My Little Pony Monthly Issue 60 (March 1, 2002)

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Issue 60
March 2002

Index of this issue--

1. The Insane Crossover Story Chapter Eleven (by Tabby and Barnacle)

2. Photo Session Part 1 (by Baby Jedi)

3. Fallacious Findings (by Sugarberry)

4. Night Mares (by C. Alan Loewen)

5. Icon’s Imbroglio (by Sugarberry)


The Insane Crossover Story
Chapter Eleven
by Tabby and Barnacle ( and

“Confound it,” Tabby muttered under her breath, catching sight of an approaching object on the horizon. “I thought we’d lost him.”

“Who?” asked Tarquin.

“The flying t-shirt,” the pink unicorn intoned grimly.

“We never had a flying t-shirt,” Prince Adam said, puzzled.

“Yes, we did,” Tabby corrected. “He’s your buddy. You forgot him already?”

“Hey, it’s Orko!” Adam exclaimed, noticing the approaching figure.

“Duh,” Tabby rolled her eyes. “That’s what I was just telling you.”

“No, Tabby, I’m afraid you’re wrong. You were just telling me we had a flying t-shirt on the team,” Adam argued. “You shouldn’t make up lies to make yourself look better.”

“Stop uttering nonsense, Adam,” Tabby snapped. “I wasn’t lying. Orko is a flying t-shirt.”

“No, he’s not.”

“Yes, he is!”

“Hey, guys! What’s up?” a cheery voice interjected.

“AHHHHH!!!!” Tabby shrieked, jumping back abruptly at the sight of the red object floating between her and Adam. “IT FOUND US!!! RUN!!!” Promptly, she took off into the forest.

“Orko! Good to see you again,” Adam said warmly. “Sorry about leaving you behind in California.”

“Yeah, we kinda thought we’d never see you again,” Tarquin added obliquely.

“Ah, I would have been happy to stay with Kimber there at Starlight Mansion,” Orko said wistfully. “But then some other guy she knew showed up– Jeff, I think it was– and we had a big fight, and finally he tossed me out on the street and told me to leave Kimber alone,” he finished ruefully.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Adam said. “I thought you were looking beat-up. Then there’s that Rio! I don’t know what his problem was. Well, at least we still have all of their albums. Say, I picked up their latest in the last town we passed through. Wait until you see the cover picture of Jem. I mean...”

Tarquin left the two to chatter about Jem and the Holograms while he went off to hunt up Tabby.

* * *
Later that night, Tabby had reconciled herself enough with Orko to join the group around the blazing campfire. She sat gazing idly into the flames, pondering the condition of her life. “What a twisted journey this has turned into!” she stated aloud. “What ever made me run off like this, anyway?”

“To defend innocents from King Hiss, of course,” Adam said promptly.

“As if! No, I think we set off to seek revenge on somebody, didn’t we, Tarkie?”

“Could be,” Tarquin said absently. “I really can’t remember.”

“Well, anyway, I have no clue what we’re doing any more,” Tabby rambled on. “I mean, what started out as a simple quest to seek revenge turned into this... well, whatever this is! For some demented reason complete strangers we ran into felt obliged to accompany us– well, a majority of them got sick of it already, as you can see by our failing numbers; even Sam and Max have apparently left our ranks!– and we completely lost sight of our goal! What are we aiming for?” Tabby ended her speech only to realize that no one was listening to her any longer.

“Did you say something, Tabby?” Adam said idly.

“And of course you and Orko would be the two to linger on,” Tabby retorted. “I wish I could just go home!”

“Don’t worry, Tabby, we’ll get you back!” Orko offered.

“That’s right; I, He-Man, and Orko will be glad to defend you from any dangers that may arise on your journey home,” Adam added.

“That is such an honor,” Tabby said sarcastically. “And where is Ponyland by now, anyway? Is it even possible to find our way back?”

“Well, we got completely lost quite a few chapters back,” Tarquin considered. “So, maybe not.”

“So we’re doomed to spend the rest of our days wandering aimlessly through strange, deluded lands!” Tabby lamented. “That is so unfair.”

“We’ll have to make the best of it, in any case,” Tarquin concluded. “Actually, I’ve kinda been enjoying myself.”

“Hmm... I guess that could be true,” Tabby considered. “Besides the occasional idiots we’ve run into–” she shot a pointed glance across the fire at Adam and Orko– “it’s been quite an adventure. Life in Dream Valley was pretty boring, anyway. Hey, we’ve been moping around for nothing– or I have, at least! Let’s explore strange, deluded lands together for the rest of our lives, gang!” she suddenly exclaimed energetically, unthinkingly including He-Man and Orko in the invitation.

“YEAH!” everybody chimed in.

Glancing at the two opposite her, Tabby began to wonder the wiseness of her proposition; but it was too late to back out now, and, hey, it would be pretty fun, even with those two losers tagging along. It was good to have a purpose again, she decided as she dropped off to sleep.

* * *
The next morning, Tabby woke up early and made her way to a nearby creek, and proceeded to gulp in several gallons of water. Before she was quite finished, though, she was interrupted by a timid voice. “Excuse me, miss, if it isn’t a bother, I was just wondering– I don’t suppose you’ve happened to see any of my friends around, have you?”

Startled, Tabby lifted her head up and, with water dripping down her chin, she observed a soft-looking lavender cat in a quaint dress matching her fur color. “How cute!” she exclaimed.

“Oh, well, that’s very kind of you,” the little cat blushed. “I wouldn’t have intruded on you, you see, but I am becoming quite desperate to find my friends! It’s really a dreadful situation.”

Tabby pondered this for a moment. “Yes, yes, of course. Well, what do your friends look like? The only other persons in the area besides my pet are a wimpy prince dude and a flying red t-shirt; I don’t suppose that would be them?”

The kitty shook her head sadly. “No, I’m afraid that’s not them. You’re sure you haven’t seen anyone else?”

“No, but I can help you look, if you can give me some descriptions to go by. By the way, what’s your name? I’m Tabby.”

“I am Puffalump Kitty,” she announced grandly. “Well, Lavender Puffalump Kitty, technically. My cousin is Yellow Puffalump Kitty, you see, but since we live in different groups we usually shorten our names. Oh, yes! The others– well, they’re about my size, but different colors, and– well, different kinds of animals. There’s Puffalump Bear, and Puffalump Puppy, and Puffalump Cow, and Puffalump Bunny, and Puffalump Lamb...”

“I get the picture,” Tabby held up her hoof to silence her. “Now, they’re all lost? What were the circumstances surrounding their disappearances? Was it a group abduction, or did you go one by one?”

Puffalump Kitty shuddered. “Oh, I do hope it’s nothing like an abduction, but I am getting worried! No, it happened gradually. Puffalump Lamb was the first; she had been out walking with Puffalump Cow and as they were crossing a bridge, she slipped and fell into the river and was swept away into the rapids. Puffalump Cow looked for her and got the rest of us for help, but we couldn’t find a trace of her.”

“How horrific!” Tabby said sympathetically.

“And that was only the beginning,” Puffalump Kitty said sadly. She continued to list the sad fates of the rest of her gang: separations that occurred on long trips, wandering off alone, never returning from shopping trips. Each incident ended the same way; no trace was to be found.

“And now I’m the only one left,” Puffalump Kitty said tearfully. “If there truly is someone behind all this–”

Puffalump Kitty was unable to finish her statement, so it was just as well that Tabby’s companions burst in on the scene at this moment. “ ‘Morning, Tabby,” Tarquin yawned. “We thought we heard you over here– say, who’s she?”

“This is Lavender Puffalump Kitty,” Tabby introduced them. “And Kitty– these are my, er, friends– Tarquin, Prince Adam, Orko, Sam, and Max-- Sam and Max?? Hey, wait a second! Where did you two come from?”

“We heard you were about to serve breakfast,” Sam explained.

“Puffalump Bunny!” Puffalump Kitty gasped, catching sight of Max. “Oh, wait, you’re not...”

“EEP!” Max exclaimed, ducking behind Sam. “This is going to be another of those Tea Bunny fiascos, isn’t it?”

“We’re pleased to make your acquaintance, Lavender Puffalump Kitty,” Prince Adam said solemnly, turning to the Puffalump.

“Ooh!” Orko said excitedly. “I just thought of something. Would you like to join us for breakfast, Lavender Puffalump Kitty? Made by myself!”

“Oh, please, you may all call me Puffalump Kitty,” the Puffalump said demurely. “And I should love to join you for breakfast, if I wouldn’t be intruding.”

“That will be perfect!” Tabby said brightly, even if she was not overly fond of Orko’s cooking. “Then you can acquaint all of the others with your plight, and then we can organize a plan of action.”

Puffalump Kitty expressed her heartfelt thanks and followed them back to their camp. Over plates of unidentifiable burnt food items, they discussed the problem; and as Kitty finished her story, Prince Adam hurriedly excused himself and ran off into the forest; shortly thereafter, following a tremendous flash of lightning which seemed very out of place on the clear day, He-Man appeared on the scene.

“Prince Adam told me of your plight,” the handsome barbarian said gravely. “I will be happy to aid you in any way I can.”

“Very kind of you, sir!” Puffalump Kitty said gratefully. “We had just decided on taking ourselves up in my hot air balloon to do some aerial scouting, if you’d like to join us.”

“I’d be honored,” He-Man replied.

With that, the troupe made their way to the Puffalumps’ village and loaded themselves into the yellow woven basket of the balloon Kitty had spoken of. Puffalump Kitty, adept at using this piece of transportation, soon had them lifted high into the air; and with binoculars, they all scouted the landscape for signs of Kitty’s missing friends.

“No sign of the twerps anywhere,” Tabby, her mind wandering, said in disappointment, peering through her pair of binoculars with Tarquin doing the same perched on the rim beside her.

Max jumped up besides Tarquin. “That’s right, we need to catch that Pikachu for the boss!”

“Hold up, little buddy! Wrong cartoon!” Sam reminded.

“Aw, come on, can’t I have a Pikachu?” Max pleaded.

“No. Remember what you did with the last one?”

“Oh, come on! He got better.”

Anyway, they looked on for quite some time but couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary in their aerial perspective of the rolling hills and gently flowing rivers. Finally, He-Man suggested they go back to the Puffalump village and search the premises carefully.

On the ground again, the group swarmed throughout the small village looking for signs of the departed residents. Tabby had been searching through Puffalump Bunny’s bedroom until she spotted the computer system set up in the corner. “Ooh!” she squealed, dashing over to it. “I wonder if it has internet access?” Soon she was happily surfing eBay, and that was where the others found her when they regrouped sometime later.

“Tabby,” Tarquin said accusingly, “you were supposed to be helping us in the search, not wasting time online.”

“Shh!” Tabby held up her hoof. “I was searching. In fact, I turned up something really interesting. There’s this one eBay seller that has all of Puffalump Kitty’s friends up for bid!”

“On eBay?” Puffalump Kitty gasped, pushing through to the front of the gathered congregation. “Let me see!” Tabby brought up the five auctions one-by-one, and Puffalump Kitty confirmed that they were, indeed, her missing friends. “This is horrible! Oh, it’s cruel! We must save them!”

“What evil power can have trapped them in this magic box?” He-Man asked, coming forward as well; he was about to swing at the monitor with his sword.

“No, He-Man!” Tabby held him off just in time. “We need it to bid on them. They end in only a few hours, and this same guy has already bid on all of them!” She pointed to the five consecutive “High Bidder” spaces that all listed the same User ID:

“Time is short,” said He-Man. “You’d best get to work.”

