pace, saying their goodbyes to Tabby, Merry Treat, Tarquin, Tess, Spearow, Sam, and Max.

And with that, they went on their way again, leaving Tokyo, the Sailor Scouts, and Godzilla behind.

To be continued...

*To view past chronicles of The Insane Crossover Story, go here--


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Our next issue will be sent February first.


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