My Little Pony Monthly Issue 68 (November 1, 2002)

My Little Pony Monthly
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Issue 68
November 2002


1. Thanksgiving Contest

2. Ember’s Wish Part 2 (by C. Alan Loewen)

3. A Note From the Author of the Ella Fay Series

4. Chapter #3: Locked in the Library (by Melody)

5. Soul-Mates (by Sugarberry and Tabby)


Thanksgiving Contest

The following story contains the hidden names of at least thirty-four My Little Ponies from the l980's. They are used in this story as common nouns rather than proper nouns. (Remember grammar class?) How many can you pick out? EX: It was a gusty day in Ponyland. “Gusty” would be the hidden pony name. E-mail your answers to Sugarberry at The winner will receive a special graphic for their webpage or personal use!

“I’m sleepy,” yawned Cara as she and her siblings trooped into the kitchen early on Thanksgiving morning.

Cockleburr ruffled her curly locks. “You said you wanted to help,” he reminded her.

“You said I could dump in the cranberries,” said seven-year old Nugget.

“They’re craisins, really,” said Cockleburr, slipping Jellybean into the high chair. “Dried cranberries.”

“What’re we making again?” asked Cara.

“Cupcake!” grinned the toddler, Daffodil.

“No, not cupcakes. Muffins. Cranberry muffins,” retorted Casaba, pulling the proper tin from the cupboard.

Cockleburr, the oldest of the family’s six foals, called the others to attention. “Now, the reason we’re here is to fix a surprise breakfast for mom and dad. They were both up late last night, and Mom’ll be busy fixing Thanksgiving dinner today; so we want to help her out, okay?”

The gathered foals all shook their heads in agreement... even the baby, Jellybean. As he gurgled his approval, tiny bubbles oozed down his chin.

“Casaba, you grease the pan; Nugget, you get out the eggs; Cara, you find the vanilla in the cupboard, and Daffodil...” he looked at the two-year old cautiously, “ can hang on to the package of craisins until we need them.” The little foal was easily pleased and responded with a bunny hop around the table to show her pleasure.

“Where’d ya get the recipe?” asked Nugget.

“From Aunt Karinda; she won a blue ribbon for it at the fair.”

Approaching her brother with a small bottle in one hoof and the lid in the other, Cara wiggled her nose. “Does vanilla smell minty?” she asked.

“Umm... no. You must have grabbed the peppermint. Vanilla begins with a v, like an up-side-down teepee.”

“Oh.” Cara returned to the cupboard to hunt some more.

Cockleburr was in the process of measuring the flour and thereby succeeding in spilling the white powder on the counter when he noticed Jellybean who had grown squirmy and whiney in his high chair. “What’s the matter, Beanie? Those sniffles bothering you yet?” He sent Casaba to tend to the foal, wiping away the trickles and giving him some rattles to bang against the metal tray.

“Is this the right stuff?” asked Cara, returning with a brown bottle that, indeed, was the vanilla. In her other hoof she held a container of colored candies. “Can we put on some sprinkles?” she asked hopefully.

“Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt,” agreed Cockleburr, unable to disappoint his little sister. “They’ll turn the muffins into a merry treat.”

“Okay, Daffodil, we need the craisins now,” Cockleburr said, helping the toddler up on a chair so that she could see what was going on. Quick as a flash, the tiny filly tossed the craisins, bag and all, into the mix.

“Ah... that’s not quite how it’s done,” giggled Casaba, grabbing the package out of the sticky batter.

The little foal was not deterred; seeing the batter clinging to the outside of the bag, she leaned toward it and swiped a taste with her tongue. “Yum yum,” she cooed. “Sugar sweet.”

“You and your sweet tooth,” Cockleburr grinned.

In the meantime, Nugget had also tasted the batter. “It’s not salty enough,” he complained.

“Oh! I forgot the salt!” Cockleburr quickly remedied the situation, and Nugget added the red, shriveled cranberries. Then, pouring the mix into the cupped tin, Casaba declared the muffins ready for the oven.

While waiting for the sweet stuff to bake, the siblings gathered by the window to talk and watch Jellybean and Daffodil play; outside, the one chrysanthemum that their mother had planted was a mound of brilliant blossoms in deep bronze that glistened in the bright sunlight following the dawn.

“Are we going to play football this afternoon?” asked Cara.

“Yes,” frowned Casaba. “But no way are you going to play quarterback.”

The little filly cast her brother a spunky grimace. “You never let me have any fun!”

Cockleburr grinned and pushed a ringlet from Cara’s forehead. “Don’t little girls like more dainty pastimes?”

“No,” she replied, a grumpy expression still on her face.

Nugget pointed his hoof at her and moved it in tiny wiggles. “Tickle, tickle,” he teased as his hoof came closer and closer to the little pony.

Unable to resist the gentle teasing, Cara broke out in little giggles just as the buzzer on the stove went off.

“Does that mean they’re done?” asked Nugget.

“What’s done?” asked Blue Bonnet, coming into the kitchen at that moment, followed by Firethorn.

“Happy Thanksgiving Day!” chorused the foals with bright eyes sparkling.


Ember’s Wish (Part 2)
by C. Alan Loewen (

(Author’s note: This story takes place several months before the events depicted in the 1984 animated My Little Pony video that introduced Dream Castle (TM), Spike, the Sea Ponies (TM) and Megan. Your welcome comments and critiques may be sent to

Synopsis: Due to a wish stone, Ember, the youngest pony of Dream Castle, has switched bodies with Rowen Reynolds, a ten-year-old girl on Earth. During an exhausting session of cheerleading practice, Ember meets Rowen’s three friends, Shayla, Mandy, and Anne. The three girls are unaware that Rowan isn’t really who she appears, but they think their friend is merely reacting strangely to a busy day. While eating lunch at Shayla’s house, there is a knock on the door. It’s Firefly who has traveled to Earth to fix things up and get Ember and Rowen back into their right bodies.

There was a knock on the door.

“I’ll get it, mother,” Shayla called. Still shaking her head, she got up from the table and went to answer the knock. Ember went back to eating her sandwich while Anne and Mandy made comments to each other about friends who watch too much television.

A moment later, Shayla came to the door, her normally mocha-colored skin many shades paler than when she went to answer the door.

“Rowen, you have a visitor,” she said, her voice trembling. She stepped aside.

“Firefly!” Ember said with delight. “How did you find me?”

Anne and Mandy stared at the winged pony standing next to Shayla in the doorway. Her disheveled mane made it evident she had been flying fast just moments ago.

Firefly shook her mane into place. “That’s not important now. You and I are in trouble and we have to hide until you and Rowen change back into your regular bodies. Can your friends help us?”

“Sure they will,” Ember said. She turned and looked at the others. “Right, guys?”

* * *
Outside Shayla’s front door, two eyes, black and shiny as buttons, stared at the door where the pony had entered. Fix the ferret turned and hushed his three ferret brothers behind him. Once again, they had forgotten their names and they were trying to help each other remember.

“Will you three clowns be quiet!” he ordered.

The three stopped their arguing and looked at him chagrined. “But boss,” one of them whined, “we can’t. We’re ferrets.”

“Listen,” Fix scowled. “If you want to get back to the Dreamlands, you’re going to have to be quiet. Now, hush!”

With that, he turned his attention back to the front door with great interest.

Last year, Fix had fled the Dreamworld to Earth with his three brothers, aided by a magical talisman he had stolen from the wizard who was their master. The talisman, a huge diamond, now hung around the ferret’s neck, glittering on a golden chain.

It wasn’t that Fix was a thief, at least not as much a thief as a ferret tends to be; but the thing sparkled so, and he liked things that sparkled.

He remembered the first day he had broken out of his cage when his master was gone. Fix found the diamond on a table, and he drooled as he looked at the light glinting off its surface. When he pounced on it, to bite it and worry it with his teeth, a strange sort of wisdom and knowledge flooded his mind and he knew himself for who he was.

And the strange object had an area of effect. As long as his three brothers stayed within a reasonable distance of him, they too had wisdom and knowledge, though greatly limited. Far too often, they resorted to their ferret nature.

The four had fled to earth through ancient magics they found in their master’s laboratory. Sadly, it was a one-way trip and their hearts ached for home, not this strange place called Earth where wonder ruled instead of magic.

This morning, Fix had seen a flying mare and followed her to this house.

* * *
Shayla, Mandy, and Anne had recovered enough from their shock that they listened once again to Ember’s story, this time without teasing.

“So,” Shayla said, “our friend Rowan is actually back at Dream Castle in Ember’s body while Ember is here in Rowan’s body?”

“Yes,” Firefly responded. “That’s it exactly. And as the wish wears off in twenty-four hours, they have to be back in the exact same place where the transfer happened or they’ll be stuck in their new bodies forever.”

“No problem,” Anne said. “Rowan ... I mean Ember ... has to go home soon. You say the exchange happened when Rowan was in bed? It’s simple. Ember goes to bed and when she wakes up, she’ll be a pony again back in Dreamland and Rowan will be where she belongs.”

“Not exactly,” Firefly said. “They will be in their right bodies, but their bodies are going to go to them. That means that Ember will wake up in Rowan’s bed as a pony and Rowan will be in Dreamland as a girl.”

Mandy shook her head. “Could you explain that to me again?”

“I understand,” Shayla said. “After the transfer, how are you going to get Rowan back home to Earth?”

“My sister, Moondancer, will fly Rowan back and then we’ll rig up a harness to fly Ember back with us.”

Shayla paused and looked at Ember. “You don’t have wings?”

Ember shook her head, “No, I’m an earth pony. I stay on the ground.”

Shayla shook her head. “Next you’ll be telling me I’ll be seeing unicorns.”

“Well ...” Ember said, but Firefly interrupted.

“We have to get ready for the transfer and someplace for me to hide out until morning. Any ideas?”

Shayla, Mandy and Anne looked at each other and smiled as they all thought of the same thing at the same time.

Shayla got the phone off the wall and dialed a number. “Here,” she told Ember. “Tell Mrs. Reynolds that you want to invite us over for a slumber party.”

Ember put the phone to her ear upside down. Shayla corrected it just as the phone was answered.

“Hello, Mrs. Reynolds?” Ember asked.