Tabby cheerfully began bidding and was happy to see that she was able to get the high bid on all five of them. “Cool! Now we just have to wait for them to end,” she said. “One hour, five minutes, and eight seconds until the first one ends.”

“Do you think you’ll be able to win them?” Puffalump Kitty said anxiously.

“It’s so nerve-wracking waiting,” Tabby agreed. “But hopefully it’ll work. Ooh, let’s see what other stuff the seller has up for sale. Maybe we can save on shipping. What should we search for?”

“Ooh, I’ve been looking for a new saddle for Battlecat,” He-Man spoke-up. Then everyone started shouting out at once what they wanted to look for.

“For Pete’s sake!!” Tabby shouted, her nerves on edge. “One at a time, people!!”

The next hour was spent searching for everything imaginable on eBay; everyone there have different ideas for what to search for. Finally, Tabby remembered that the Puffalumps were ending soon; she hurried back to that screen.

“Oh, no!” she gasped. “This ‘gokumustdie’ dude is back, and he’s outbid us on all of them!”

“Bid higher!” Sam urged.

“Don’t let him win!” Max agreed.

“Keep bidding!” The two went back and forth at this for awhile, until Sam said, “Here, use his credit card,” and handed He-Man’s credit card over to Tabby.

Tabby proceeded to do just that, but was alarmed to see that whatever she bid her rival was willing to top. Everyone waited in breathless anticipation. Finally there were only a few seconds left. Tabby placed a final bid on Puffalump Cow, and “” didn’t have time to bid again; so even though he won four of the five, Tabby had gotten Puffalump Cow.

“Oh, but whatever will we do about the others?” Puffalump Kitty pleaded.

“We’ll track them down,” Tabby promised. “Look, the seller’s enabled Instant Checkout. We can get his address right away and pay a visit to him personally! Then we’ll be able to find out what he’s up to!”

“What if we don’t get there in time, and the other Puffalumps have already been shipped?” Tarquin wondered.

“Hmm... well, we’ll have to move fast. And it depends on how this other guy pays for his Puffalumps. If he uses PayPal, you know, the sellers says he’ll ship instantly, so... anyway, here’s the address. Anyone know where this place is?”

Sam looked at the address. “Sure, we can get you there. Everyone in the Desoto!”

Everyone started to move out, but Max ran in front of them, waving his arms in the air and shouting, “I want shotgun!”

When everyone was successfully piled in the strange police car, Sam cautioned, “Hang on!” and they were off.

* * *
Upon arriving at the place of residence of the Puffalump seller, He-Man set to work trying to bodily force the door in while Orko attempted several spells on it. Tarquin convinced them to stand back while he tried something, and he proceeded to ring the doorbell.

It was opened by a middle-aged woman who eyed the congregation suspiciously. “What are you people, salesmen? We don’t want anything!”

“We’re not salesmen,” Tabby said impatiently. “We’re here to pick something up we won on eBay.”

“Oh!” Understanding dawned on the woman’s face. “You must be friends of Billy’s! He’s in the basement. Just go around the side of the house and; you’ll see the entrance. And,” she added as they moved off, “while you’re down there, tell him to clean up his room!”

Tabby fearlessly descended into the basement room, and they were met by a shaggy, overweight, long-haired individual with little personal hygiene. Tabby judged him to be in his twenties. “I’m here to pick up Puffalump Cow,” she said abruptly, thrusting a print-off of the eBay checkout page in his face. “And to get some information from you.”

“Um, okay,” the seller said after glancing over the paper. “Just a minute.” He turned to go deeper into his room and, without waiting for an invitation, Tabby and gang followed him. Puffalump Kitty gasped as she caught sight of something stuffed in a large zip-lock bag sitting in a priority mail box surrounded by packing peanuts.

“Puffalump Cow!” Puffalump Kitty gasped as she caught sight of her friend. “She’s trapped! Where are the others??”

“Oh, I already sent them off this morning. Someone else was high bidder, you know.” The collector picked up the bag with Puffalump Cow and held it out to Tabby. “You have payment on you, right?”

“Ooh,” said Tabby thoughtfully. “I guess I forgot all about that! Hey, do any of you guys have any cash I could borrow?”

Taking advantage of the distraction, He-Man strode forward, sword in hand. “Relinquish the Puffalump immediately, you villainous kidnapper!”he thundered.

The sight of the sword caused the collector to drop the bag in shock, and Puffalump Kitty ran forward to extract her friend from her confinement. The two Puffalumps hugged and reassured themselves that they were both okay before running off to the other end of the room.

“What have you done with the others?” He-Man demanded, backing his opponent up against the wall.

“I said I already shipped them off this morning after the bidder payed with PayPal!”

“What were you doing with them in the first place?” Tabby continued the interrogation menacingly.

“Yes!” Puffalump Kitty said indignantly. “How could you do this to my friends?”

“Hey, calm down! I sell a lot of stuff on eBay, and this one user e-mailed me asking if I had any Puffalumps. I said I’d see what I could do, and... found... a few to post for auction. I only sell on eBay, to get more feedback,” he added as an afterthought.

“FOOL!” Sam thundered. “By selling four items to the same bidder, you’re still only getting one feedback!”

“You kidnapped us all, that’s what you did!” Puffalump Cow spoke up. “ ‘Found’, indeed!”

“This guy who originally asked you about Puffalumps, is he the one that won the other four?” Tarquin queried.

“Yeah, yeah, it was the same guy. But I told you, he already paid and everything. They’re his.”

“Then where can we find him?” He-Man held his sword closer to the collector.

Totally freaked out by this point, the collector was willing to divulge some information concerning the other bidder. Tabby snapped the address from his hand and stalked off towards the door. “Thank you, and next time I’d suggest not capturing poor defenseless creatures for your own profit,” she said haughtily, adding a final disapproving sniff before trotting back up the stairs and out of the house.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” He-Man agreed as the others began to follow Tabby. Halfway up the stairs himself, he paused and added, “Oh, and your mom says to clean your room.”

The collector immediately broke out into tears. “Aw, come on, Mom!”

They left him like that and conducted a quick meeting in the street to determine the best route to take to this Dr. Gero’s house, and then they were off again.

To be continued!


Photo Session
Part 1
by Baby Jedi ~.^ (

“Oh, this is lovely.”

Baby Graffiti swung her head around to look at Baby Ribbon. “What’s ‘lovely’?”

“The stupid science fair project is due soon!” Ribbon half shrieked. “I’ve barely started!” She bonked her head against the school bus window. “I hate school. It’s too stressful. I’ll thank God when June comes.”

Graffiti was shocked. “You’re STILL starting the project?!” she gasped.

“Yes,” Ribbon said, annoyed. “You know I’m a horrible procrastinator.” She sighed deeply. “I’m about to test toy cars.”

“But I’M doing that!” Countdown suddenly butted in. Ribbon glared fiercely at him. “I don’t rightly care!” she snapped. “I’m about to scrap my original idea!” She walked off the school bus in a huff.

All the due dates and fear of a zero were really catching up to the brightly colored little unicorn. It felt awfully stressful, and she was quite on the verge of just testing cars. Her mom wasn’t home yet, and Neville was probably off with his pals. Ribbon went inside to her room and flopped down onto her bed. She turned her boombox onto the CD setting and put in her “Myra” CD. It helped a bit, and she was finally able to start on her homework. But she still had the nagging feeling that she should test cars.

* * *
Ribbon still felt a little stressed. Her nightmare was that she’d get a zero out of 140 points. She felt like she was doing horrible this school year. She was scared of getting her second quarter report card-- scared of what her mom would say about the D she got in science.

That’s why I’ve GOT to do a good job on the science fair, she thought to herself. But I’m pressed for time. What should I do?!

She desperately didn’t want to go to school. She was worrying her butt off and felt like if she had to do any more homework, she’d scream.


Fallacious Findings
by Sugarberry (

Vanguard and Sugarberry were about to be seated when a voice called out, “You two are a long way from home!” The couple turned their heads to the source of the greeting and found themselves staring into the smiling faces of Clare and Giorgio.

“Clare! Giorgio! What a pleasant surprise!” Sugarberry trilled as she and her husband abandoned their waiting table to approach the pair from Vulcanopolis. Giorgio stood to meet them, and Sugarberry beamed at the stallion as he took her hoof and kissed it just as he had the first time they had ever met.

“You two are by far the greater distance from home,” Vanguard shook the stallion’s hoof while Sugarberry and Clare exchanged a warm hug. “What brings you to New Pony?”

“Clare had some business meetings, and I tagged along,” the stallion grinned. “And you?”

“A math conference for me and a book endorsement for Sugarberry.”

“You will join us, won’t you?” Clare offered, casting a glance at the maitre d’ who was hovering in the background.

Chairs were provided, and the group was soon comfortably situated. Small talk centered around activities in New Pony until their orders had been placed, and the four sat back to contemplate one another as if some impending piece of information was to be soon forthcoming.

“We have some news for you,” Sugarberry started.

“Us, too,” Giorgio admitted. “But you go first.”

“If you insist,” the mare flushed. She looked from one to the other with sparkling eyes, then said, “There’s a foal on the way!”

“That’s right,” interjected Clare, somewhat surprised, “but how did you know?”

“Sugarberry giggled. “Well, there are some fairly obvious indications, plus Toby verified the fact.”

Giorgio frowned at Sugarberry. “What does Toby know about our foal?”

Our foal?” Sugarberry said faintly, glancing bewilderingly at Giorgio, then at Vanguard.

“The one that’s due in November,” Clare offered, smiling contentedly.

“Of course,” Sugarberry agreed. “November twentieth, to be exact.”

“There’s where your information is wrong,” Giorgio spoke up. “It’s the twelfth.”

Vanguard, who until now had been silently listening to this exchange of information, cleared his throat. Looking from Clare to Giorgio, he asked, “Are you two expecting a foal?”

Clare looked at him strangely. “Where have you been, Vanguard? Isn’t that what we’ve been talking...” Her eyes suddenly opened expansively, upon which her husband also saw the light.

“You and Sugarberry, too?” he asked as if awestruck.

“Can you believe it?” Sugarberry breathed, her eyes as brilliant as a many-faceted gemstone. “And both are due in the same month.”

Congratulations were extended between the two couples with much laughter, and the talk soon settled upon dreams and expectations for the foals that the mares carried. Their dinner was long and leisurely; and by the time they parted, plans had been made for Giorgio and Sugarberry to have lunch together the following day, as Clare and Vanguard would both be occupied with their respective activities.

* * *
“This is lovely,” Sugarberry sighed as Giorgio helped her with her chair at an exclusive and charming little restaurant in an out-of-the way location. “The decor is worth coming to see even if the food turns out to be horrid.”

“Toby recommended the place to Clare and I; he assured me that the food and the atmosphere are both excellent.”

The two ponies were seated at a small table in a corner of the room with a myriad of potted plants, both greenery and floral, creating an alfresco effect that made one think ahead to the warm and lush days of summer that were now not so very far away. Cool, sky blue carpeting and white tablecloths lent a peaceful, comforting aura that was very relaxing.

Once their lunch had been served and adequately enjoyed, Giorgio insisted that they both order a piece of pie from the dessert tray; and with fresh cups of coffee, they were settled in for a cozy tete-a-tete.

“Last evening at dinner when we exchanged our good news, I couldn’t help thinking about all those years ago when your... parents... and my father met at a hotel when they were both expecting the arrival of their foals.”

“Yes. Some twenty-seven years ago, to be exact. And those foals were you and me. I talked to Vanguard about the same thing when we were back in our room.” She smiled at the stallion. “It’s still a marvel that you and I met as we did, with no idea that our parents were acquainted.”