The other three girls waved their hands in panic. “Call her Mom!” hissed Anne.

“I mean, Mom,” Ember said quickly. “Can my friends come over for a slumber party tonight?”

The other three heard Mrs. Reynolds’ voice coming through the phone, sounding tinny and far away.

“Thanks, Mom. Thanks a lot,” Ember said. She gave the phone back to Shayla and smiled. “What’s a slumber party?” she asked.

Shayla put her arm around Ember’s shoulders. “My friend, we are going to introduce you to pizza and make-up.”

The girls went and hid Firefly in the backyard arbor. Later that evening, Ember and her human friends piled into Shayla’s parents’ car for the trip to the Reynolds’ home. After they pulled out from the driveway, Firefly would take to the sky and follow them.

As the car pulled out from the driveway into the road, nobody noticed the four pairs of shiny eyes staring out from the wheel well.

* * *
Fix and his brothers waited under a rose bush for the sun to set. As Fix’s mind hatched all the different plots and schemes they could use to make the Dreamland ponies take them back to their world, the other three played a game.

“I spy,” said Tricks, “with my little eye, something that is ... red!”

Kicks looked around, his head moving in sharp, quick movements. “Is it a rose?” he asked.

Tricks sighed. “How did you guess? Oh, well. It’s your turn.”

Kicks smiled. “I got one you’ll never guess. I spy, with my little eye, something that is ... red!”

“Is it a rose?” Mix asked.

“Wow!” Kicks said. “You’re good!”

Fix turned on his brothers in fury. “Will you be quiet so I can think!” he yelled in a thin, tiny shriek. “And stop playing that silly game! You’ve been playing it for the last half hour and all you’ve ever selected, each time, was a rose!”

“What’s gotten into him?” Tricks whispered to his brothers.

“I don’t think he likes roses,” Kicks muttered. “Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s play that ‘I Spy’ game!”

Fix groaned and held his head in his little paws.

* * *
“Mom?” Ember said to Mrs. Reynolds, “Shayla, Mandy, Anne, and I are going out on the back porch, okay?”

“No problem,” came the call from the living room. “But your father will be home in ten minutes, so be ready to eat when I call.”

The four girls went out onto the back porch and looked around for Firefly. A quiet hiss got their attention, and they saw Firefly’s head peek out from behind the small backyard shed that held the lawnmower and the gardening tools.

“Is it safe?” she asked.

Shayla looked through the door and beckoned. “Mrs. Reynolds is still in the living room. Let’s go.”

The four girls and the winged pony quickly made their way upstairs to Rowan’s bedroom.

“Please, girls,” Mrs. Reynolds called from downstairs. “No running in the halls. You sound like a herd of horses up there.”

Giggling, the girls and Firefly crowded into the bedroom and shut the door. After supper, they ordered pizza and introduced Ember and Firefly to a new taste treat.

Shayla decided Ember would sleep alone on the bed. When Rowan and Ember changed places come sunrise, there would suddenly be a small pony in the bed; and anybody sleeping in the bed would most likely find themselves on the floor. Shayla, Mandy, and Anne rolled out sleeping bags on the floor where Firefly would join them for the night.

As evening fell and the moon rose, they chatted about movies and fingernail polish; and Ember and Firefly answered endless questions about the Dreamlands.

* * *
Fix glared at the window in utter frustration. His three brothers had finally fallen asleep leaving him in peace with his thoughts.

Finally, the light went off and Fix sighed with relief. “Wake up, chowderheads,” he said.

Grumbling, his brothers got up from the ground, yawning and stretching.

Ten minutes later, Mix stood on his hind legs, braced against the front door. On top of his shoulders stood Kicks. On top of his shoulders stood Tricks, and balanced on top stood Fix with a thin piece of metal.

“Quiet!” Fix ordered. “And be still. I have to pick this lock.”

From below, Mix started singing a song he had heard sometime ago. “Heigh ho, heigh ho, heigh, ho, heigh ho, heigh, ho, heigh ho, heigh, ho ...”

“Quiet!” came a whispered command from above.

“But I like that song,” grumbled Tricks.

“Especially that ‘heigh ho’ part,” agreed Tricks.

Fix said nothing. Ferrets are natural born lock-pickers; and it’s rumored that Houdini, the great escape artist, was taught everything he knew from Rascal, his pet ferret. Coupled with high intelligence, even if magically created from a shiny talisman, a ferret could easily be a master thief to the envy of all criminals around the world. In three minutes flat, Fix had the lock picked and the door opened.

Silently, four ferrets crept into the dark house.

* * *
Anne was having an unpleasant dream that something heavy was sitting on her chest, and she woke up to find it was true.

“A rat!” she shrieked and immediately the room was in bedlam.

Sleeping bags were flung aside along with ferrets who had been foolish enough to be sitting on them when the girls awakened.

Mandy had enough presence of mind to flick on the light; and in the ensuing chaos, Fix was commanding everyone to be quiet while Firefly tried unsuccessfully to hide under Rowan’s bed.

There was a knock on the bedroom door. Everyone froze.

“Girls?” came the voice of Rowan’s father. “Is everything okay? What’s the problem?”

The girls looked at Firefly and at the small, furry intruders and they realized they didn’t have answers for Mr. Reynolds’ questions when he saw the strange visitors to their slumber party.

“Everything’s okay, sir,” she called. “I’m really sorry, but Anne had a bad dream. Everything’s fine.”

There was a pause.

“Okay,” came the voice through the door. “Please go to sleep.”

Anne pointed at the ferrets that had gathered together on the floor. “There’s rats in the bedroom!”

Fix stood up on his hind legs, his expression, he hoped, suitably fierce. “We, little girl, are not rats.”

Anne moaned and gathered her sleeping bag around her. “And they’re talking rats!”

“No, Anne,” Shayla said. “They’re not rats. I recognize them.”

“That’s right!” piped the ferret named Tricks. “We’re not those hairy critters. We’re ... we’re ...” He wrinkled his nose in thought.

“We’re kangaroos!” Kicks responded.

“No. No, I don’t think so,” Mix interrupted. “I know the word starts with the letter ‘f.’ “

”We’re fish!” Tricks said triumphantly.

“Quiet!” Fix thundered, “We’re ferrets. Ferrets!”

Firefly had given up trying to crawl under the bed and tried to shake her wings and her composure back into order. “You’re Dreamland ferrets,” she said finally. “What are you doing on Earth?”

“That is not your concern, pony,” Fix said sternly, “except that your wings are our ticket home.”

Firefly shrugged in that strange way only ponies can. “No problem. You want to return to Dreamland. I can take you back right after sunrise.”

“No,” Fix said. “We want to go back. Now.”

“I can’t fly in the dark,” Firefly said. “That’s way too dangerous.”

Fix paused in thought and turned looking to his brothers for support. He saw them clustered around a lava lamp oohing and ahhing over the red plastic bubbles boiling in the thick purple liquid.

“Wait a minute!” Firefly cried. “I recognize that stone around your neck. That’s the Moochick’s wisdom gem. You stole it!”

“Ferrets don’t steal,” Fix replied in contempt, deciding to ignore his brothers’ slide into ferret behavior. “If it isn’t locked up, it belongs to the finder. That’s first rule in the ferret rule book.”

“Thief!” Firefly shot back. “The poor Moochick has been confused and scatterbrained ever since you stole it.”

Ember and the three girls had gotten onto the bed and were watching the exchange with great interest. For Shayla, Mandy, and Anne, the novelty of a talking pony had just doubled with the arrival of four talking ferrets.

“Firefly,” Shayla said, “I can solve this problem right now.” With that she reached down and picked up her sleeping bag and with a quick toss, flipped it over the four ferrets. With a laugh, she jumped on them where they wriggled under the fabric. “No big deal,” Shayla said.

Except it was.

With a yelp, Shayla found herself rising into the air, still clutching the sleeping bag. Anne and Mandy dove under the covers as Firefly and Ember watched the four ferrets inhale deeply and began to expand. The ferret brothers were not Earth ferrets; they were ferrets of Dreamland and sometimes they could be nightmares.

Shayla rolled off the sleeping bag to fall to the floor watching in disbelief as the ferrets grew in size. In moments, their heads touched the bedroom ceiling.

“Not smart, little girl,” Fix thundered as his three, now giant, brothers snickered.

The wisdom gem, brilliant as a faceted diamond, hung around his neck on a special chain designed to expand when he did. “Now,” he said to the four girls and the pony, “let’s not wake Daddy and Mommy with the big, bad ferrets.”

He looked at Firefly. “You can’t fly in the dark? We’ll wait for sunrise.” With that he sat on his haunches while his three brothers went back to staring at the lava lamp.

Concerned that somebody might see four giant ferrets through the lit window, Fix made the girls pull the shades down over the windows.

And they waited.

Fix’s three brothers spent the time playing “I Spy” with the lava lamp.

At one point, Shayla, in an attempt to overcome the boredom of the wait, got out some sparkly fingernail polish. Immediately, Tricks, Kicks, and Mix insisted the sparkly fluid be put on their own claws while Fix looked on with growing impatience.

Watching the ferrets’ attraction with anything that glistened and sparkled, Shayla thought of a plan. Casually, she whispered her idea to the other three girls and Firefly.

Eventually, light from the rising sun made the edges of the pulled window blinds glow.

Feigning exhaustion, Ember got into Rowan’s bed and pulled the covers over her head. Shayla casually stood by the window while Firefly, Mandy and Anne stood by the closed bedroom door.

“Don’t try and run,” Fix warned. He nodded toward the shape of Ember under the bed clothes and Shayla standing by the window. “You’ll be leaving your friends behind and that’s not a good thing to do.”

Shayla shrugged. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Suddenly, the shape under the bed clothes began to shift and expand.

“What’s going on?” Fix asked. “You! Little girl. Get up!”

The shape under the covers was definitely not the shape of a ten-year-old girl and Fix and his brothers leaned over to see what was going on.

As Fix leaned over the bed, the faceted gem he wore on the chain hung free and at that moment, two things happened.