Giorgio chuckled. “I don’t think you thought it a marvel when I first walked into your life.”

Sugarberry blushed slightly under his intense gaze. “I was terribly upset with you when you came to Dream Valley, but only because your arrival necessitated Vanguard’s leaving.”

“You had a lot more than that to be upset with me about, Sugarberry.”

“Did I?”

“You know you did; I cringe when I think what I was willing to do to get my revenge on my father, regardless of what damage it caused you and your family.”

“Well, the heart of the matter is that you did not do it in the end.”

“I was afraid when it was all over that you would never want to see me again, but I’m very happy that we can be friends.” The stallion reached out to cover her hoof in his.

“The best of friends. And our foals can grow up knowing one another; I like that idea.” She smiled responsively.

Their friendly chat was interrupted at that moment by the sudden approach of a mare to their table; Sugarberry looked up in surprise and vaguely recognized in the mint green pony a school friend whom she had not seen since high school graduation, as the mare had left Dream Valley to continue her education elsewhere.

“Tara?” she questioned unbelievingly.

“Sugarberry! You’ll never guess my surprise at seeing you in New Pony! I wouldn’t have thought you’d search out the big city; you always seemed so perfectly comfortable with small town living.”

“My husband...”

“Oh! Your Aunt Blueberry Baskets told me all about your marriage!” The mare swivelled her head in Giorgio’s direction and at the same time extended her hoof to the stallion. “Van, I believe?” Sugarberry was aghast at Tara’s misconception while Giorgio smiled his politest smile and took her waiting hoof in his... but without a word of disavowal.

“Oh, no!” Sugarberry herself exclaimed. “I mean my husband’s name is Vanguard, but this is not my husband.” Tara’s left eyebrow arched as she turned her gaze back to Sugarberry, her hoof still in Giorgio’s possession. “Giorgio and I met when Vanguard was gone on an exchange program...” She tried to explain.

“Why, Sugarberry!” Tara exclaimed as her right brow now raised its height to match the other. This timorous mare must have changed over the years to attempt anything so rash, she thought to herself in scandalized disbelief.

Giorgio, having finally released Tara’s hoof, sat smiling with a twinkle in his eyes that infuriated Sugarberry as she glanced at him for help. But Tara gave neither of them a chance to explain as she was ready to leave as quickly as she came.

“Tah-tah, dear Sugarberry... Giorgio...” She brushed a glance at both of them. “This has been lovely, but I’m sure you must feel that three’s a crowd!” She disappeared to where her companions waited by the door.

“You could have helped me out there!” Sugarberry was quick to upbraid her escort.

“You were doing fine,” Giorgio grinned. “I assume your reputation in high school would not have credited you with such... brash... undertakings as to be seen in New Pony with anyone other than a husband?”

“Good grief!” Her eyes shot sparks until the humor of the situation suddenly dawned on her. “No, it wouldn’t,” she admitted with a coy smile. “I just hope Tara doesn’t share any acquaintances with Vanguard.”

“Ah... but you forget. She knows your aunt... Blueberry Baskets was it?” Giorgio shook his head. “You haven’t heard the end of this, I’m afraid.” His eyes showed nothing like fear, however.

“You can be sure I’ll inform Vanguard of this... this on-dit... at the first opportunity,” she said with laughing eyes.

“Would that I could be there!”

* * *
Tara, once out of the restaurant with her friends, fished for help. “Does anyone know that dashing forest green stallion named Giorgio?” she asked.

“You mean to tell me that you don’t?”

“I just met him. What’s the story behind him?”

“He’s from Vulcanopolis... from quite a good family.”


“Well, I’ve heard stories... rather an unsavory background for this one, I believe.”

“Hmm... very interesting.” Tara stood tapping her hoof for a moment, then she lifted a smile to meet her friend. “Tell me more.”

* * *
Being the guest speaker at a luncheon presided over by Ribbons n’ Lace, Toby’s mother, who was the organizer of a group of volunteer workers for charitable endeavors in and around New Pony, had put Sugarberry into a worried mood that amused her spouse.

“Could you explain to me exactly why you’re nervous?” he coaxed, knowing that she had prepared an entertaining speech.

“I wish Fern would never have told her future mother-in-law that we were going to be in New Pony over the semester break.”

“I remember how delighted you were when Ribbons n’ Lace called you to ask you to speak to her group; you weren’t nervous then.”

“I have never been comfortable addressing a crowd,” the mare admitted, frowning at her husband. “I invariably say something utterly humiliating before I’m through.”

“If that should happen, just smile it off as if it was intended and no one will be the wiser,” he suggested, pulling her into his embrace. “But I predict that you will be a sensation.”

“I wish you could be there; I always feel braver when I can see your face.”

“I will be caught up in boring lectures, you know... not that I wouldn’t prefer to accompany you,” he said, kissing her to make his point.

* * *
At the appropriate time, Sugarberry was met by Ribbons n’ Lace and together the two mares walked to the luncheon where they found that many of the ponies who were involved with the benevolent efforts of the group were already assembled, gathered into small cliques busily discussing current projects as well as discussing personal interests.

Ribbons n’ Lace was quick to introduce Sugarberry to friends before excusing herself to make sure that all was in readiness for the luncheon to begin; Sugarberry was made to feel welcome and lost some of her nervous jitters due to the accommodating friendliness of the ponies involved with Ribbons n’ Lace’s organization; and by the time she was to deliver her address, she was perfectly at ease.

When the luncheon had wound to a close and as Ribbons n’ Lace was accompanying Sugarberry to the lobby of the restaurant, they unexpectedly came upon Giorgio who had just arrived. “Hi, Ribbons n’ Lace... Sugarberry,” he grinned.

“ Giorgio!” Ribbons n’ Lace purred. “I didn’t expect to see you until my dinner party on Saturday.” She allowed the gallant stallion to take her hoof and present that appendage with a kiss.

Only after conferring a kiss on Sugarberry’s hoof did he explain. “I visited Andrew at his office and realized how close I was to your engagement here, so I stopped in to see how things were progressing.”

“Sugarberry entertained us wonderfully,” Ribbons n’ Lace stated. “I’m sure sales will now soar for Silent Are the Bells, and her new book will be eagerly anticipated.”

“Naturally,” agreed Giorgio, his eyes showing the pride he felt for the authoress.

“We’ll see,” Sugarberry demurred, a blush adding a pretty pink tone to her face.

Ribbons n’ Lace continued to speak. “You two must know how happy Andrew and I are concerning the news of your foals. Enrica called with the announcement last week, and Sugarberry was quick to share her good news with me personally. Nothing brings me more delight than to hear of an impending birth.”

“And Sugarberry and I are determined that our foals will grow up being the best of friends,” Giorgio said.

“Yes,” agreed Sugarberry. “Even separated by an ocean, they’ll be bosom buddies.”

“There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be,” granted Ribbons n’ Lace. Then with a look at Giorgio, she asked, “I’m going to walk Sugarberry back to her hotel; would you care to join us?”

“Well, as she and I are at the same hotel, I can certainly take her off your hooves,” Giorgio asserted.

“Does that meet with your approval, Sugarberry?”

“Perfectly acceptable.”

A friend of Ribbons n’ Lace came up at that time to command her attention concerning a problem that needed study, and Giorgio and Sugarberry were left alone. “When do you expect Van to be back at the hotel?” Giorgio asked, glancing at his watch as they began to move toward the door.

“Not until six.”

“Great! That gives the two of us plenty of time.”

“What did you have in mind?”

Giorgio only laughed. “You’ll see.”

* * *
Unbeknownst to those who had now left the establishment, several late diners just beyond the divider by which Giorgio, Sugarberry, and Ribbons n’ Lace had been conversing had been all ears throughout the exchange. One, a mint green mare, hissed to the other, a pale mauve mare, “Did you hear that?”

“Yes, Tara, I did,” the mauve mare replied. “I never would have believed it of Sugarberry, but I must say that you had warned me.”

“Next time you’ll listen to me!” Tara observed, casting an I-told-you-so glance at her sister.

“I feel so sorry for her husband,” Sally commented. “And I’ll bet he doesn’t even know that that stallion is staying at the very same hotel.”

“And foals, Sally! Twins, and you can pretty well guess who the... well, anyway, what are they going to do... each get one? Can you imagine? One will be raised in Dream Valley and the other in Vulcanopolis.”

“Sugarberry’s changed a lot since we were in school,” Sally sighed.

“I wonder what Blueberry Baskets knows about all of this,” Tara wondered. “Maybe it’s high time I visited her; it’s been awhile, and she always says I should feel free to stop in for coffee sometime.”

“Well, as much as I’d like to know what the family thinks, I’d be careful about what I say if I were you,” Sally advised.

“I’ll be discreet,” Tara smiled. “Blueberry Baskets won’t hear anything from me; but, hopefully, I’ll hear a lot from her.”

* * *
It was five minutes to six when Giorgio escorted Sugarberry to the door of her hotel room. “My aunt is fixing dinner for Vanguard and me this evening, so we’ll have to rush to get ready for that.”

“From what I saw of Blueberry Baskets at your wedding, I would imagine that she will have an entertaining evening planned for you.”

“Yes. She sells real estate in New Pony and has grown extraordinarily urbane in her thinking.”

“Does that imply that you are countrified in yours?”

Opening the door, Sugarberry giggled. “I would most certainly hope so.”

“I guess your father’s occupation would make you the farmer’s daughter,” he laughed. “Tara implied as much yesterday.”

Their smiling faces met one that was not so happy.

“Vanguard! You must have gotten home earlier than you planned,” greeted Sugarberry, meeting her husband with a hug.

“Actually, several hours earlier,” Vanguard said, his gaze traveling from her face to Giorgio’s and back again. “I walked over to Filbert’s, but you weren’t there.” His expression was tense and just a little forbidding.

“A meeting I had a block away from the restaurant finished up just about the time Sugarberry’s did, so I took her on a tour of the park.”

“The tulips are blooming already!” Sugarberry disclosed. “All the flowers are way ahead of ours back in Dream Valley.”

“And,” Giorgio grinned, handing a package to Sugarberry, “we stopped at Wallington’s and bought each other a baby gift; our foals will have matching bibs from New Pony.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed yourselves,” Vanguard said, but his voice conveyed no enthusiasm; rather, it implied that he had not been enjoying his time for obvious reasons.

Sugarberry shot a meaningful glance at Giorgio, and the stallion read her meaning clearly. “Well, I hate to run, but Clare expects me to escort her to some fashion gathering this evening. Give my regards to Blueberry Baskets.” He winked at Sugarberry and threw a careless salute in Vanguard’s direction, then left them alone.

“You’re angry with me, aren’t you?” Sugarberry said immediately, searching her husband’s face with worried eyes. “I had no idea you would come looking for me, and Ribbons n’ Lace had things to take care of; Giorgio’s stopping by seemed providential.”

“You don’t have to explain.”

“I feel I do! I want you to understand.” She looked at him so beseechingly that his annoyance lessened by a few degrees.

“I though we’d have some time to ourselves this afternoon when the workshop got done ahead of schedule. This place was awfully lonely without you. But it was obvious that you and Giorgio had a good time.” He smiled, but not too convincingly.

“We did have a good time; but if I had it to do over again, I would have come straight back to you.” She looked into his eyes. “You do know that I love you without limits, don’t you?”

Unable to resist the emotion in her eyes, Vanguard hugged her to him. “Yes, I do know that.”

Sugarberry rested her head on his shoulder. “There is no need to be jealous, you know. But I understand. If you had been out sight-seeing with Clare while I was pacing the floor here, I’m sure I’d be slightly out of humor myself.”

Vanguard lifted her head to face his. “Love without limits,” he said and kissed her long and lovingly.

* * *
Their arrival at Blueberry Baskets’ chic apartment was greeted with fond welcome as the effervescent mare hugged them both and showered them with her unending volley of words. “I have been looking forward to seeing you since I got your call that you would be in New Pony! You don’t know how I’ve been wondering about things in Dream Valley. I would be especially interested in learning how Gauntlet is doing! We had such a lovely time at your wedding! And guess what, Sugarberry; I have a visitor that you will remember from your high school days-- Tara stopped by to say hello, and when she learned that you and your darling husband were going to be my dinner guests, she begged me to let her stay long enough to at least make Vanguard’s acquaintance.”

“Tara... how nice,” Sugarberry said, rolling her eyes for Vanguard’s benefit; the stallion had not found her recital of her meeting with Tara to be nearly as entertaining as she and Giorgio had found it– nor did it do anything to assuage his jealousy– and Sugarberry could not now think of anyone whom she would most like not to see than Tara.

Blueberry Baskets led her company into the living room where Tara awaited their arrival, standing nonchalantly by a table, a slick fashion magazine in her hooves. Upon seeing Sugarberry, however, she dropped the magazine and came forward in ready friendliness.

“Sugarberry! How nice to have this chance to chat with you. Our time together yesterday was way too brief, don’t you think? And what with all the years... but where are my manners? Who is this delightful stallion?” She turned to Vanguard with what amounted to a condescending attitude.

“Tara, this is my husband, Vanguard; Vanguard, Tara was one of my high school classmates.” She was not about to call her “friend” because the two as fillies had shared no common interests.

“Vanguard, indeed,” Tara smiled. “How very nice to meet you!”

“Come, sit down, all of you,” Blueberry Baskets said, attempting to gain some control over her guests. “Dinner will be ready shortly,” she assured Sugarberry. “I’ve got Tyrol working in the kitchen, and he has assured me that there will be no delay in his preparations.”

“Tyrol?” Sugarberry squeaked.

“Yes. A very good chef that caters to private parties. I have always detested kitchen work, Sugarberry; never could understand how my sister... your mother... could enslave herself to those dastardly appliances that have a mind of their own when it comes to putting together anything that is at all palatable.”

Hoping to steer the conversation into a more interesting avenue, Tara spoke up. “So how long have you and Vanguard been married, Sugarberry?” She cast a withering glance at Blueberry Baskets, knowing full well that the garrulous mare had told her every detail of the wedding in Dream Valley when it had occurred.

“We celebrated our first anniversary in June,” Sugarberry smiled. “Are you married, Tara?”

“Oh, no,” Tara hastily answered. “Never met a stallion yet with who I’d want to trust the rest of my life.”

She cast such a disparaging glance at Vanguard that he felt guilty for no reason, but he managed to find his voice. “A very wise choice,” he said, glancing over the mare with a cool look that implied that he was sure there was no stallion who would be willing to trust himself to her, either. Tara inadvertently shivered.

Blueberry Baskets made another attempt to regain control of the conversation. “I’m disappointed that I haven’t heard any news concerning a grand-niece or nephew yet from you two; the way you always doted on foals, Sugarberry, I’d have thought you’d want a large family.” This mare, too, settled an accusing glance on Vanguard.

“Well, Aunt Blueberry Baskets,” Sugarberry lowered her eyes and blushed shyly, “that’s something that we wanted to share with you this evening.” She glanced at Vanguard and flashed him a wink. “Vanguard and I are expecting a foal in November.”

“How delightful!” her aunt crowed. “I’d heard that Raspberry and her fella were preparing a nursery and that Gooseberry and Grapevine are adding to theirs; I can’t imagine what your father must be going through, anticipating three grandfoals before the end of the year. My brother could not abide foals before he was married.”

“He dotes on them now,” Vanguard stated, remembering the patience with which Strawberry Baskets entertained and instructed Gooseberry’s three youngsters.

“Just think how exciting if you were to have twins, Sugarberry!” Tara interjected. “My cousin, Minerva, had two sets of twins, and Geoffrey’s wife had twins just last month.”

“Our doctor assures us that there is just one foal, Tara, although I must admit that two would be... exciting.”

“There have been very few sets of twins in our family,” Blueberry Baskets admitted. “How about yours, Vanguard?”

“None in recent history that I can think of.”

Tara decided that if she was going to glean any useful information, she would have to come on a little more forcefully. “This Giorgio that you introduced me to, Sugarberry; does he have any children?” She maintained a blank, innocent look that caused Vanguard to choke, necessitating a rather abrupt coughing fit.

“N... no... not that I’m... aware of,” Sugarberry said tremulously, trying not to break down in giggling hysteria. “Well, not counting...”

“He looked rather devious, if you ask me,” Tara interrupted, assuming a sophisticated expression to lend credit to her reading of his character.

“Oh, no, not at all,” Sugarberry argued. “Why, his father is the administrator of Vulcanopolis and very well thought of.”

“Not to mention that his wife is a successful business mare herself,” Vanguard added.

“He’s married, too?” Tara was terribly disappointed.

“And he and his wife are expecting a foal about the same time that ours is due.”

“Fascinating!” breathed Tara.

“Yes, rather,” agreed Sugarberry.

A bell sounding from the kitchen caught Blueberry Basket’s attention. “That means that Tyrol is ready to serve,” she confided with a telling glance at Tara.

“Oh, I really must be going; my sister– you remember my sister, Sally, don’t you, Sugarberry– is expecting me at her place, and I can’t keep her waiting.” She jumped up and the others stood as well. “This has been so much fun, Sugarberry... Vanguard. I’m so glad that I was visiting your aunt and therefore had the chance to renew our friendship.” The mare hastened to the door and Blueberry Baskets saw her out.

“Well, dear,” Blueberry Baskets smiled at Sugarberry when she was again free, “I didn’t plan on her interruption, but it was rather refreshing, wasn’t it?” She led her niece and nephew-by-marriage into supper.

* * *
Later, in another part of New Pony, Tara was sitting at her sister’s kitchen table. “I couldn’t wait to tell you about Sugarberry and her husband,” she said between bites.

“You met him, then?”

“Yes. He seems like an okay stallion, but I’m not convinced that something strange isn’t going on there.”

“Are they having twins?”

“Well, no. It seems that Giorgio and his wife are expecting, too.”

“So everything is as it should be.”

“You didn’t see her husband’s face every time Giorgio was mentioned; he looked very anxious whenever Giorgio’s name came up. I tell you, something havey-cavey is going on.”

“You are jumping to conclusions, sis; I’d keep my thoughts to myself if I were you.”

“But, Sally, there’s something else. I’ve read Sugarberry’s book, Silent Are the Bells, and the heroine was in love with two handsome stallions.”


“Don’t you think she was writing from experience?”

“Did anything else in her story parallel her life?”

Tara gave her sister’s question some thought. “Hmm... well... no... I don’t think there was anything else.”

“I rest my case.”

“But what if...”

“Not another word, Tara. Not now, not ever.”

* * *
The day of Ribbons n’ Lace’s dinner party came, and Sugarberry prepared carefully for the evening. Ribbons n’ Lace, a benefactress of all who needed help, led a life with her husband, Andrew, that rivaled opulence. Fern had told Sugarberry of the magnificent home that crowned one of the ritziest neighborhoods in New Pony and of the grand furnishings that graced the interior. And even though Ribbons n’ Lace was as friendly and compassionate as Sugarberry’s own mother, Sugarberry felt some trepidation.

Another thing that made her slightly uneasy about the evening was that it would be the first time that she and Giorgio would be together since Vanguard’s bout with jealousy, and she did not know how she could handle an evening of conversation without inadvertently rekindling her husband’s quiet monster.

One asset, however, was that Tendril, Toby’s sister, would be at the gathering with her husband and two foals, as well as Toby’s older brother, Tribute, who was coming into New Pony from his place of residence in Grayton. With a crowd of ponies, it would be easier to avoid a situation that might become uncomfortable.

“You are looking especially beautiful,” Vanguard said as he watched her primping. “Your hair looks... fuller.”

“Clare shared some of her company’s new hair care products; she’s really branching out,” Sugarberry admitted. “And they really work, obviously.” Her eyes twinkled as she looked at her husband’s reflection in the mirror.

“Are you insinuating that you’re surprised I noticed?”

“Not surprised... simply flattered.”

Vanguard grew serious. “It’s not just a new shampoo, you know. You’ve had a special glow about you since we’ve known about our foal.”

Sugarberry turned a softly radiating face to him. “I remember seeing that on Tabby when she and Thomas were expecting Faline. It’s just too wonderful not to blossom... our baby, Vanguard!”

She looked so enraptured that Vanguard’s heart skipped a beat. “Sometimes I can’t believe that it’s true.” His hoof followed the contour of her face. “A new life growing in you; and, come November, we’ll have him in our forelegs.”

“And what a sweetie he will be.”

* * *
Having entered the halls of luxury, Sugarberry relished the grandeur that pervaded the home of Ribbons n’ Lace and Andrew. As Clare and Giorgio had another commitment earlier in the evening, Sugarberry and Vanguard had arrived earlier than the other couple and Sugarberry did not have to watch her conduct; she found Tendril to be as friendly and caring as her mother, while her husband, Copper, was quiet and somewhat reserved. Their offspring, one fourteen-month old and the other recently turned four, were full of spirit which kept the well-ordered home in a state of constant activity. Tribute, a doctor like his father and his brother, favored his father’s more stately demeanor and seemed to prefer to remain offset from the more exuberant mischief that the foals were constantly instigating.

By the time that Giorgio and Clare arrived, Sugarberry was contentedly involved with reading a story to the two youngsters to settle them down before dinner was served, and was well able to keep a respectable distance from Giorgio. And when they were seated at the table, she found her position conveniently spaced away from the stallion so that any personal dinner conversation with him was unnecessary.

After dinner, Andrew lured the stallions off to his study, and Ribbons n’ Lace entertained the mares with a tour of her home after which Tendril put the foals to bed in one of the lavishly furnished guest rooms with Sugarberry’s willing assistance. When the youngest foal refused to settle down, however, Tendril would not hear of Sugarberry’s staying with the baby, but sent her off to rejoin the others.

Sugarberry had stopped to admire a particularly moving sculpture that graced a corner of the hall when Giorgio came from one of the adjoining rooms, and, seeing her, checked only an instant before coming to join her. “I get the distinct impression that you are trying to avoid me.”

“History repeats itself,” she said softly; she dropped her eyes to the sculpture for a moment before lifting her gaze once more to meet Giorgio’s. “Vanguard is as jealous of you as my father was of your father.”

“I guessed as much; he wasn’t too happy to see you in my company the other day.”

“He wasn’t angry,” she quickly pointed out, “just disappointed.”

“And what about you?”

“I’m caught in the middle; your friendship is important to me, but Vanguard is my husband; I can’t enjoy our friendship if it hurts him to see it.”

“So we are to act like mere acquaintances when our lives have been linked since we were unborn foals?”

“I won’t knowingly hurt him.”

“At our expense?” He saw the tears wet Sugarberry’s eyes and quickly set it right. “I’m sorry; if that’s what you think is best, I’ll go along with it. But I don’t like it.” He smiled at her. “You’d better get back in company, or Van will be ready to wring my neck regardless of your efforts to please him.”

Later, as the ponies enjoyed a last cup of coffee, Sugarberry felt Vanguard’s look hard upon her from across the room where he stood in conversation with Giorgio, Tribute, and Copper and met his eyes with a sad little smile which successfully wrung his heart. He immediately excused himself from the others, although towing Giorgio along with him to Sugarberry’s side.