Shayla pulled open the blinds in a flash allowing the light from the rising sun to flood the room. The light beam hit the gem and shattered the light into thousands of bright, glittering rainbows that turned the room into a glorious show of color. The effect on the ferrets was immediate. With a cry, they were overcome by the glory of cascading colors, distracting them for one precious second.

At the same time, Ember, now a little black pony, pulled back the covers with her hooves. With a snap of her front teeth, she snipped the chain that held the gem allowing it to drop to the bed covers.

Mandy scooped it up and tossed it to Firefly who caught it in her teeth. Anne opened the bedroom door and Firefly fled down the hallway.

“No!” Fix cried and suddenly all four ferrets deflated like old balloons.

Fix fled to the door hoping to stay in range of the influence of the gem. “Come back!” he squeaked. “I want to be smart!”

Anne shut the door in his face and the next moment, Mandy put a waste paper can over him.

* * *
Firefly met Moondancer and Rowan in the clouds way above Rowan’s house. Rowan, happy to be back in her proper body, held on tightly to her winged mount’s mane, but still managed to free one hand to wave excitedly to Firefly.

When they landed in the backyard garden, Rowan entered her house to discover that Shayla, Mandy, and Anne had already helped Ember roll out of Rowan’s bed and get all four hooves on the floor.

About their feet, four little ferrets played with some sparkly costume jewelry Shayla had found in Rowan’s dresser drawer. To keep the curious creatures occupied, Shayla had tossed the cheap trinkets on the floor.

“Oh, how cute,” Rowan said. “Who do they belong to?”

Shayla pointed to the one that was bigger than the rest. He was worrying a glass brooch with his teeth while rolling on the floor. “That one is yours if your mom and dad will let you keep him. The rest of us will take the other three if our parents give us permission to keep them.”

Ember shyly walked over to Rowan. “I just want to say,” she said shyly, “that I liked being a human girl for a day, but I’m glad I’m back to being a pony.”

Rowan laughed and threw her arms around the pony’s neck. “And I was glad to be you for a day, but I’m glad to be home, too.”

* * *
Mr. Reynolds rubbed his eyes as he stumbled into the bathroom. He blinked at the bright morning light when suddenly something flew by his window. Later, he would have sworn that he saw two tiny winged horses carrying a smaller horse between them resting on a sleeping bag tied between the two flying mounts. However, as he wasn’t wearing his glasses, he may just have seen a shadow.

His head starting to ache, he walked out into the hallway to find Rowan and her three friends each holding a small furry animal.

“Daddy!” Rowan said. “They followed us home.” She held out a thin, furry creature with shiny, black eyes. “Can I keep this one?”

“Ask your mother,” was all he could say. “I have to go back to bed.”


A Note From the Author of the Ella Fay Series

Hello all. I am very sad to inform you that this month Ella’s adventures in Dream Valley aren’t quite here... I am not quitting for the umpteenth time, just give me a month and you’ll have your Christmas Story... I promise :) And that should be fun... set in a Victorian mansion. Sorry about this month though :( Time just slipped away from me! So, I’m typing this note here at 10:00 at night on the 30th of October knowing that there’s no way I could possibly finish my Thanksgiving story in time. I’m only about two-thirds of the way done. But I can mold what I have to fit a Christmas story, so next month you’ll have it!



Chapter #3:
Locked in the Library
by Melody (

Bright Eyes sat at the breakfast table, quietly eating her porridge and warm milk. Classy brushed past her to pick up his readily made breakfast. “Did you make breakfast for me, Princess?” he asked.

Bright Eyes nodded. “I’m as sweet as sugar, aren’t I?” she grinned.

“Yes, sure,” Classy, playing along. He picked up his newspaper and flipped through the pages. “Aha! Here it is!” he cried excitedly, pointing to an article on the amount of litter in Ponyland.

“Dad, that’s great! Your article got published!” Bright Eyes hugged her father. Like him, she cared deeply for the environment and even hoped to be an environmentalist when she grew up.

Classy smiled down at his daughter. It had been extremely tough for him and five-year-old Bright Eyes when his wife and Bright Eyes’ mother had died.

“Hey, Dad, today I’m going to the park for a while, then I’m going to the library to do some research for my project. Is that okay with you?” said Bright Eyes.

Classy nodded. “Of course. Do you want to buy some lunch?”

“Yes, please!” replied Bright Eyes, and her father handed her five jangles.

“Have fun, but be back in time for dinner,” called Classy as Bright Eyes pulled her parker off the hook, put it on, and wound her scarf around her neck. She paused briefly before she left to look at the framed photo of her, Classy, and her mother. She kissed it and ran off into the snow.

She skipped through the now thick snow and down the road to the park. “It’s amazing how much it snowed overnight,” she said to herself, looking up at an icicle on a tree branch, glistening in the sunlight. Suddenly, she was knocked to the ground. “Ouch!” she cried, rubbing her side.

“Oh, Bright Eyes!” exclaimed a voice. “I’m terribly sorry!” It was Lancer, and he helped Bright Eyes up from the snow. For a magical moment she felt as if she and Lancer were the only ponies in the world. Her dream was interrupted by a shout from Patch.

“Are you coming to the park?” yelled Patch.

Bright Eyes blushed. “I have to go,” she told Lancer, and she hurried down the street towards Patch. Together, the girls trotted into the park gates and saw their five friends having a snowball fight against some of the boys from their school.

“Wahoo!” cried Patch, and she and Bright Eyes hurried to join in the fun.

“Take that!” shouted Clover; but as she was about to throw the snowball, she tripped and the snowball landed on her head! Melody and Bon Bon chucked more snowballs at the boys who responded quickly by throwing some back at the girls.

The group enjoyed a wonderful morning and by lunchtime, they were both happy and exhausted. “Snowball fights are hard work!” exclaimed Starlight. Sweetheart nodded and Bright Eyes agreed. The ponies waved goodbye to each other and Bright Eyes bought herself a sandwich for lunch. Then it was off to Ponyland Library.

She entered the library quietly and set her notebook and pencil case down, then went to look for some books. She studied hard all afternoon, taking notes, looking for books, reading, photocopying, and using the library computers. She was putting a book back in its place on a shelf and was so exhausted that she found herself nodding off. She laid her head on the soft carpet, and her silky orange mane spread out around her. Within a few minutes, Bright Eyes was asleep.

The librarian checked the clock and looked around. It was 6:00 p.m. and that meant closing time for the library. She shut the door behind her and locked it tight. Then she ran off down the street.

Bright Eyes woke with a start. She looked around her and then at the library clock. It read 6:09. With a gasp of horror, Bright Eyes realized that she was locked in the library. At first she sobbed and wondered how she had let herself fall asleep that easily. Usually, she got to sleep very late and sometimes even had to wake her father up for company.

“Dad!” she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. What would she do? What would Classy do? He’d be worried sick about her.

And now Bright Eyes was beginning to feel cold and hungry– but not the least bit tired. She looked at her notes and library books. It was going to be a long night and she might as well make use of it. But first, she would try to get help. But how? She knew that there was no phone in the library– the librarian (who was Clover’s mother!) always used her mobile phone. Bright Eyes thought that she would just have to wait until morning for help to arrive. Even though it would probably be absolutely no use at all, Bright Eyes banged on the locked library door. “Somebody, anybody!” she cried. Life was not perfect now.


by Sugarberry and Tabby ( and

Many of the characters and events referred to in this story have been documented in earlier tales which can be found at:

A waxing moon softened the shadows as Sugarberry lowered herself into one of the easy chairs that graced the turret section of the bedroom. “Why can’t I sleep?” she sighed wearily, rubbing her hooves against her temples. She and Vanguard had mingled with visitors from Vulcanopolis the evening before at Agatha and Hubert’s mansion, and it had been a late night. Sugarberry had thought she would sleep soundly; but now– at three in the morning– she was wide awake, yet terribly exhausted.

A slight tightening of the muscles of her mid-section caused her to drop her hooves to that area. The foal had been calm of late, she realized... not nearly as boisterous as he had been when the punches from his tiny hooves had been quite a distraction. She smiled into the indefinite darkness. The baby was due to be born soon, and then she could hug the little one to her and kiss his soft cheeks and look into his trusting eyes. She closed her own eyes and leaned her head back, savoring the anticipation of meeting her and Vanguard’s foal for the first time face-to-face rather than very present but yet hidden.

Her reverie was interrupted by another pain that crossed her abdomen, and the mare altered her position. Could these be labor pains? But if they were, they weren’t nearly as intense as she had expected. Of course, that would come later. Dr. Toby had assured her that he anticipated no problems with the delivery, aware of her nervousness over this first birthing experience.

This led Sugarberry’s thoughts back to her and Vanguard’s wedding day when Tabby had introduced Faline into the world almost during the exchange of vows. And what a darling Thomas and Tabby had been blessed with! What would it be like to hold a foal that was so uniquely special? Only vaguely aware of the twinge in her muscles this time, she marveled once more over the miracle of new life.

She was so completely immersed in her private pondering that she was oblivious to the fact that Vanguard had awaken to find her gone from his side, and she only surfaced when he laid his hoof on her shoulder. “Are you okay?” The concern in his voice was apparent.

“Just couldn’t sleep,” she assured him, taking his hoof in hers. “I think I partied too hard with our friends last night.” She smiled at him through the weak moonlight.

“Nothing to do with the foal?” he asked, still not convinced.

Shaking her head, the mare responded. “There are some mild pains, but nothing worse than the preliminary contractions that I’ve been feeling for weeks now... and those, Toby says, are perfectly normal.”

“They’ve never gotten you out of bed before,” he noted.

“I just plain ate too much,” insisted Sugarberry. “And there are so many thoughts rambling around inside my head after seeing our friends again.”

“It was good to be with them,” agreed Vanguard, sitting himself down.

“Hydrangea and Pacificus’ little one is a sweetheart.”

“He certainly seemed comfortable– I don’t think I saw him with his eyes open once.”

“It was his first long trip– Hydrangea hasn’t been back to Dream Valley herself since she quit her job at the Café Carousel and moved back to Vulcanopolis.” Sugarberry grinned. “Back then, no one knew she was Giorgio’s sister.”

“Many things have changed since those days.”

“Yes, I love you more than ever.”

“I was going to say that!” Vanguard leaned to his wife and kissed her to prove his point.

“Enrica is glorying in her new grandson; what a wonderful thing it is to have found her long-lost daughter in time to see the next generation make its debut. And Grandpa dotes on little Dante– he won’t make the same mistake with his grandfoal that he made with his own son.”

“He and Enrica are definitely the doting grandparents. And with Giorgio and Clare’s foal so close to delivery, they’ll soon have another little one to love.”

“Mooncurl was beautiful as ever; she and Nello seem to be happy, don’t you think?”

“Very. And I’d be happier if I could be sure you shouldn’t be in touch with Dr. Toby. How do you feel by now?”

“Trust me; if I thought I was in labor, you’d have been the first to know. Now, help me up; maybe some of this night can be salvaged yet.”

* * *
Sitting on the edge of the bed with the darkness outside the windows just beginning to be fringed with the arrival of the new day, Sugarberry yawned and stretched and resisted the temptation to return to the warm blankets. There was something about this day that she had been looking forward to... that was it!

Tonight was the big charity fashion show and dinner that had brought a number of Vulcanopolis ponies to Dream Valley. That enlightenment succeeded in opening the mare’s eyes– literally– but she was still engaged in another all-encompassing stretch when Vanguard appeared from the bathroom, his wet hair signifying that he had just showered. He grinned at her as he saw her sleepy appearance and met her with a kiss on her forehead.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m rallying,” she yawned.

“Any more pains?”

Sugarberry sat still, thinking. “Nope, nothing.”

Vanguard looked doubtful. “Maybe you should stay home from work, just in case.”

“What? And miss the big party tonight?” She flashed him a smile that dispelled the haggard look around her eyes momentarily. “A shower will fix me right up.” She reached out and patted his cheek. “Trust me.”

The mare stood with only a little boost from Vanguard and made her way to the shower while Vanguard stared after her with a smile. His graceful wife had become a bit less light on her hooves with the addition of the foal’s weight; but in his eyes, she had never been more beautiful. He almost envied her these past months, however, as she experienced first-hoof the growth of the foal within her and felt that first stirring of movement; it was a moment-by-moment bonding that occurred between the mother and the foal as they shared every detail of each day. One of these days, he would have his chance to shower a father’s love on the foal, too; and as the anticipation of the blessed event was beginning to rattle his nerves, that day could not come soon enough.

Vanguard had coffee waiting by the time Sugarberry entered the kitchen; Chocolate Chip was not far behind, and Wishbone soon came up from his basement rooms. The talk was not of an impending birth, however, but of the splendid event that was promising to be a highlight of the Dream Valley social scene. What could one expect when the most sought after fashion designing firm, Clare’s Creations, and one of the richest entrepreneurs of the current times, Guido Casale, were backing this extravaganza?

* * *
There were very few inhabitants of Dream Valley and the surrounding area that were not aware of Guido Casale’s radical change of direction since the unexpected and mutual jilting that had occurred in June on the day of what should have been the most spectacular wedding of the new century. Whether it was nerves or insight, Guido, at the last minute, had seen Tiffany for what she really was... a materialistic-minded mare who could see no further than her next costly purchase. And the white pegasus princess had gotten a good look at her prince... and found that he had scruples. The wedding had been canceled at the very moment when the guests were filling the church, and Tiffany and Guido had gone their separate ways; and if Tiffany was to be believed, she– for one– never gave her ex-fiancé a thought.

Guido, if he himself ever thought of Tiffany at all, had learned something from the experience and had come to realize that the jangles he amassed were worthless if they were not being used for the benefit of his fellow inhabitants of Ponyland. Overnight, it seemed, he aligned himself to every worthy charitable organization that was in need of a wealthy patron, even going so far as to create several foundations that he thought were needed to fill the gaps. And whether it was his name, his reputation, or his dashing good looks, the stallion had evoked a tremendous response to his efforts. And that was what lay behind the fashion show and dinner that was being held tonight in Dream Valley.

As stated, very few ponies were unaware of the underlying purpose of the jangle-raiser and who the ponies were behind it; yet Princess Tiffany, once hearing that Clare’s Creations was involved, listened to no more– her mind immediately began planning her wardrobe needs for the coming season. She was, therefore, only one of a hoof-full who was unaware that Guido Casale was to be an honored guest at the evening’s gala.

* * *
Still uneasy over the dark circles around his wife’s eyes and her sluggish gait on the way to work at The Vet Clinic, Vanguard made another effort to glean her true condition.

“Sugarberry, you will have to admit that you’re not feeling up to par; I’d feel better myself if you’d either go home to rest or call Toby concerning your restless night.”

“I’m here now,” reasoned Sugarberry, looking over the day’s schedule. “And I do feel fine, even if I look a little wan.” She looked up at Vanguard with a positive countenance, but he did not miss the motion of her hoof to her abdomen that signaled another pain. Before he could say anything, she sat down. “But maybe I should call Toby just in case.”

The good doctor wasn’t in his office yet, but his telephone nurse was quick to assure Sugarberry that, unless the pains became stronger and more regular, they were probably not real contractions; she should, however, take it easy and stay off her hooves as much as possible. Sugarberry, hanging up the phone just as the first customer of the day came in, smiled at Vanguard.

“Nurse Pill Bottle says, too, that I have no need to worry; so, you, my darling, have no excuse not to get to work yourself.” As for resting, she thought it best not to share that with Vanguard. She could get as much of that here while still being useful as long as she stayed tied to her desk.

“If I don’t hear from you before then, I’ll call you at noon,” Vanguard said, touching her cheek. “Take care of the two of you.”

“I will,” the mare smiled.

* * *
“Sugarberry, do you know where those samples of cat food we got a day or two ago disappeared to?” asked Tabby, coming out of one of the examining rooms. “I can’t find any.”

“Sure, Tabby; they’re in the storeroom. I’ll bring you some right away.” Sugarberry went off to fulfill her errand, noting with some irritation that the food samples had been set out of reach on the top of the cupboard. Sighing, she moved a chair across the room to the proper vicinity and was just about to climb up on it to reach the samples when Thomas came into the room. He took one look at her and scowled.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked.

“Tabby needs those cat food samples,” responded the mare, making another move to climb up.

Thomas restrained her with a hoof. “I’ll get them for you. You’re in no condition to be climbing up on chairs.” He swiftly retrieved the box for Sugarberry. “In future, ask for help... please.”

“I don’t remember you curtailing Tabby’s activities when Faline was on the way,” Sugarberry grouched.

“That would be an impossibility, wouldn’t it?” grinned Thomas. “But you look a little peaked, Sugarberry; and I wouldn’t want you to overwork yourself, for the foal’s sake as well as yours. You’ve gotta think of Vanguard, too. This is a harrowing experience for the father as well.”

“Yeah, I’ve been noticing that,” Sugarberry rejoined, leading the way out of the storeroom.

* * *
Meanwhile, Faline had wandered into the main room after her mother, and so both were present when the door opened shortly to admit a distinguished-looking yellow stallion. “Why, Guido!” Tabby exclaimed in surprise. “How unexpected to see you here!”

“Hello, Tabby,” Guido said, smiling charmingly. “I see you’re looking well. And this must be your daughter!”

“Indeed yes,” Tabby said cheerfully, placing a hoof on Faline’s head. “Faline, do you know who this is?”

“Mmm... no,” Faline said emphatically after studying the stallion carefully.

“Well, he is someone you should definitely meet! This is the very guy, Faline, that tried to break up your father’s and my wedding! Isn’t that interesting?”

Faline nodded knowingly. “Ooh! Hewwo,” she directed at Guido, waving her hoof. “Wu... Wuido,” she tried out the name.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Miss Faline,” said Guido, bowing for her benefit.

Giggling, Faline moved onto the next order or business. “Do ‘ou have any kitties?”

“Ah, no, no kitties... their fur would make too much of a mess on my furniture,” Guido explained.

Faline wrinkled her nose. “Oh.”

Tabby laughed delightfully. “Oh, now you’ll have to work to get on her good side... but in any case, what are you doing here, anyway?”

Stepping back into the main office area, Sugarberry and Thomas were both surprised to find Tabby and Faline entertaining Guido Casale, apparently all enjoying each other’s company. Guido had bent down to better converse with the little unicorn.

“Good morning, Guido,” Thomas said, his voice somewhat hollow. He had always found it difficult to like this stallion who had... interfered with his marriage to Tabby several years ago.

Guido turned his head and sprang up, a huge grin on his face. “Thomas! Good to see you!” The bright yellow stallion pumped Thomas’ hoof vigorously. “What a gorgeous little filly you have for a daughter; she has her mother’s eyes.”

“Undoubtedly,” Thomas muttered under his breath, then asked, “And what brings you to the clinic today, Guido?”

“Why, to see Tabby.” Guido stated that short phrase as if it was a perfectly obvious and eminently permissible reason. “And to meet Faline, too, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Hee hee!” Tabby only smiled brightly at her husband’s censorious look.

* * *
“The ice blue cape or the emerald green shawl?” queried Princess Tiffany as she posed before the entry hall mirror. Princess Dawn had just returned to the Royal Paradise from an afternoon volunteering her help in one of the kindergarten classrooms, and her mind was not presently on Tiffany’s fashion problems.

“Ask Princess Royal Blue,” Dawn suggested, making a beeline for the stairs and the sanctuary of her room.

“No one else is around,” moped Tiffany, draping the shawl in a cascade over her shoulders.

“It is the day Queen Serena asked us all to do something positive for our neighbors,” Dawn reminded her.

“Well, I’m sure she didn’t intend for us to neglect preparations for the fashion show tonight!”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Everyone will be back in plenty of time to dress.”

“You know... now that I think of it...” Tiffany grew thoughtful.

“Have you conceived of some way to make someone’s day better?” asked Dawn hopefully, mentally berating herself for assuming that Tiffany had no time for anyone but herself. She need not have bothered.

“Yes... mine! I just realized I have a golden weave mantle that has a matching toque that I’ve never worn; it would be perfect for this evening.” She threw off the shawl and headed up the stairs.