“Listen, you two, I’m very sorry that I acted like a jealous idiot. I’m not going to allow you, Sugarberry, to estrange yourself from this stallion simply because... well... because of his unholy persona that seems to attract every female who comes in sight of him,” Vanguard uttered before he could lose his nerve. He cast a sideways glance at Giorgio. “I value your friendship and Clare’s– as I told you last summer– and will not be responsible for ruining it.”

“Very well said,” approved Giorgio, grinning at Vanguard. Then he claimed Sugarberry’s hoof, murmured, “Your slave,” and kissed her. Sugarberry sought her husband’s eyes for his understanding.

“But I never promised that I would enjoy it,” Vanguard said, causing a bark of laughter from Giorgio and an unrepressed giggle from Sugarberry.

“What is so highly diverting over here?” asked Clare, coming to join them and slipping her foreleg into Vanguard’s grasp in that familiar way that was so natural for her.

For a brief moment, Sugarberry saw a flashback to those days when Vanguard had been so far away in Vulcanopolis with Clare his closest confidant, and she felt a pang of the jealousy that haunted Vanguard. She swallowed her pride, however, and panned the ponies around her with loving eyes and grinned. “We were just discussing the special friendship that we four share.”

“Make that six,” Clare quipped. “Our little foals are a part of this circle now, you know.”

“Which reminds me,” Sugarberry grinned. “Our visit to Aunt Blueberry Baskets was quite enlightening on several counts.”

“Such as?” Giorgio queried, looking somewhat doubtful as to whether he wanted to hear it or not.

“Tara was there.”

“I heard about your school-days’ chum,” Clare giggled.

“She thinks you are devious, Giorgio,” Vanguard offered, not ready yet to entirely disagree with this interpretation of the stallion’s character.

Giorgio raised an eyebrow. “Indeed!” A chuckle escaped him. “Obviously, my unholy persona failed in this case, at least, Van.”


v.3.0. There have been so many people who have helped me bring this story to a tidy wrap-up that I dare not mention them one-by-one as I am certain to leave some names out. You know who you are and you know I’m grateful. Bless you.

Night Mares
by C. Alan Loewen (

My Dearest Breaghan,

One of the problems of entering my eighth decade of life is memory becomes confused with dream, and the further back the mind wanders, the more questionable recollections become. Yet, there is one memory so ingrained in my mind, no level of future senescence will ever make me question its truth.

I tell you the story because Father Crane was here today for afternoon tea. He told me what I already know, and he spoke of dying with no regrets. My only regret is that the true story of Breaghan April Skye, my cousin whose name you bear, may disappear with my passing.

So, granddaughter, I have decided to tell you the tale. My hope is there is still enough wonder in your fifteen-year old soul to understand my story is not the rambling of an old woman whose grasp of reality is beginning to falter.

My story begins when I was ten years old, September of 1940, when the bombers of Nazi Germany pounded the cities of England in what was to be the first of many, many attacks. Many lives were lost in those days of darkness and fire. Two of them were my uncle and aunt. Living on a farm outside London, they had gone into the city on personal business leaving their ten-year-old daughter in the care of a trusted neighbor. Breaghan became an orphan when her parents went to the wrong place at the wrong time.

A cable hurriedly sent to the United States arrived at the home of my father and mother, your great-grandfather and great-grandmother, as they were Breaghan’s sole surviving relatives. My father was a well-to-do physician and Mother, his all-important right hand. I was their only child, and we lived in a small wooded estate at the city limits. My parents wired back to England that they would gladly take responsibility for their newly-orphaned niece.

In my ten-year-old self-centered perception of things, I was terribly excited. I had always wanted a sister, and now I would not only have my wish come true, but it was to be a sister my own age.

Three weeks later, my father drove up to the front door where Mother and I waited. There in the passenger side of my father’s Packard sat my cousin Breaghan, my first sight of her except for the small photographs we received at Christmas.

She was smaller than I, with a delicate, otherworldly air about her. Her waist-length hair was blonde almost to the point of being white. Her intelligent eyes were large emeralds in an oval face.

Father opened the car door for her, and she came up the front steps and curtseyed. Mother was charmed. I fell in love.

That night as mother and I helped her unpack, I did all the talking. Breaghan silently listened as I chatted about life in America, the school we both would attend, and my upcoming birthday party where she would meet all my friends.

At last Mother hushed me and I noticed Breaghan’s eyes getting heavy. After a quick round of bedtime prayers, we were bundled into bed. Breaghan fell asleep within minutes. I followed soon after.

I thought I might have had a dream that night, but of course in hindsight, I know I was wide awake. I remember awaking from a deep sleep to find Breaghan still in her nightgown, looking out my window. Silhouetted by moonlight she looked even more the faerie child I thought her to be. She looked as if she were waiting for something or somebody, but eventually I fell back to sleep.

The next few days were a time of adjustment for Breaghan, myself and my parents, but our new family member was so quiet and so compliant that before the week was out, it felt as if Breaghan had always been there as part of our family.

However, Mother and I could not help notice that Breaghan had some quaint peculiarities—what we call eccentricities in older people. Woods and forests captivated her, and on our excursions through the park she would walk with an air of expectant listening. The night mists so common in October would make her smile, and she loved to sit in the window and watch the streamers of light fog roll by in the dim streetlights. Also, her love for horses went beyond passion into the realm of obsession. The mounted police learned that if they rode by our estate and Breaghan was in the front yard, she would beg permission to pet their horses until they willingly gave in.

Two weeks after her arrival, while preparing for bedtime, I found Breaghan standing by my window looking out into the dusk, a solitary tear running down her cheek.

“Breaghan!” I said gently, “what is the matter?”

She never took her eyes from the misty, darkening woods that stood outside my bedroom window. “I thought they would come for me,” she whispered. “I thought they would follow me.”

I did not know what to say. I gave her a quick hug and changed the subject. The next day I mentioned the incident to Mother.

“Breaghan has had a great loss,” Mother explained. “It will be some time before she accepts that her parents are gone. We need to be patient and just love her.”

Two nights later, the night mists came thicker than ever and when Breaghan and I retired to our bedroom, she immediately went to sit by the window.

“Are you going to be there all night?” I asked.

Breaghan never took her eyes away from the mists rolling by the window. “I’ll be to bed in a moment.”

Waiting for her, I fell asleep.

I woke up some time later. Breaghan still sat in the window, illuminated by a full moon giving the mist an unearthly glow.

“They’re here,” she said, her voice a still whisper in the room.

My heart broke. “Oh, Breaghan,” I said. “I’m sorry, but your parents ... “

My voice choked off in my throat when a dark form glided by my second-story bedroom window.

“Come and see,” Breaghan said.

Shivering, I got out of bed and went to stand at the window by Breaghan’s side.

Outside, the mist glowed in the moonlight, its white, delicate tendrils weaving their way about the familiar trees and shrubs giving them an eerie dreamlike quality.

I blinked my eyes, looked, and blinked again. In the mist, a shadow became a darker shade and resolved into something that looked like a pony, but with features far more delicate. It shook its mane and looked up at us. Its eyes were bright with intelligence. Only visible for a second, it turned and disappeared into the mist.

Again, a shape sped by the window and I gasped. A small winged horse, its pinions spread to catch the air and glisten in the moonlight, soared by leaving tendrils of mist in its wake.

“Breaghan,” I whispered, “what are they?”

She turned to look at me, a look of joy on her face. “They’re my friends,” she said. “They’ve finally come for me.”

Above the mists there were now three...winged ponies flying around the moon.

The hundred questions that sprang up in my heart faded away when the mists below parted again. A small, delicate creature walked out into the lawn and gazed up at us standing in the window. It was as small as a pony with a solitary ivory-colored horn on its forehead shining with an unearthly light.

A whisper, faint, but clear, spoke Breaghan’s name.

Breaghan turned and took my hands in hers, sorrow back on her face. “I have to go, but I have to leave you behind,” she whispered. “You have your parents...”

Without finishing her sentence, she kissed me on the cheek and then turned and walked out into the darkness of the hallway. I heard the back door open downstairs and then I saw Breaghan step outside into the moonlight.

She embraced the unicorn below my window. Then, escorted by ponies both earthbound and winged, she walked off into the night, her white nightgown melting into the brightness of the mist.

The next morning, the adults ascribed my story to a dream and the police searched through the surrounding neighborhood, stretching their hunt even into the city nearby.

Many weeks later after the search was called off, I believe my parents came to eventually believe my wild story, but in their sorrow, never truly expressed it.

Years came and went and in due time, I married your grandfather. When your mother was born, I wanted to name her after Breaghan, but yielding to my husband’s loving wishes, we named her April instead; a small triumph for me as it was Breaghan’s middle name.

Before you were born, I mentioned the name to your mother and, as your parents liked the sound of it, you now bear the name of a distant relative who over sixty years ago walked off into the moonlit mist with the night mares of faerie.

And, there is another reason I write you this letter. The past few nights the midnight mists have grown stronger. Last night I thought I saw a shadow fly past my window.

And even now, as I close this letter to you, my beloved Breaghan, I hear outside my door the gentle whicker of otherworldly ponies and a young girl calling my name.


Icon’s Imbroglio
by Sugarberry (

“So who’s in charge of this?” Icon asked his brother as the two stallions neared the athletic field at Pony Pride University. The white stallion had come to Dream Valley to spend the weekend with Vanguard and Sugarberry.

“Medallion, the athletic director at Pony Pride, will be overseeing the day’s events although Wigwam and Fetish are coaching the respective teams.” An interest in lacrosse, a sport of Native Pony origin, had blossomed in the area, and today’s display was the beginning, hopefully, of some local teams, one being sponsored by local businesses, the other by Pony Pride.

“So who’s playing?” the white stallion queried, looking over the rather brown and dreary landscape that lay exposed due to the mild temperatures that had cut into winter’s white cover.

“Whoever shows up,” Vanguard grinned. “It just an informational meeting with a little hooves-on experience with the rules and the equipment.”

Vanguard, spotting Poeticus standing a little apart, headed to his location. “Have we missed anything?” he asked.

Poeticus looked relieved to see a friendly face, even though there were a number of other teachers from Pony Pride. “Hi, Vanguard. Good to see you again, Icon. What do you think? Are they going to get enough interest to pull this off?”

“It looks like a good turnout,” Vanguard stated. “Wigwam wasn’t sure what the results would be.”

“Lacrosse is an exciting sport,” Icon readily assured them.

Poeticus looked perturbed. “I watched a game once; it looked rather brutal to me.” The stallion would rather isolate himself with pen and paper than face a mob of opponents on a sports field. As a matter of fact, his mind had been filled with lines of a new sonnet when Medallion had asked him if he would be interested in trying his hoof at lacrosse, and Poeticus had distractedly said yes before he realized that he really had no interest whatsoever in the enterprise. Yet he had felt obligated to attend the first session as a matter of principle.

“Who’s that severe looking stallion over there?” Icon asked with a nod of his head toward a turquoise pony in the company of Fetish.

“Jalap, Fetish’s cousin.”

“He sure looks disturbed about something.”

Vanguard scrutinized the stallion in question. “He’s always looked that way, the few times I’ve met him.”


“He’s a shaman. I guess it carries its responsibilities.”

Icon laughed. “Well, Dr. Toby is a healer, too, and he seems to be enjoying himself.” The purple stallion was currently engaged in a wrestling match of sorts with Brandon. “How are his matrimonial plans coming?”