Picking up the discarded drapery, Princess Dawn threw it around herself. She had not yet given a thought to what she would be wearing tonight. “Not bad,” she murmured as she looked at herself in the mirror, smiling as she thought of Perry’s eyes resting on her. But she shrugged it off and disposed of it over the back of a chair as her stomach growled. It would be hours yet before the elegant dinner would be served in conjunction with the fashion show; a glass of orange juice should tide her over. She made a quick exit to the kitchen.

* * *
“Thanks,” Sugarberry smiled at her husband as he presented her with a glass of orange juice. She was seated in a comfortable chair in the living room, just where Vanguard had directed her to sit– and rest– when they had arrived home after work.

“This was in the mail,” Vanguard informed her, holding out a thick envelope.

“It’s from Mom!” the mare enthused, taking the letter and ripping it open.

Vanguard chuckled and pulled a chair up closer to Sugarberry. “I assume there are photos of the foals.”

“Oh, yes!” assured Sugarberry, handing him a close-up of the newest addition to Gooseberry and Grapevine’s family. Loganberry’s blue eyes peered out of the picture while one tiny hoof cradled his cheek.

“He’s almost three months old now, right?”

“He was born the twenty-first of August,” calculated Sugarberry. “Yup. Three months on the twenty-first.”

“And here we have the twins,” sighed Sugarberry. Raspberry and Driftwood’s two little ones were sound asleep, curled up side-by-side, Custard making a negative image of his sister. “They’re three weeks younger than Loganberry.”

“They’ve all grown since we visited,” observed Vanguard, taking the next picture that Sugarberry was giggling over. “What have we here?”

“A group shot.” Wineberry, Huckleberry, and Baby Gooseberry were each holding one of the infants, although Baby Gooseberry’s charge was apparently slipping from her lap, necessitating Gooseberry to reach into the shot, effectively blocking Huckleberry’s face and Custard on Wineberry’s lap.

“This one’s better,” noted Sugarberry, revealing a pleasant picture of all six foals.

The quiet pastime was interrupted as a clatter of hooves was heard crossing the kitchen floor, and Chocolate Chip and Wishbone scurried into the room. “Hi!” Chocolate Chip greeted. “It’s getting rather chilly out there!”

“The weather pony says it might snow tonight,” concurred Wishbone. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

“The first snow of the season is always the prettiest,” mused Sugarberry.

“It’d be a fitting display for tonight’s party,” grinned Wishbone. “Sort of a romantic touch.”

Sugarberry eyed the stallion with a motherly smile. “Garnet has been good for you, Wishbone; this engagement is bringing out a side of you I’d never thought to see.”

“I think he’s finally growing up,” Chocolate Chip winked.

“Maybe it was the hit on his head,” joked Vanguard.

“It simply takes finding the right mare,” wisely responded Wishbone.

* * *
Chocolate Chip and Wishbone had just left for Garnet’s apartment where, along with Wigwam, they were meeting before heading to the convention center where the evening’s fling was taking place. Vanguard came to Sugarberry where she still sat resting, moved a chair to face her, sat and claimed her hooves in his, and captured her gaze.

“Now, my love, I’m curious as to why, after looking forward to this night on the town for weeks, you remain sitting here when you should be getting ready to go.”

“There have been what might be contractions since we arrived home.”

“When was the last?”

“While you were talking with Wishbone at the door.”

“Let me know when the next one comes.”

Sugarberry procrastinated. “The foal’s not due for a week yet.”

“Toby told us it could be early.”

Sugarberry looked down at their linked hooves and was silent for a moment before she looked up into her husband’s face once more. “I’m scared, Vanguard. This is the most wonderful thing in our lives, but I’m scared.”

“This is no help; but I am, too,” Vanguard squeezed her hoof.

“Please, just hold me.”

Vanguard drew the mare into his forelegs and held her close until, with a wince, Sugarberry pulled away. “The contraction... it’s harder this time.”

* * *
Arriving at the crowded convention center, Garnet, Wishbone, Chocolate Chip, and Wigwam were led to a waiting table close to a lavish autumnal display of riotous leaves, orange pumpkins, assorted bright berries, and more of nature’s bounty which made a brilliant backdrop for the table while providing a certain amount of privacy, although this did limit the amount of the ballroom that the ponies could peruse.

“Why am I reminded of our last visit to Rainbow Star?” quipped Wishbone, smiling fondly at Garnet while remembering the occasion of their engagement amidst the wild splendor of the colorful landscape that had set the scene for that special moment.

“Who were Van and Sugarberry coming with?” asked Wigwam, scanning the tables in their vicinity and exchanging nods with acquaintances and friends like Toby and Fern but not finding the couple in question.

“They were going to meet up with Tabby and Thomas,” offered Chocolate Chip.

“They must all be on the other side of this giant cornucopia,” shrugged Wigwam.

“Why so disappointed?”

“Van has been so edgy lately... it’s entertaining to torment him,” Wigwam grinned.

“Even I’m getting nervous,” admitted Chocolate Chip. “But Vanguard and Sugarberry seemed very laid back this evening before we left; this fashion show has served to get their minds off the impending birth, I suppose.”

“Well, it’s high time for me to rattle Van’s cage then,” responded Wigwam. “I’ll catch him later.”

* * *
Across the room, Tabby and Thomas were enjoying the company of Elaine and Alan; talk revolved around the new publishing firm that had recently set up its offices in the new complex built by both the Fairfax and Monk dynasties. Alan, the stallion in charge of publicity at Dream Valley’s much talked of printing house, was telling of some of the glitches encountered in getting the presses to operate while Elaine looked on in fond satisfaction as she now had the light of her life living locally after nearly a year of long-range courting from Forest Brook where they had met the previous Christmas when Thomas, Tabby, Faline, and Elaine had returned to their ancestral home for a visit.

“After more than a month of operations, we’ve conquered the worst problems,” summed up Alan. “Thank goodness!”

“Have you succeeded yet in getting Sugarberry to sign on with you?” Tabby directed at Alan, leaning forwards with gleaming eyes.

“Well, no, from what I overheard Macarius saying. She’s still rather attached to her current publisher.”

“Pity,” said Tabby. “Sapphire said he wasn’t very persuasive, though, and that she would be trying to reason with Sug.”

Elaine giggled. “Macarius and Sapphire are always putting each other down. Sometimes I wonder if it was wise transplanting them both to the new plant.”

“If you ask me, they couldn’t bear to be seperated from one another,” Alan put in mischievously.

“You mean... there’s a romance brewing?” Tabby breathed, wide-eyed.

Alan shrugged noncommitaly. “Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me,” he grinned.

“By the way, where are Vanguard and Sugarberry?” Elaine asked after a pause. “I thought they’d be joining us.”

“I imagine they got swept into the group from Vulcanopolis,” rationalized Thomas as he scanned the crowded conglomeration, grateful that he and Tabby were nowhere near one of the ponies from that city.

* * *
All available seats were nearly full before Princess Tiffany made her appearance accompanied by Queen Serena. The princess was delighted– having chosen a late arrival to ensure an audience– while Queen Serena frowned, hating to make such a dramatic entrance at a non-political event. The queen was met, however, by Guido Casale himself. He bowed to her elegantly and expressed his appreciation at her presence. It was only after he and the queen had exchanged all the proper pleasantries that Guido turned his attention to the princess.

Tiffany, struck speechless by this unanticipated meeting with her former fiancé, stood as one transfixed. A wave of nostalgia washed over her as she watched the exchange between Guido and Serena, her surprise so complete that her mouth hung open... and she even forgot to draw breath. When the yellow stallion finally looked her way, it was with such a cold, withdrawn look that Tiffany felt as if she was encased in a clear sheathing of ice.

“Princess Tiffany,” was all the stallion said.

“Guido,” Tiffany responded with equal frigidity.

Guido gazed at the princess for several seconds, his eyes dark and devoid of emotion. He then turned his attention back to Queen Serena and offered her his escort which the queen accepted with unfeigned pleasure. Tiffany was left to trail along behind until Guido nodded to an attendant who quickly came to the stallion and received a whispered instruction.

The lackey then offered his foreleg to Princess Tiffany, gesturing to a spot at a table somewhat removed from the head table; he conveyed the princess to a waiting chair and helped her to be seated, then bowed slightly and left her to adapt herself to the company of several other of the princesses and their companions. Guido continued on to a spot amidst the movers and shakers where he ensconced Queen Serena at the place of honor beside him.

Silently fuming, Princess Tiffany responded to the pleasant snippets directed her way from her dinner companions, but her mind was reeling with the effects of the snub that Guido had directed her way. Of all the dastardly things to do! He had relegated her to the position of an expendable non-entity... and in front of all of the ponies of Dream Valley and beyond. She, Princess Tiffany, should have been accorded the honor that was her due! She should have been included in the highest rank of guests! She should have been at Guido’s side!

Realizing what that last thought implied, Princess Tiffany allowed her rampant temper to enter a simmering state. There was nothing left between her and Guido; she had thrown that chapter of her life away at the moment when their commitment to one another should have been carved in stone. What had taken place was regrettable, she now realized with a twinge of anguish, but it was also irreparable. And she had no intention to allow that... that Italian stallion... to see her at a disadvantage. Summoning up her inner fortitude, the princess adopted a self-assured smile and graced her table mates with several witty comments and then settled back to enjoy the fashion show.

But she could not enjoy the activity around her when there was only one pony to which her attention was drawn. Why was Guido involved in a charitable fashion show anyway? She knew well enough that giving money was not Guido’s style unless he received something in return... and with interest. The only thing that might motivate the stallion to grace such a gathering would have to be some female interest; but who among this throng of ponies was the one who had caught Guido’s eye since she and he had parted ways? It surely was not Queen Serena; even Tiffany would have seen the hoof-writing on the wall if that were the case. Guido had once been close to Clare, but Clare was now married and about to become a mother. Tiffany perused the other faces in close proximity to Guido, but could not make a connection. She became immersed in the puzzle of the moment.

A hush fell over the assemblage as Clare welcomed the ponies who had paid dearly for the privilege of attending the fashion show and dinner that would bring in jangles for several projects that would benefit the disadvantaged. She thanked everyone for their overwhelming response and issued a very special thanks to Guido Casale whose backing and organization had made such a venture possible. She then turned the floor over to the fashion show which would run simultaneously with the dinner, promising that the evening would be filled with surprises.

For Princess Tiffany, there had been surprises enough.

When did Guido become a philanthropist? Tiffany glanced at the stallion whom she had known only as a cool, calculating business tycoon with an eye for the profits that would benefit him. This was extraordinary for the princess to see him enjoying himself in a scenario in which he was providing the cash for no personal gain. He was helping ponies just as Queen Serena was always prodding the princess ponies to do for the other inhabitants of Ponyland. Princess Tiffany found that information disheartening. How could she find the time to promote a better life for others while still maintaining her own level of comfort?

The problem presented an interesting dilemma for the pure white pegasus, and she sat in thoughtful silence as the panorama of fashion delights and culinary morsels unfolded before her.

* * *
Under Vanguard’s escort, Sugarberry arrived not at the prestigious and embellished convention center but at the maternity ward at the hospital. An addition to that edifice had included a modern birthing center that combined the comfort of home with the medical efficiency of the matchless facility. Sugarberry knew she would be in good hooves and found herself relaxing as she placed herself in the care of the professionals.

No so Vanguard. The stallion was not pleased to find that Dr. Toby was not available this evening, that it was young Dr. Neil who would be responsible for the delivery of the world’s most precious foal. He was further disconcerted because he knew where Dr. Toby was– blithely enjoying an evening of revelry and merriment at the fashion show while he– Vanguard– was to face the most earth-shattering event of his life without the aid and experience of the stallion who had been assuring Sugarberry and him for months that he would be on hoof to ensure a safe and painless– for Vanguard– delivery.

Sugarberry smiled at her perturbed husband between contractions. “Dr. Neil’s familiar with my medical progress and is perfectly capable of delivering this foal,” she assured her husband.

“I was counting on Toby to be here,” Vanguard frowned.

“Dr. Neil will do...” She stopped as her attention was taken by more pressing matters, her hoof finding Vanguard’s for support. “... fine,” she finished when she could again speak.

It suddenly struck the father of the foal that the time for arguing was past. He buckled down to offer what assistance he could to Sugarberry, realizing that some things could not be perfectly ordered.

He was soon to see perfection itself, however, in God’s wondrous design.

* * *
Events were proceeding smoothly at the convention center when Clare received a confidential message that an important phone call was awaiting her. Hearing the name of the pony responsible for the call, she immediately excused herself; and, with a discreet motion to her husband to accompany her, followed the attendant to a private antechamber where she accepted the phone and grinned at her puzzled husband.

“It’s from Vanguard.”

The dawning realization of what that meant hit Giorgio, and he grinned at his wife in return as Clare announced her presence to the stallion on the phone.

“Vanguard! You must be at the hospital!”

“I hope you don’t mind my interrupting your big night, but I had to share the news with someone other than our families; everyone locally is at the convention center.”

“So share!” an impatient Clare responded.

“It’s a boy!”

Clare’s eyes met Giorgio’s. “It’s a boy!” she repeated for his benefit. “That’s wonderful, Vanguard. And how’s Sugarberry?”

“She’s exhausted but very happy.”

“I can’t wait to see both mother and foal... is the foal cute?”

“Sugarberry says he is.”

“And you don’t? What’s... Oh!” Clare laughed. “I know. He looks just like you, and you’re too modest to say something flattering. Am I right?”

“Country blue with sea green hair and my symbol; but he does have a thin strip of his mother’s red hair just behind his right ear.”

“He sounds precious,” the mare remarked, winking at Giorgio. “I’ll put my husband on the line; he’s impatient to talk.” Handing the receiver to Giorgio, Clare began pacing the floor in cheerful contemplation.

“Van! Congratulations!” Giorgio bellowed. “This is great news!”

“I have a son,” Vanguard stated as if just fully realizing that fact.

“Awesome, huh?”

“That only begins to cover it, Giorgio; it was...” Vanguard’s voice cracked as he found himself at a loss for words. “You’ll find out soon enough,” he finally managed, rubbing a tear from his eye.

“I hear ya, Van,” Giorgio said in a softer tone. “Clare and I’ll stop in to meet this colt tomorrow. Give our love to Sugarberry.”

* * *
Having received this sunny piece of news, Clare was in no frame of mind to keep it a secret. At the first opportunity, she confiscated the microphone from the narrator and waited until the curious crowd was silent before she made her announcement.

“We have received word from Dream Valley General Hospital that Sugarberry and Vanguard have delivered their foal; Mom and Dad are doing fine... as is Baby Vanguard. I’m sure you all join with me in wishing the new family well.”

The guests at the dinner broke out in spontaneous applause; and Clare returned to Giorgio’s side, quite satisfied with her broadcast. The stallion, however, looked confused.

“I didn’t know that they’d named the baby yet,” he confided to his wife. “You never mentioned it and neither did Van.”

“Vanguard didn’t say anything about the foal’s name, but what would you call your first colt if it looked like you?”

Giorgio made a face. “Not Giorgio.” The stallion was named after his own father and had found it a confusing state of affairs.

Clare giggled. “Well, time will tell, won’t it?” She gave the stallion an enigmatic smile and turned her attention back to the festivities.

* * *
The dinner and fashion show had come to a successful conclusion, yet many of the ponies were adverse to leave the jovial setting, breaking instead into small groups to discuss highlights of the evening with friends and to renew old acquaintances. Wishbone and Garnet were wending their way through the crowd to catch Petal and Caravel who were making their way to the exit. Wishbone had just looked back to make a comment to Garnet when he ran into another stallion; looking up, he found himself eye-to-eye with Giorgio.

“Great party,” Wishbone muttered, still feeling somewhat overwhelmed by his former mathematics professor who had made his first semester at Pony Pride somewhat difficult.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it, Wishbone,” Giorgio smiled benevolently, his gaze shifting to the red mare who stood at Wishbone’s side. He found something oddly familiar about those eyes...

“Oh, you don’t know Garnet.” Wishbone nodded toward the mare and made the introduction.

Giorgio’s eyes twinkled as the younger stallion amended his name with the telling words, Clare’s husband; he was becoming resigned to being known only in relationship to his illustrious wife. He was also pleased to hear that Wishbone had found a settling influence on his life in the form of a fiancee. “My congratulations to you both.” He studied the mare’s face for several moments. “Forgive me, but there is something about you that seems very familiar...”

Wishbone cleared his throat. “Um, well, Garnet is Sable’s sister.”

The look that Giorgio flashed at Wishbone was proof that the mention of Sable was disturbing, but the stallion was quick to regain his composure. “And how is Sable doing these days?” he queried.

“My brother doesn’t take the time to write,” Garnet said, discounting the unexpected and brief meeting with him a month back as insignificant even though it had stirred up a plethora of memories. She was aware that Wishbone, through Wigwam, had recounted the event to Chief Tawny as the books were not yet closed on Sable’s involvement in some shady dealings that he had been involved with in Dream Valley several years ago, dealings that had been orchestrated by Giorgio. Garnet was intrigued to meet this pony who had shared her brother’s predilection for intrigue and double-dealing, for Giorgio had managed to extricate himself from the past and forge a wonderful new life for himself. She doubted that Sable would ever be that fortunate.

“I haven’t heard from him myself,” admitted Giorgio. “I’ve a basis to be grateful for his absence, while I’d imagine you must miss his company.”

“Actually, I’m not that close to any of my family.”

“Not even your parents?” Giorgio’s left brow rose in disbelief.

“There’s no reason.”

Giorgio shook his head. “Now there, young lady, I must disagree... and I’m speaking from experience. The relationship with one’s parents is vital to a pony.”

“Not in all cases,” disagreed Garnet. “My parents washed their hooves of me long ago.”

“Don’t sell your parents short, Garnet,” Giorgio returned. “Maybe it’s time that those years that have been lost need to be regained and built upon.” He saw the flame in her eye and added, “At least, think it over.”

Garnet had no chance to reply as they were joined by none other than Clare and Giorgio’s own parents, all of whom were delighted to meet the lovely mare who had captured Wishbone’s heart. It was only when Wishbone and Garnet were once more alone that Wishbone added his own appeal to Giorgio’s.

“We’ll need to get in touch with your parents before the wedding next summer, Garnet. They have every right to witness it.”

“I think they waived those rights years ago, Wishbone,” Garnet replied with a toss of her head.

“The decision is yours to make, but be forewarned that Mom and Sugarberry are both probably going to push you toward reconciling with them.”

“Let them push,” Garnet muttered. Spotting Petal and Caravel, she relegated this uncomfortable discussion to the back of her mind and tugged Wishbone along to meet up with their friends.

* * *
Elsewhere in the convention hall, Princess Tiffany was comparing notes with several other of the princesses over the fashions that had been presented that evening when she caught sight of Guido among the throng of ponies still gathered about the room. She fully intended to ignore the stallion, but a vision at his side made her look again.

It was a white mare like herself except that this specimen was adorned with pastel blue hair. Did Guido have a thing about white mares? Tiffany wondered. She knew who the pony was... the lithe mare had been obvious enough throughout the fashion show as she was Clare’s Creations’ top model, Mooncurl. The thing that upset Tiffany was the fact that Mooncurl was hanging on Guido now that the business portion of the evening was over. It should not have bothered Tiffany, but it did.

“Do you have something on your mind, Tiffany?” queried Royal Blue of the distraught princess.

“Ah, what?” Tiffany responded to the vaguely heard comment.

“I was just saying,” responded Royal Blue with a knowing look at the others in their circle, “that you seem rather preoccupied this evening.”

“I was simply debating my wardrobe choices,” Princess Tiffany countered, forcing herself to propel her gaze away from Guido and Mooncurl. “I especially liked that faux fur cape lined with silk and all the matching accessories.”

“That wasn’t your style, Tiff,” advised Princess Taffeta. “The white satin would be stunning on you, however.”

“Maybe I should just get them both,” deliberated Tiffany with a toss of her mane. No one was paying attention to her any longer, however, as all eyes were honed to a point over her left shoulder. Turning to see what the draw was, Tiffany came face-to-face with Guido.

For a moment, the mare and the stallion maintained a steady gaze; but Guido turned his attention to the other princesses.