Raising a brow at his younger brother, Vanguard commented, “You haven’t asked so many questions since you were a two-year-old toddling around the house in my shadow.”

“I can take a hint,” Icon said, absenting himself from his brother’s side and hunting up Wishbone.

When Medallion called everyone to attention, the stallions gathered in a loosely-knit group around the athletic director as he welcomed their attendance and expressed his hope that they would go on to become dedicated and talented players. He called their attention to the fact that the Dream Valley Chamber of Commerce had funded the equipment while Pony Pride was supplying the playing field. Then he turned the field over to Fetish and Wigwam who would be coaching the stallions on the finer points of lacrosse.

“Lacrosse is the oldest organized sport in Ponyland,” Fetish began, “and it’s a hard, fast game. The Native Ponies used the sport to resolve conflicts as well as to form strong, virile stallions. The Native Pony contest could involve many, many ponies over a huge territory that could last for days, but it has become more refined in modern times.”

Wigwam took over. “Lacrosse is a game that requires coordination and agility, not brawn. As we go over some of the plays today, we’ll expect everyone to follow the rules and participate to the best of their ability... but safely.” He seemed to be eyeing Barnacle as he talked.

“What be the fun in that, I be thinkin’?” the pirate chortled.

“You do understand, Barnacle, that the crosse is not to be used with excessive force against another player, don’t you?” Quarterback queried, grateful that he would be a teammate rather than an opponent of the explosive pirate.

“For information’s sake,” Jalap spoke up, his voice soft but riveting, “the Native Ponies intended the game to be a rough, brutal sport; it was not uncommon for sticks to be used to strike the opponents.”

Poeticus groaned. “He’s not going to be playing, is he?” he whispered to Vanguard.

“I hope you’ve all become familiar with the rules,” Fetish said.

“For instance,” Wigwam backed him up, “there is to be no slashing, tripping, holding...”

“At least not any that’s detectable,” Butch said under his breath.

The stallions soon had the wooden sticks in hoof and were practicing the moves that would be needed in the afternoon’s practice. Brightblade and Barnacle expressed an interest in trying their talents as goalie for the Dream Valley team while Caravel and Digger trained for that position for Pony Pride. The field was a riot of color and motion as the action continued, each stallion learning how to handle the crosse and to throw, catch, or carry the ball in the net on the head of the stick.

Before long, the desire to put their teams to the test became everyone’s goal; Wigwam was not sure they were ready for organized play, but he and Fetish also realized that a little competition would be the best way to promote their interest in the sport. Positions were assigned to the various ponies according to their strengths and abilities. Barnacle was given the first opportunity as goalie for the business ponies, while Caravel was placed at the opposite goal.

The face-off to begin play was explained to the players, and Quarterback and Wishbone were positioned at center field to begin the contest. Medallion blew the whistle, and Quarterback did manage to gain control of the ball which set in motion a wild scramble of not too adept ponies at playing lacrosse.

Wigwam shook his head. He knew it was not going to be easy, but the disorder on the field was a disaster waiting to happen as no one seemed to be listening to the officials whistles. Fetish, however, his voice authoritative, finally managed to regroup the stallions for an assessment of their actions.

“Butch, there is to be no body checking against players without the ball,” he reminded one pony while Wigwam constrained Caravel who was angry with Ages over his defense of their goal.
“What am I supposed to do?” Ages complained. “You think I’m going to risk my job by out-playing my boss?” He sent a thunderstruck look at his teammate.

“Just because Whisk is your boss when you’re at the Estate Manor doesn’t mean you have to mollycoddle him on the field!” Caravel griped in return.

Poeticus, who had not put himself into the game with much enthusiasm, had learned one thing in this first mad scramble-- he had no desire to become an aggressive lacrosse player. He looked yearningly at the sidelines, but before he could make a move to substitute one of the onlookers for himself, Medallion’s whistle once again started play; and before he knew it, Icon had gained control of the ball and flipped it in Poeticus’ direction.

By some unexpected reflex, Poeticus was able to catch the ball with his crosse; but he was no match for Butch who had soon blocked him; and before Poeticus knew what had happened, the play was centered at his team’s goal as Butch, Whisk, and Quarterback showed everyone how to score a goal.

“Look who’s mollycoddling, now!” Ages flung at the disappointed Caravel.

“Don’t let anything interrupt your concentration,” Fetish advised the goalie. “Remember to keep your eye on the ball.”

Further play had Barnacle threatening Digger, and both Wigwam and Fetish had to remind the pirate that unnecessary roughness was not allowed.

“You be thinkin’ I was playin’ rough, now, do ya? I’ll show ya rough!” A threatening stance was directed at Poeticus who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Hubert, who was helping to referee the practice, interfered.

“Your style, Barnacle, reminds me of the manner of the natives of Coolumbardo, and I don’t think you want to be connected with their kind.”

Whatever experience Barnacle had gone through with those particular island inhabitants, it did succeed in mellowing his fierce determination. “Me be keepin’ me temper in control,” he grumbled.

Wigwam looked at Jalap. “You know how to play this game; why don’t you take over someone’s position and show them how it is supposed to be done?”

Poeticus did not hesitate in offering his place to the grim-visaged Native Pony and quickly retreated to the sidelines where he would be safe while Jalap and the Pony Pride players squared off with the business tycoons of Dream Valley. Jalap was not only qualified but also fearless, and he was not intimidated even by Barnacle’s riotous technique; the action on the field intensified, but remained civilized.

Visitors to the scene of the action began to accumulate in larger numbers as friends and family came to watch the combat; one of those present was Becca, a mare who worked with the Chamber of Commerce. She had a camera in hoof, her plan being to get some shots of the sport in progress to drum up further interest among the business ponies in town. She positioned herself near the edge of the field and snapped pictures when things got exciting.

Hubert was patrolling the sidelines near Becca when a big play developed on the field. Roland was attempting, quite vigorously, to defend his goal against an intense attack by Jalap, Wishbone, and cronies; and a loose ball sent him careening across the field to a point where Hubert was watching the play. Hubert had to scuttle out of Roland’s way, while that stallion earnestly pursued his mission.

Once Hubert had moved beyond harm’s way, Roland had a clear shot at controlling the ball; but he had no chance at controlling his momentum in regard to an unnoticed obstacle on the field. Becca had taken advantage of the flow of motion to capture an action shot, and she had placed herself in Roland’s direct path.

By the time the stallion saw the mare, he was too close to stop; he had the presence of mind to drop the crosse and put out his hooves to repel as best he could the impact against Becca, but the force of his movement propelled the two of them across the sideline and into the crowd where their tumbling bodies were stopped only when they careened into Poeticus; and all three ended up in a tangled heap on the ground.

Poeticus and Roland were spared the crush of the impact, but Becca had been caught in the middle. As Roland extricated himself from the point of impact, he was appalled to see that Becca was not moving. Her forelegs had raked across Poeticus’ side as they went down, and that stallion was now supporting Becca’s weight across his shoulder. Poeticus stayed put, not wanting to move for fear of adding to Becca’s problems, and Becca herself seemed to be temporarily out of breath.

Roland had a fleeting flashback of his first and last experience with Becca when she had fallen and hurt herself after conducting a classroom seminar for his students and winced to think that this time it had been entirely his fault for causing her grief. But that thought was immediately run out of his mind by the realization that the mare had no right to be on the playing field, and he frowned at her as she shook her head and groaned, “What happened?”

“You nearly...” Roland began to say, but he was pushed aside as Toby and Jalap and others came to see what damage had been done. Wigwam helped Poeticus to extricate himself from beneath Becca, and Toby checked her over for breaks or bruises. Bruises she would have plenty of, but she was fortunately found to be of sound limb. Vector rescued the mare’s camera from where it had flown to land some distance away.

The other players, seeing that no permanent damage had been done, returned to their game, while Toby and Jalap hovered over Becca while she attempted to stand and move to one of the available benches where they applied some cold compresses to her wounded body. Roland watched, waiting for a chance to do one of two things, he wasn’t sure which: to apologize for having run her down or to blast her for being where she should not have been in the first place.

Toby, however, felt it was necessary to check Roland for any injuries, and Jalap offered the same assistance to Poeticus; by the time the stallions were assured that everyone would suffer no lasting harm, Roland’s anger was appeased enough so that he could offer Becca a friendly smile.

“I’m sorry about running you over that way, Becca.”

“It certainly wasn’t your fault,” Becca retorted. “I wasn’t paying attention. Well, I was paying attention because I was trying to focus in on the action, but I didn’t realize how things were going until it was too late.” She rubbed an upper foreleg where a bruise was already spreading it’s purple hue to her chartreuse skin. “At least the camera isn’t broken,” she smiled shakily.

Roland sat next to her. “You should be drinking some of this soda like Toby told you.” He offered her the can, and she accepted it with trembling hooves.

“It’s... cold all of a sudden... and dark,” she uttered, dropping the can and putting a hoof to her forehead; she seemed about to slide off the bench. Roland called for Toby, and the physician came running just in time to ease Becca back down to the ground.

“She’s fainted.” He administered to her while directing Roland to get a glass for the soda and Becca’s eyes were soon open once more. “Take some of this,” Toby said, putting the glass of liquid to her lips.

After a sip or too, the mare seemed to have become more coherent. “You must think I’m terribly wimpy.”

“Just drink this stuff; the sugar will do you good.”

Dreamcatcher and Merry Moments took it upon themselves to come to the mare’s rescue. “We’ll watch over her,” Dreamcatcher advised Toby.

Toby looked at the unicorn for a long moment before relinquishing Becca’s care to her. “All right. I think she’ll be okay now.” As he stepped away, he caught Jalap’s attention and walked a short distance with the shaman. “I’m aware that you are watching over Dreamcatcher’s pregnancy; what exactly are you doing to insure her health and that of the foal’s?”

“Everything that is necessary,” the shaman answered.

“She is looking rather wan for someone who is normally so energetic,” Toby worried. “Is she getting the proper vitamins she needs?”

“Her diet supplies all that,” Jalap briefly replied.

“I would feel better if she would come to see me or one of the other doctors at the hospital,” Toby continued, “but she doesn’t seem to want to entrust herself into our care.”

“I’m aware of that.”

“Maybe you could suggest to her that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a second opinion...”

“I know what is best for her,” Jalap intoned and moved off to rejoin the game.

Toby looked after him and considered the situation. He found it frustrating to suspect a problem where he could do nothing to substantiate his fears. Fetish had already been approached, but his hooves were tied as strictly as Toby’s, for Dreamcatcher had made it clear that she placed no value in modern medicine where her foal was concerned. Jalap had her trust and her care in his hooves.

Toby made one more attempt, however, before the day was through when he found himself with another chance to talk with Dreamcatcher. “How are you feeling? It must be getting close to your delivery time.”

“Several months yet,” the mare condescended to impart.

“Oh, yes, I remember Lemon Treats saying that you are due after she is.”

“Jalap says that May will bring my foal to birth.”

“Dreamcatcher, you know that I only want that birth to be a healthy and safe one for both of you. Have you given any more thought to coming in for an exam with me or Aurora?”

“I appreciate your concern, but I have complete confidence in Jalap.”

“You realize that an ultrasound would prepare us for any unforeseen complications...”

Dreamcatcher smiled and raised her hoof. “Spare your words, Dr. Toby. We will be fine.” And the mare left him standing; all he could do was watch her disappear into a crowd of ponies and hope that his worries were unfounded.