“I’m delighted to see royalty so well represented here tonight,” the stallion smiled, arcing his gaze to each of the princesses in turn. “I hope you enjoyed the evening.”

“We assuredly did,” Princess Primrose assured Guido. “It was a splendid way to donate to a good cause.”

Guido turned to Mooncurl. “Have you met these Dream Valley princesses?” At the model’s negative response, Guido presented Royal Blue, Primrose, Tiffany, and Taffeta. By the time he was through, Princess Dawn and Perry had joined the group as well.

“Everyone smile!” a voice said, and all heads turned to the speaker, a vanilla-colored stallion with an expensive camera which marked him as one of Clare’s photographers. A bright light flashed. “Lovely,” the stallion grinned. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

“Nello,” Guido remarked, “you’ve been behind that camera all night. Why don’t you abandon your duty and enjoy what’s left of this evening?”

“Can’t stop yet,” Nello retorted. “There are still a number of guests I haven’t captured on film.” He sent a warm smile and a wink in Mooncurl’s direction before he continued his picture quest.

“Do you document all your charitable functions so thoroughly?” asked Perry of Guido.

“Only when Clare’s involved as well so that she can pick up the tab,” joked the wealthy stallion.

“That’s sound business sense,” laughed Perry.

Throughout this banter, Tiffany remained remote and silent, still smarting from Guido’s casual introduction of her along with the others as if she was a mere acquaintance and not the mare who had once been accorded a place of distinction in his life. That was over now, of course; but Princess Tiffany ranted to herself anyway, wishing that Guido would show some sign of regret, realizing that she could not snub him if he did not give her an opportunity.

* * *
Nestled at his mother’s side, the newborn foal, washed clean and well fed, was fast asleep while his parents feasted on the sight he made. “He’s wonderful,” Sugarberry breathed, gently caressing the soft cheek closest to her.

“You’re pretty wonderful yourself,” Vanguard said, taking his wife’s hoof in his and looking at her tenderly. “You did a good night’s work.”

“Truly a labor of love,” Sugarberry smiled. “I do love you so much.”

A kiss was exchanged, followed closely by a soft knock at the doorway. “Mind if we come in?”

The new parents looked agreeably at the visitors, but Vanguard assumed a gruff voice. “You’re a little late.”

Dr. Toby grinned. “No one called me.” He came into the room accompanied by Fern. “I’ve spoken to Dr. Neil, and he tells me everything went smoothly for Mom; and baby is perfectly healthy.” He looked at Sugarberry with a practiced eye. “Do you have any complaints?”

She shook her head. “None.”

“Sugarberry, he’s beautiful!” Fern trilled, coming around the bed to get a clear view of the tiny infant.

“Yes, he is, isn’t he?” Sugarberry agreed, winking at her husband while accepting a hug from Fern.

“He looks to be a fine young colt,” Toby concurred, lifting the sleepy foal to verify for himself that all was right with the newborn. “And he’s going to grow like a weed,” he assured them, finishing the exam with a smile of approval.

“May I hold him a minute?” asked Fern, coming up to her husband as if in awe of the little creature he held.

Toby glanced at Vanguard who nodded, and Toby laid the infant in Fern’s forelegs. “Hi, sweetheart,” she cooed as the foal opened his eyes for a moment before gracing them with a yawn and returning to his slumber. She continued to cradle him as Toby delivered a message to the parents.

“Wishbone and Chocolate Chip and their consorts are in the waiting room; they’d love to meet the foal but don’t want to bother you if you’d rather get to sleep,” he relayed, his eye on Sugarberry.

“I’m anxious for them to meet him, too,” Sugarberry admitted. “Wishbone and Chocolate Chip are going to be like his big brother and sister.”

“We just won’t let them stay too long,” added Vanguard with a concerned look at his wife.

Fern retained her hold on the foal; but as soon as Chocolate Chip entered the room, the brown mare scooped up the little bundle from her friend and surveyed him head to hoof. “What a cutie!” she grinned. “Not that seeing him is any surprise... after Clare informed us of the arrival of Baby Vanguard, we were fairly sure of his coloring.”

“But that’s...” Sugarberry began to say.

“What’s it like to have a miniature of yourself, Van? At least it made naming him an easy choice,” Wigwam interrupted, fascinated by the diminutive size of the foal.

“But we didn’t...” Vanguard began.

“He’s not an exact duplicate,” pointed out Garnet. “Vanguard doesn’t have that red streak in his hair.”

“Close enough,” rejoined Wishbone.

“This hadn’t happened before in your immediate families, had it?” wondered Fern. “I mean, neither of you were ever a Baby Sugarberry or a Baby Vanguard, were you?”

“Neither is...” attempted Sugarberry.

“There’s a first time for everything,” Wigwam commented.

“Excuse me,” broke in Toby with some authority; he had seen the foal’s chart while discussing the birth with Dr. Neil and was privy to a piece of information that the others were unaware of. “I think Sugarberry and Vanguard would like to say something.

Chocolate Chip, Wishbone, Wigwam, Garnet, and Fern all stopped their discussion and centered their attention on the new parents.

“The foal’s name is not Baby Vanguard,” Vanguard stated.

“His name is Banderol,” Sugarberry enlightened.

“Banderol?” chorused the astounded ponies.

“Yes, Banderol,” Vanguard repeated emphatically. “Sugarberry and I agreed that we didn’t want to saddle our foal with my name prefixed with Baby. Baby Falling Leaves is proof against it; she’ll never be able to lose that designation as long as she lives in Dream Valley with her parents.”

“And Giorgio has always said that it complicates life dreadfully to share a parent’s first name, so we decided to give our foal a name that referred directly to his symbol,” added Sugarberry.

“But Banderol?” queried Wishbone, aghast.

“What does it have to do with Baby Vanguard’s symbol?” Chocolate Chip added.

“A banderol is a long narrow forked flag... exactly what appears on Banderol’s hip,” Vanguard explained, stressing his use of the foal’s name.

Chocolate Chip shrugged. “Well, it’s your choice.”

“Now that that’s settled,” Toby took command, “I think we should all clear out so that Sugarberry can get some well-deserved sleep. That goes for you, too, Van.”

Chocolate Chip, relinquishing her hold on the foal to his mother, whispered softly, “Good night, Baby Vanguard,” before she kissed the contented little colt. She caught the pique in Sugarberry’s eye, and Chocolate Chip grinned mischievously.

* * *
Tiffany, impatiently waiting for Queen Serena to end her conversation with the Vulcanopolis ponies, stalked off to the powder room to assess her make-up and hair; she almost withdrew immediately when she saw Mooncurl primping before the mirror, but with a toss of her head, she crossed to stand beside the attractive model, noticing as she did so that the mare’s eyes were following her in the looking glass.

Rearranging a lock of mane, Tiffany patted it into place, then sent a sideways glance in Mooncurl’s direction. “Have you known Guido long?”

“For a few months,” Mooncurl said, freshening up her cologne with a generous spray of Ambrosia. “He and Clare have been working together since his wed... um... since June.”

“What do you think of him?”

“Of Guido? Oh, he’s very pleasant. He’s always ready to show a mare a good time.”

Tiffany sniffed. “He is, is he?”

“Oh, yes. Like tonight... he’s been so considerate and polite and entertaining.”

“And he’s so rich,” muttered Tiffany, adding a touch of gloss to her lips.

“What was that?”

“Nothing. I was just thinking how much easier it is for a stallion with loads of jangles to impress a mare than it is for a less affluent pony.”

“That’s one of the things I like about Guido, though; he never lets his prestige interfere with his amiability.”

“He doesn’t?” queried Tiffany, remembering countless evenings over dinner spent listening to Guido’s endless dissertations on the importance of wealth. She had always concurred with his opinions, of course.

“His financial worth means nothing to him except as a means to help others.”

Tiffany turned to face the mare head on. “This is Guido Casale we’re talking about, isn’t it?”

“Why yes!” Mooncurl looked at Tiffany as if the princess had suddenly sprouted a second head.

Tiffany looked away. “Are you and Guido... serious?”

“Serious?” Mooncurl giggled. “You mean romantically?”

“Of course I mean romantically!”

Giggling some more, Mooncurl cast an impish glance at Tiffany. Was the Dream Valley princess still interested in the stallion she had frivolously scorned? If so, it might be fun to rile her a bit. “I dare to dream; his attentions tonight were definitely particular.” She did not go on to explain that since Nello was occupied with his photography chores, Guido had volunteered to escort Mooncurl for the evening. Mooncurl simply exited the room with a satisfied look on her face, leaving the fragrance of Ambrosia to taunt the princess.

Tiffany nearly choked on the scent, she was so provoked.

* * *
Sugarberry had just settled down when the door to her hospital room suddenly flew open; and Tabby stood framed in the doorway, a look of impending doom on her face. “Sugarberry!” she charged her friend. “I was quite horrified that, even after all your protestations that you would never burden the child with such a name, you still decided to call him Baby Vanguard!”

Sugarberry put a hoof to her mouth and urgently gestured towards the sleeping foal, but Tabby was too incensed to stop. “I was sure we’d convinced you that naming him after a parent would be confusing at the best and disastrous at the worst. What will you do when he gets older? He shan’t always want to be Baby, you know. And then what a time you’ll have of it!”

“Tabby!” Sugarberry tried to get a word in, but Tabby silenced her.

“Well, in any case, I might as well see him.” Tabby strode across the room and peered downwards. “Hmm. Interesting. ‘Tis a remarkable resemblance. But still...!”

“His name isn’t Baby Vanguard,” Sugarberry finally managed to get out. “It’s– “

”Hello, Baby Vanguard!” Failing to elicit a response, Tabby turned back to his mother. “He’s not very talkative, is he?”

“His name,” Sugarberry said with emphasis, “is Banderol.”

“Really!” said Tabby. “And what reason did Clare have for lying at the party, pray tell?”

“She was just misinformed...”

Tabby still looked skeptical. “What is a banderol, anyway?”

Sugarberry, for what seemed like the millionth time, explained yet again the meaning of banderol. “We had considered the name Bandy Berry,” she finished, “but it didn’t seem necessary, since he really takes the most after his father.”

“Ooh! You could have called him Vanberry instead,” Tabby suggested. “Look! He’s waking up. Hello, Baby Vang– I mean, Bander-whatever!”

“Isn’t he precious?” Sugarberry beamed.

“Potentially,” Tabby said, narrowing her eyes. “Say! I know what to give him as a present now. I’ll wrap up all the baby toys you got for Faline.”

“And I thought they were so nice,” Sugarberry sighed.

“Exactly, and now you can see your own son playing with them. Shaped blocks and rattles just don’t suit Faline.”

“You have a most unusual way of raising a foal,” Sugarberry commented.

“You think so? Everyone keeps hassling me about it, but I truly do not understand what they’re so scandalized over.”

At that point Nurse Nightingale stepped into the room. “I thought I heard... oh, it’s you, Tabby. Visiting hours were over long ago. How did you get in here, anyway?”

Tabby dismissed the question with a wave of her hoof. “I’ve got to get going anyway; Thomas is waiting outside... he thought it was too late to barge in on you, Sug, but I thought that was just silly. Whoever writes these rules is so stuffy!” She threw up her hooves in despair. “Good night, Sugarberry; and you, too, Baby... Banderol!”

* * *
Finding the surroundings unbearable, Tiffany, ignoring her friends, made her way out of the convention center and found that the brisk night air was a refreshing change from the overly warm atmosphere inside. She breathed deeply as she walked slowly along the promenade that fronted the building, pledging to give Queen Serena five more minutes before setting off for Royal Paradise alone. Reaching the corner, she turned and retraced her steps, happy to see the door opening. She hurried to meet Serena only to find a yellow stallion instead.

“Guido!” she said mindlessly and a little breathlessly; her heart began to thump uncomfortably as well.

“Did I frighten you?” Guido asked, a hint of a smile playing about his mouth.

“You... I... I thought it would be Serena.”

“She saw you leave and asked me to detain you; she’ll be out shortly.” He smiled at her almost gently. “How have you been, Tiffany?”

“I’ve been fine. It’s you I would be worried about.”

“Oh? And how’s that?”

“For one thing, your latest lady love wears way too much fragrance; and for the second thing, you’re entire persona has changed so drastically that I fear you are suffering from some grave psychosis.”

“Okay,” said Guido, taking the princess’ foreleg and guiding her to a cold and uncomfortable bench that would give them a measure of privacy. He was no longer smiling, but Tiffany could see the sparkle in his eyes as she sat down at his command. He continued to stand, making her feel vulnerable; but his voice was silky. “Now, your first point concerns my lady love. Do you mind telling me who that is?”

“As if it wasn’t obvious to everyone here this evening,” Tiffany sniffed.

“I’m sorry, but I’m feeling especially benighted concerning this. Which mare in particular did you have in mind?”

Tiffany sent him an abasing glance. “The white model.”

Guido laughed, his deep voice echoing off the walls behind them. “I beg you not to let that rumor get spread around, or Nello will throw down the gauntlet.” At Tiffany’s puzzled expression, he went on. “Mooncurl is head over heals in love with Nello, and he with her. I was merely providing escort while he went about his obligations for Clare.”

“Oh,” said Tiffany on a sigh.

“What about you, Tiffany? Have you found anyone to take my place?” He asked the question with a certain softness in his voice as if he really cared what the answer would be.

Looking up into his face, Tiffany for a moment was mesmerized by the look she saw there. The stallion still had feelings for her, she realized in sudden awe; and a wave of tremulous excitement washed over her.

But then she remembered her earlier intention to take this stallion down a peg or two, so she reined in her emotions; it was not from her heart that her answer came. “Someone as wealthy as you? No.” She did not admit that there was no one, wealthy or otherwise, who claimed her affection, but she did add, “You are a different pony now, Guido, not at all as I remember you.”

“Ah... the personality change that you referred to.” He sat down on the bench next to her. “I’d like to think that it’s for the better.”

Tiffany waved a dismissing hoof through the air. “You’re wrong, very wrong. I cannot like this attitude of yours... that your jangles are best when given away. I’m surprised your mother condones such a thing.”

“I’ll admit that she was disturbed at first, but she is coming around to my way of thinking.”

“And your father?”

“He respects my decision.”

“But I don’t. I can only be grateful that things worked out the way they did between us; I wouldn’t have liked the competition for your largess.”

“That’s all it ever was, wasn’t it, Tiffany? All for the money.” His eyes closed slightly as if finding the sight of her too painful to bear.

Something within Tiffany tried to warn her not to tread too far down this dangerous path she had chosen, but she could not stop herself now; she wanted to hurt him as he had injured her with his curt dismissal in front of Queen Serena and his unfeeling introduction to Mooncurl. “I like what jangles can get a pony,” she proclaimed emphatically. “Things are more dependable than ponies, I’ve found; they hurt less.” She tossed her mane for emphasis.

Standing, Guido stared into her eyes for a moment as if searching for something, some sign of compassion, some inkling of a heart. Not finding any, he shook his head. “I had hoped...” he began, but the sound of voices rang out as a group of ponies exited the building. He turned to watch them for a second, then turned his attention briefly back to Tiffany. “I wish you well, Tiffany.” His voice was hollow as if he did not expect his wish to have any success; it also echoed with a note of finality that struck Tiffany like a thunderclap.

Guido left her there on the bench, her core as cold as the night and as lonely as the one silent snowflake that glided past her cheek to settle on the area over her heart. She looked at it blankly and noted that it did not melt. Was she really as cold-hearted as that?

* * *
Morning broke across Dream Valley with a sunrise that greeted the new-fallen snow that had settled with a hush over the darkened land; the kiss of sunbeams erupted a sparkle of jewel-like luster that brought a smile to many a pony’s face that day.

The smile on Vanguard’s face as he entered Sugarberry’s hospital room was broadened as he laid eyes on his wife who made a charming picture as she held their foal in the comfort of a rocking chair. It had not been that many hours since he had left them to their rest, but he felt as if they, as family, had been separated for days. He would be happy to have them home.

“Good morning, my love,” he greeted Sugarberry. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m too happy to feel anything,” admitted Sugarberry. “Just look at Banderol, Vanguard. He’s too beautiful for words.”

The proud father could not deny that point. Drawing up a chair to face mother and child, he drank in the joy of the moment. Gone was the prickling uncertainty that had tormented him when he had been alone, the worry over the responsibility that was now his, the doubts about his ability to assume a father’s commitment. This little bundle was part of the wife he loved dearly and part of himself; what could be more natural than to love and protect and nurture this new entity that evoked all the paternal instincts within him?

As Sugarberry transferred the blanket-wrapped foal to his father, she grinned. “He’s clean, dry, and fed, but that can change at any moment.” The foal’s forelegs stretched from the confining blanket, but he continued to sleep.

“He’s so small,” Vanguard noted, finding that there was very little to hang on to.

“Isn’t he though? Small, yet perfect.”

The two ponies sat admiring their offspring for several more minutes before Vanguard cocked his head and grinned slyly. “Nurse Panacea informed me that another birth is anticipated shortly.”

“I heard voices in the hall earlier, but with the door closed I couldn’t tell what was going on,” Sugarberry admitted. “I can’t think of anyone who is due now, except Clare; and then not for another couple of weeks.”

Vanguard’s grin widened. “Banderol was early, too.”

Sugarberry looked at her husband with wide eyes. “Are you saying...”

“Clare broke water this morning and is in a birthing room right this minute.”

“You wouldn’t tease me about something like this...”

“Nope, I wouldn’t. I actually ran into Enrica and Giorgio, Sr., as I came in; I’ve never seen that stallion more discomposed.” Vanguard looked cocky, forgetting how nervous he himself had been such a short time ago.

“Oh, my,” Sugarberry breathed. “This wasn’t part of their plan for their stay in Dream Valley; they were to fly back to Vulcanopolis this afternoon just to avoid such an occurrence.”

“Well, the foal obviously had other plans.”

Sugarberry and Vanguard linked hooves, offering a prayer for this latest delivery.

* * *
“Oh! What an absolute angel!” breathed Sugarberry as she gazed down at the foal so lovingly cradled in Clare’s forelegs.

Beaming, Clare agreed. “She is, isn’t she?” The petite little filly’s eyes were open as if surveying her audience, her lavender mane curling around her face.

“Her name’s Calla,” Giorgio said, his face nearly aglow with delight. “She has a beautiful calla lily for her symbol,” he went on to explain, the foal being wrapped in a blanket.

“It doesn’t look like it hurt her a bit to be born in Dream Valley rather than Vulcanopolis,” noted Vanguard with a grin.

Clare giggled. “Enrica is ecstatic that Dr. Toby was on hoof to deliver her granddaughter.”

“While he missed Banderol’s delivery entirely,” Vanguard intoned dryly.

Laughing, Giorgio turned his attention to the little colt snuggled in his father’s forelegs. “This guy didn’t need the esteemed Dr. Toby to make his entrance into the world; he did quite well with the assistance of a mere subordinate. He’ll forge his own path through life.” The stallion sent a private wink to Sugarberry.

“Not entirely his own path,” Sugarberry dissented. “Banderol’s and Calla’s paths are fated to converge– just as ours have and our parents’ paths before us.”

“Are you suggesting that their destinies are already entwined?” asked Clare, a pensive expression on her face.

“They’ll be good friends, of course,” Vanguard said, “but beyond that, who knows?”

“I’d like to think that these two will have a future together,” stated Giorgio, scooping up Calla from her mother and turning to Vanguard. “Let’s see what they think about each other.”

The two stallions held their offspring side-by-side as Clare and Sugarberry looked on with curious wonder. Calla, feeling disturbed by the sudden transfer, jerked her forelegs outward, effectively punching Banderol in the nose; the colt screwed up his face to let the world know that he would not lie still for such treatment, at the same time sending his own forelegs into the air. His right hoof accidentally met Calla’s left hoof, and his intended cry became a silken gurgle instead. As if on cue, both foals yawned, their eyes scrunching shut at the effort, and they fell asleep, their hooves still resting companionably together.

The parents looked at one another in amazement: Giorgio shook his head, lost for words; Vanguard chuckled; Sugarberry appeared stunned; and Clare concluded, “There you have it... soul-mates.”

Calla and Banderol simply slept on.


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