* * *
As the practice session wrapped up, Icon and Vanguard in the company of Wigwam and Chocolate Chip-- the mare had arrived after all the excitement was over-- were preparing to leave the field when they noticed Roland standing alone, looking in the direction of where Becca sat with Toby who was checking her condition one more time. Dreamcatcher had moved off to join her husband and Jalap, and Merry Moments was in conversation with Quarterback and Barnacle, so when Toby parted from the mare with his final admonition to take it easy and to call him if she suspected any problems developing, Becca was left unaccompanied.

Roland made his move. “I can walk you home, Becca.”

Becca smiled at the stallion. “Thanks, but Merry Moments said she would go with me. And I feel fine now anyway.” She stood up to prove her point and only winced a trifle.

“You don’t look okay,” Roland said, eyeing the bruises that decorated her body.

“They’re nothing,” Becca said. “I usually have a bruise or two-- you know that I’m a klutz.”

“Now whatever gave you that idea?” Roland grinned. “Besides, we haven’t had a chance to talk since the last time you got hurt in my company.”

Becca grimaced. “Don’t remind me.”

“How about we stop at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe before I take you home?” Roland coaxed, knowing that ice cream was the mare’s downfall, so to speak.

The mare brightened. “I’d like that; it’ll get my mind off the pain.”

“I thought you said you were feeling fine now.”

“Well, someone with my predisposition to accidents is bound to have a pain somewhere at all times anyway,” she giggled.

They had not gotten far before they were overtaken by Vanguard and friends, and Icon moved up beside Becca and struck up a conversation. “Van tells me you do a lot of publicity work for the Dream Valley businesses; maybe you should think about coming to Woodlawn-- our advantage being that we don’t have a lacrosse team... yet!”

“Maybe I’ll do that,” Becca teased. “At the rate I’m going, Dream Valley will be glad to be rid of me.”

Roland found himself replying, as if from some other body, “We are perfectly happy to have Becca here, Icon. You can look elsewhere.” He shot the stallion a hostile glance and wrapped a foreleg around the mare, causing Becca to blush furiously.

Icon was not about to be subdued; he enjoyed a challenge. “Our Chamber of Commerce could use some new ideas, and someone with your enthusiasm would go a long way in getting things happening in Woodlawn.”

“You’re not serious, are you?”

“No, he’s not,” Roland answered for Icon.

“But I am!” Icon countered. “We’re actively looking for someone to coordinate our affairs. Would you consider it?”

Becca thought only for a moment before answering. “No, it’s tempting, but I like it here in Dream Valley.”

Chocolate Chip, who had been listening to this exchange, cornered Icon. “Becca does a great job for Dream Valley, Icon. Don’t try to tempt her away.” She looked at Becca and Roland. “Why don’t you two join us for Friendly’s birthday bash at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe? That’s where we’re headed.”

“That we can handle,” Roland responded, his foreleg still around Becca. He looked at the mare beside him and suddenly pulled away as if he just realized what he was about. “What do you think, Becca?”

“As that’s where we were headed anyway...” she said distractedly, wondering why Roland had relinquished his support of her.

But Icon was quick to step into the breach. “Are you feeling a little weak, Becca? Let me help you.” And he graciously took over where Roland had left off. “If you need to stop and rest, let me know; the two of us could send this crew on ahead.”

Vanguard looked at his brother’s smiling face and at Roland’s scowling one. “How are you feeling, Becca?” he asked, trying to defuse any animosity that Roland might be feeling.

“Fine, really.”

By this time, Wishbone overtook the group in the company of Petal and Caravel. “What’s up?” he asked, sensing some unspoken tension in the air and, seeing by the look on Icon’s face that he had the upper hoof, Wishbone placed his bet on Icon. He cut between Becca and Roland, and expressed his concern for Becca’s “having been trampled on,” as he phrased it, upon which he and Icon began regaling her with stories of sports-related injuries they had sustained over their lifetimes.

Roland fell back with Vanguard. “How long is your brother going to be in town?” he asked.

“Not long,” Vanguard shared. “Just a couple days.”

“A couple too many,” Roland muttered under his breath.

* * *
Friendly’s birthday celebration was a big success. The array of ponies present at the ice cream shop was reminiscent of earlier days when these ponies had spent most of their evenings in the congenial atmosphere of Scoop’s welcoming establishment.

“Tiffany’s the only one missing,” Tabby observed, glancing around the room.

Quarterback, who was nearby, laughed. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about Tex already.”

“Who?” the pink unicorn innocently asked, causing a guffaw from Butch.

“That’s the spirit, Tabby. Dream Valley is better off without him.”

Sparkler frowned at him. “No one has heard from Tex, which seems extremely odd.”

“Maybe he went back to Bolivia,” Tabby offered matter-of-factly and did not notice the aggrieved expression that crossed Butch’s face.

A troupe of Bushwoolies scuttled by, creating havoc, as their idea of celebrating involved an abundance of hyperactive motion amidst a constant assault of chatter with Friendly at the center of the confusion. Sugarberry shook her head as she stood guard over the birthday cake that she had baked, and Garnet had decorated. “I’m glad this party isn’t being held at our house,” she said to her husband.

But Vanguard did not seem to be aware of the noise or confusion; his attention was focused on Icon who was across the room and still at the side of Becca. Wigwam and Chocolate Chip, along with Wishbone and Garnet, filled up the table. Roland had been relegated to the background where he found himself keeping Baby Noddins and Baby Falling Leaves company as they had discovered that he had once lived at Limestone Ridges which just happened to be an area on which they were to write a report for their social studies class.

“My brother is really coming on strong,” Vanguard said to Sugarberry.

“They seem to be having a good time,” noted the mare. “Don’t you approve?”

“I don’t think Roland approves.”

Sugarberry’s gaze sought out Roland. “He does seem to be paying more attention to what’s going on with Icon and Becca than he is to Baby Noddins’ questions,” she admitted. “But I haven’t seen the two of them together for ages.”

“He was worried about her after he knocked her down, I know.”

“I saw those bruises,” Sugarberry shivered. “She took quite a tumble; but she seems to be enjoying herself now.”

Standing next to Sugarberry, Elaine suddenly exclaimed, “Well, look who’s here!” Coming into the shop were Princess Tiffany and her Italian prince. There had been a time when Elaine would have cowered to see the white princess’s arrival, but the source of that antagonism had become a mute point since Toby was no longer fair game, and both mares were happily involved with stallions of their own.

The regal bearing of the princess and the arrogant demeanor of the stallion cast a stifling effect on the exuberance of the Bushwoolies as Tiffany gifted Friendly who had served her well as her personal attendant with a lavishly wrapped birthday present; the other Bushwoolies gathered around their buddy and watched in uncharacteristic silence. Friendly smiled broadly to receive such an impressive beneficence and immediately set about removing the ribbon and wrap to uncover a state-of-the art laptop loaded with extras courtesy of Guido’s Macrohard company.

As Tiffany and Guido moved off to mingle, the Bushwoolies renewed the party atmosphere and the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe was once more filled with noise and merriment. Tiffany, condescending to make small talk with the ponies she encountered,, worked her way toward Tabby, Guido following in her wake.

“Good evening, Tabitha. You’re looking... well.” The white pegasus ran a critical eye over the perky pink unicorn.

“Hi, Tiff! I didn’t think you were going to make it!” Tabby completely ignored Guido’s presence. Tiffany did, too, so Guido wandered off to speak with Vanguard and Thomas.

“I didn’t either, with so much going on in Vulcanopolis, but things worked out in the end.” She glanced around questioningly. “Where’s your daughter?”

Tabby waved her hoof carelessly. “Somewhere... I guess with the Bushwoolies.”

Tiffany’s eyes widened. “Is that wise?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Tabby said, cocking her head. “I mean, she already spends all her time with Shelbys and Furbys and Pokemon.”

“But, Tabitha, she will pick up all sorts of bad habits! You should be protecting her from such influences and teaching her to be cultured.”

“Oh, but she’s picking up lots of culture this way, Tiffy!”

Tiffany gave up as Sugarberry approached the two. “It’s so good to see you again, Tiffany,” the strawberry-patterned mare said. “I overheard Guido say that you had a smooth trip.”

“Having a personal jet at one’s disposal does make traveling a trifle less hectic,” the princess admitted. Then she lowered her voice. “Have I missed out on any good gossip lately?”

The mares discussed the news and views of the Dream Valley ponies thoroughly before Sugarberry commented to the princess, “You must be deluged in wedding planning yourself.”

“Oh, yes. My plans are going quite well... except for that little fiasco with the caterers.”

Guido, Vanguard, and Thomas had just come up to the mares, and Guido laughed at Tiffany’s statement. “Her little fiasco,” he shared with the others, “was caused by Tiffany’s insistence that the entire complement of cooks, waiters, and other assorted workers were to fly to Dream Valley to prepare for the wedding here which would have necessitating them having to drop several other engagements in Vulcanopolis.”

“Guido took care of it,” Tiffany sniffed. “He bought out the entire business so that now they have to do it my way.”

“You can’t be serious!” Sugarberry exclaimed.

“Of course, I’m serious,” the princess responded with a frosty look. “It solved everything.”

Merry Moments came up to the group accompanied by Quarterback whereupon Tiffany and Guido extended the couple congratulations concerning their Valentine Day’s engagement. Merry Moments, however, had another project on her mind.

“Some of us mares are talking about starting our own lacrosse team; we can’t let the guys have all the fun!” she enthused. “Are any of you interested?”

“After seeing what happened to Becca today, no thank you,” Sugarberry said adamantly.

“Hey! Even Becca’s interested in playing the sport,” Merry Moments laughed. “You’ll have to come up with a better excuse than that, Sugarberry.”

“Besides, the mares’ game is much more docile than the stallions’ game,” explained Quarterback. “There’s no stick or body contact involved.”

“Small comfort,” said Sugarberry, looking to Tabby for guidance. “What do you think?”

“I’m sure some of my Pokemon would love the challenge.”

“Chocolate Chip is willing to try it, as well as Petal and Garnet and Mignonette. Baby Falling Leaves and Baby Noddins want to join; maybe we can work them in somewhere. Dreamcatcher is interested once the foal arrives. Plus, several of the Sweetheart Sisters are really enthused about the sport, so they’ll bring in lots of the Pony Pride students,” rationalized Merry Moments.

“I personally look forward to seeing you mares out on the field,” Quarterback grinned.

Meanwhile, Icon’s table was still flying high with Roland having managed to pull up a chair across from Becca from which position he could keep an eye on things– or more explicitly, on Icon, who, Roland believed, was pressing his suit with Becca way too confidently. Yet why this mattered to Roland, even Roland would have found hard to explain.

But when Roland saw that Becca was looking tired, he made his move to cut Icon out. “Becca, would you like me to walk you home now? You look beat.”

“Only because you ran her down,” Icon was quick to note.

Becca, however, smiled at Roland. “Yes, if I can walk; I think all my muscles have tightened up by now.” She tentatively stretched a foreleg and grimaced.

“Maybe I should accompany you, too, Becca,” Icon decided, flashing a wink in Wishbone’s direction. “We wouldn’t want you take another tumble.”

Wishbone concurred. “You wouldn’t want that to happen, Becca.”

“I don’t think...” Becca started to say, but Icon and Roland were already on their hooves, neither of them willing to back down. So she submitted to Roland’s help with her chair and the offer of Icon’s hoof as she stood. For a moment, she enjoyed the support of both of the stallions as her abused muscles fought her movement; but when she took her first step, she granted Roland’s foreleg the honor of bolstering her.

Icon remained ever attentive, however, and when the group left the shop, he held the door and then sprinted to Becca’s side to ensure himself that she was not going to faint or become a victim to any other weakness incurred from the day’s accident. Roland glowered, realizing that it was going to be a long walk to Becca’s place with the unwanted assistance of this eager stallion.

When Icon arrived back at his brother and sister-in-law’s house, he found Sugarberry and Vanguard, Wishbone and Garnet, and Wigwam and Chocolate Chip still chatting in the living room; six faces swivelled to observe his entrance.

“Did you and Roland get Becca home safely?” asked Vanguard.

“Of course,” Icon retorted, dropping lazily into a vacant chair. He grinned suddenly. “Roland will pursue Becca’s attentions with a little more determination from here on in, I would presume.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” queried Chocolate Chip.

“It means that if Roland thinks he has competition, he won’t drag his hooves when it comes to courting Becca,” Wishbone supplied.

“Is that his intention?” Garnet questioned. “I didn’t even notice that he was interested in her.”

“After he had knocked her down, he couldn’t keep his mind on the game; he was always watching her,” Icon rationalized.

“I’d have thought that was because he was worried about her.”

“Maybe their run-in made him see her in a new light,” suggested Wigwam.

“Wait a minute,” said Sugarberry to Icon. “By the way you were acting at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, I though you had eyes only for Becca.”

“She’s fun to be around, but I was only trying to goad Roland,” the stallion admitted. “And I think I succeeded quite well.”

“That’s a lot like matchmaking,” growled Vanguard, “which is a out of your league, little brother.”

“What was your motive?” asked Wigwam.

“I was serious when I invited her to come to Woodlawn to help our business scene grow; when she turned me down and I saw how aggrieved Roland was over my making such a proposal, I decided it would be entertaining to give him a run for the money.”

“What if you had succeeded in winning her affection?” asked Chocolate Chip.

“That would have been choice,” Wishbone snickered, eliciting an icy stare from Icon and a yawn from Garnet.

“It looks like its time for this party to break up,” Wigwam observed. “I’ll save you another trip out, tonight, Wishbone, and walk Garnet back to her place.” He offered a hoof to Chocolate Chip as the chocolate-brown mare stood. “You I will see tomorrow.” He kissed her lightly on the cheek.

Wishbone accompanied Wigwam and Garnet as far as the porch steps, then returned to the house and retired to his basement room. Sugarberry was refilling the cat food dishes for Fluff and Raptor; Chocolate Chip had already disappeared upstairs, and Vanguard was turning off the majority of the lights.

When Sugarberry had finished with her chores, she bid Vanguard and Icon a goodnight, knowing that Vanguard wanted some time alone to talk with his brother.

“You haven’t said anything this trip about the lawsuit Macrohard is holding over your company,” Vanguard said to him. Icon and two of his friends had organized an enterprise, H.C.I., which acronym could stand for the owners’ names– Hodgepodge, Cachet, Icon– or the name they had adopted– Hot Computer Ideations.

“What’s there to say? We don’t stand a chance with a company that wields that kind of power, even though we’ve done nothing wrong except develop a better product.” Icon sighed. “The reason I came to visit you and Sugarberry this weekend was to put this Macrohard ordeal out of my mind. It worked, too, until Guido walked in on the party tonight.”

“I would never have guessed that you even noticed he was there.”

“I noticed, all right. I also noticed that you and he appeared to be pretty buddy-buddy.” Icon looked at his brother with an accusing glance.

“So you think I’m consorting with the enemy? When I was in Vulcanopolis, Guido introduced me to ponies who became very good friends while I was over there. I also include him as a friend.”

“That would explain why you don’t see him as an ogre as I do.”

“I understand your mistrust; why he feels threatened by the company that you formed is a mystery to me.”

“It’s because we fill a niche that ponies find helpful, and we do our job right.”

“I realize that, Icon, and I’m glad for your success with what started out as a home-based venture.” Vanguard took a deep breath before continuing. “Guido wants you to call him tomorrow between eight and nine at his hotel, Regal Ridges.”

Icon stared at his brother. “He talked to you about the lawsuit?”

“No. He just said that you were having too good a time to interrupt you with business last evening, but he does want you to get in touch with him before he goes to the Royal Paradise for breakfast with Tiffany. I said I’d give you the message, and I have.”

“Does he even know I’m part of H.C.I.? His lawyers, yes, but not Guido himself, I would think.”

“He didn’t get to where he is today without knowing his competition.”

“H.C.I. is hardly that. The dent we make in his earnings is laughable from his point-of-view, but it means a lot to me... and Hodgepodge and Cachet. I suppose Guido wants us to quietly fold our company and get out of his hair with no publicity over the fact.”

“Or maybe he wants to work out a compromise. He’s not entirely ruthless.” The words were no sooner out of Vanguard’s mouth when he realized that Guido’s discarding of Clare for the Princess Tiffany could very well count as ruthless; yet the eventual outcome was quite satisfactory in that Clare had ended up remarkably happy with Giorgio, so Vanguard did not feel it necessary to change his expressed opinion.

“I’ll have to take your word for that.” The stallion ran a hoof across his forehead as if clearing his mind, but the effort obviously failed. “I’ll never be able to sleep now; I’ll be worrying about what he’s got planned.”

“I could always heat up some warm milk for you.”

“You know I hate that stuff!”

“Well, you’d better try to get some sleep; morning will be here before you know it.”

“All too soon,” Icon agreed. Then he grinned. “Sugarberry promised me she’d make those chocolate muffins for breakfast. At least I have that to look forward to.”

“That’s the spirit,” Vanguard replied, flipping the last switch, leaving only the hallway light to guide them. “You’ve still got your priorities straight.”

Icon did succeed in sleeping well, and he enjoyed the breakfast that Sugarberry served; his Sunday in Dream Valley, therefore, was off to a good start. Even his phone call to Guido did not dampen it too much, as the Italian stallion had been amiable in his queries concerning H.C.I. and had surprised Icon by requesting an appointment to meet with those involved with H.C.I. so that he could see for himself the operation of their business; he would be in Woodlawn on Tuesday. Icon could only imagine that Guido was taking a second look at Macrohard’s lawsuit and finding it lacking in credibility. It was with a positive attitude that, after church, he treated Vanguard and Sugarberry to lunch at the Café Carousel.

The three took their places around a table, but Icon had no sooner gotten seated when a grin spread across his face. “Well, look who’s here,” he said, pushing back his chair and striding off across the diner.

“Who...?” asked Sugarberry, turning her head to follow Icon’s route.

“It’s Becca,” Vanguard, with a clearer view, informed her. “And it looks like she’s been invited to join us.” He stood up as Icon accompanied the mare to their table and held a chair for her.

“Icon said he didn’t want me eating alone,” Becca said apologetically as she sat down. “I hope I’m not intruding.”

“Not at all,” Sugarberry assured her. “But I’m surprised that you’re feeling well enough to be out and about.”

“I feel better when I’m walking; it loosens up the stiffness. So after church I came here. If I went home, I’d collapse on the sofa and fall asleep and never move again.”

“Much better for you to be here,” Icon grinned.

During the course of the meal, the ponies had an enjoyable time with Icon entertaining Sugarberry and Becca with various exploits that he and his brothers had engaged in during their growing up years, with Vanguard interjecting various details or denying certain incidents, some of which Sugarberry had never been apprized of before. Becca herself added some insight into her growing up years with stories of daring exploits that she and her siblings had staged which always ended with the young Becca being the one to suffer the consequences, of which her current dining companions had no doubt was the truth. Laughter reigned supreme.

Even when the table had been cleared of all but the coffee cups, the four sat in happy harmony, unwilling for time to cut short their enjoyment; but, eventually, even Icon could not ignore the hour of the day. “If I’m to get back to Woodlawn, I’d better get going,” the stallion finally admitted. “Excuse me while I pay the tab.” As he stood, he noticed a familiar form coming toward the table. “Hi, Roland,” he called before moving off to the cash register.

Becca’s face softened as she greeted the stallion who had just entered the restaurant with a newspaper in his hoof; and Sugarberry, seeing an opportunity, suggested that Roland take their place with Becca as that mare was still nursing a hot cup of coffee. Roland seemed to favor the suggestion, and Becca’s warm smile settled it for him.

When Icon returned to take his leave of Becca, he reminded her to give some more thought to resettling her career in Woodlawn, assuring her that she would find the ponies of that town quite to her liking. Becca laughingly said she would most certainly consider it, but that she hoped Icon would not be too disappointed if she declined such a move.

Roland got in the next punch. “From what I hear, Icon, you might be in need of that job yourself.”

The disparaging tone of Roland’s voice as much as the words caught Icon’s attention, and he turned his steady gaze upon the stallion. “And just what’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, sobering considerably.

The abrupt change in Icon’s demeanor unsettled Roland, and he attempted to moderate the utterance. “Your company is having some problems.”

“If you call having to scramble to keep up with the demand for our services, yes. If you mean something else, I’d like to know what it is.” The look on Icon’s face was severe.

Roland met the glare in silence for a few moments as Sugarberry, Vanguard, and Becca looked on; then, as if coming to some conclusion, Roland threw the newspaper down on the table in Icon’s direction. “Read the paper.”

As Roland watched Icon peruse the article in question, he realized no satisfaction from his actions and wished now that he had kept his mouth shut. He glanced at Becca, only to find her anxiously watching Icon. Vanguard had moved to his brother’s side to see what the paper had to report, and Sugarberry maintained a censuring look directed at Roland.

The first thing that caught Vanguard’s eye as he peered at the newspaper over Icon’s shoulder was a photo of someone he recognized. It was a shot of Guido, looking every bit the masterful entrepreneur that he was; the accompanying news article was brief, but enlightening.

Macrohard’s owner and C.E.O., Guido Casale, was in Dream Valley this weekend in the company of Princess Tiffany for a social engagement; but when questioned, he admitted that he had business motives in mind as well. When asked about the impending lawsuit against H.C.I., a rival company located in Woodlawn which has garnered Macrohard’s disfavor, Casale stated that he anticipated that all matters with that company would be brought to a conclusion within the week. H.C.I. was taken to task by Macrohard for infringing on development rights of their new spreadsheet package. Macrohard claims H.C.I. exploited Macrohard technology in their bid to capture some of the behemoth’s computer domain. Casale verified that steps were being taken to restrain the maverick company through the legal system, and he anticipates a favorable and prompt decision.

Icon finished skimming the article and pushed the paper back across the table to Roland. “Don’t believe everything you read in the paper,” he advised, his eyes dark and forbidding. “This account is a mite one-sided.” With a brief nod at Becca, he turned and left.

Sugarberry, with a wan smile and shrug of her shoulders for Roland and Becca, followed in Vanguard’s company. When they were outside the Café Carousel, Icon turned on them.

“Not entirely ruthless, Van? He already has us written off!” Icon fumed.

“The article said the matter would be concluded; you don’t know yet what the conclusion will be,” Vanguard argued, but not very credibly.

“I don’t know, but I can pretty well guess, can’t I? The smug look on that stallion’s face...” He pounded a hoof on the pavement.

“Icon, listen to Vanguard.” Sugarberry placed a comforting hoof on his shoulder. “Wait until you hear what Guido has to say.”

“More to the point, Sugarberry; Guido better wait until he hears what Hodgepodge, Cachet, and I have to say.” He shook off her hoof and took off down the street.

Sugarberry opened her mouth to call him back, but Vanguard shook his head. “Let him go,” he advised. “He has to work this out on his own.”

“He’s so angry,” she fretted.

“He’ll cool off. He knew it would come to this point sooner or later.”

Sugarberry’s expression was dark, however, as she remembered Tiffany’s explanation of how Guido had solved her problem with the caterers: “He bought out the whole company...” If he did that to make the princess happy, what would he do to maintain his own supremacy?

–to be continued


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