My Little Pony Monthly Issue 77 (August 1, 2003)
My Little Pony Monthly
A publication of Nematode (Electronic) Publishing
Established June 1997
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1. Letters to the Editor
4. From Whence We Came (by Clever Clover)
5. The Flute (by Tabby)
6. XTREME! Mission: Possible (by Barnacle)
7. Anchor and Sails (by Sugarberry)
8. Marshmallow (by Clever Clover)
9. The Forfeit (by Tabby)
10. Temptation (by Clever Clover)
11. Silent are the Bells Chapters 4-6 (by Sugarberry)
Letters to the Editor
Yay! It’s so nice to see them growing again :) Great work!
Rissa Of Royal Meadows
Congratulations to our eleven winners!
Annie Baby Dibbles (Amsofct@aol.com)
C. A. Loewen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lil’ Whiskers (email@example.com)
Moon Lightning (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Violet Star Shine (email@example.com)
I accepted two answers in regards to Fizzy’s unicorn magic, since I had forgotten to be more specific in my question. Fizzy could either make bubbles or “wink”, though technically all the unicorns could wink and their magic power was something aside from that. ^.^ Come on, now try your hooves at the next question!
What is the name of the Flutter Pony from the Slumber Party Gift Set?
Tell me the answer by e-mailing TabbyMLP@aol.com or entering through the form at
This was a lovely turnout for the survey question on who is your rarest pony!
*garej* (firstname.lastname@example.org) says...
I don’t really know. I have a few rares, such as Satin n Lace, all the Mountain Boys, Tux n Tails, the Big Brothers (5 with hats), Greek Peachy, FF Peachy, No Country Peachy and finally Baby TAF Dancing Butterflies. I have a few rares, but to be honest, I don’t know which is the rarest.
Annie Baby Dibbles (email@example.com) says...
well i just traded some of my good ponies but i have to say my rarest ones are baby sandcastle and baby shovels.. i know they are not that great but i LOVE them!! I also have a MOC sandigger that i got from clipper.. hmm i have two mail order luckies.. 2 chuck e cheeses but they arent rare.. i guess i better go find some rare ones!
Moon Lightning (firstname.lastname@example.org) says...
Who is the Rarest?
Well that would be my Mimic or my Euro surprise Twins mommy one :S I donno...
Jaye (email@example.com) says...
I think my rarest pony is Mimic. I got her on my birthday when she was still in stores. It was part of my ongoing quest to get all the adult ponies featured in the TV show, and I was just delighted to find her! :-) I’m not as familiar with what is and is not rare as I should be, though, so perhaps I have other rare stuff as well. ;-)
Pika-Chan (firstname.lastname@example.org) says...
As far as my “rare” ponies go...
My Baby Princess Sparkle is rare to me- I don’t see too many of her...
I have the Goldilocks pony...
I also have the brown prototype pony that was put out before the actual MLPs were ever made...
However, my “rarest” and most treasured pony would have to be my MIB Baby Glory. She was my favorite pony growing up and finding her still in the box was more than I could have hoped for!
Lil’ Whiskers (email@example.com) says...
Hmm, I’ve got a couple of rares. I have Mimic, Crumpet and Baby Crumpet, Dabble, Scribbles, and Baby Cupcake and Lil’ Sweetcake. Dabble, Scribbles and the two baby sisters are part of my original collection so I’m rather proud of them. ;)
Jenn (firstname.lastname@example.org) says...
It was great hearing from all of you!! Now, everyone, feel free to answer the next survey question!
Which pony in your collection has the most sentimental value for you and why?
The URL is:
From Whence We Came
by Clever Clover (Swordrat@aol.com)
In the Crystal Desert, Clever Clover, Belle Star, and Coyote navigated a narrow cliff to a recently discovered kiva that they had been mapping. It took more than an hour to reach the kiva from the base camp below the cliff. After the climb to the main pueblo complex, they had to crawl through a narrow crevice and then the narrow ledge, where they were now, and then climb the cliff using a series of rough-cut footholds made by the ancient cliff-dwelling ponies of the Crystal Desert. Despite her tendency for clumsiness, Belle Star had managed to make the trip to the kiva and back twice already. If all went well, today they would finish the mapping of the structure. The three archaeologists paused at the base of the final ascent. In the desert heat, it was easy to over-exert one’s self, and it was important to take many breaks.
“You know, I’m going to miss this place when we’re done with it,” said Coyote. “I mean, there’s something unreal about it. Like it’s in another world.”
“That’s the whole idea. But I’ve gotta admit, this is the most impressive kiva I’ve ever seen.”
“And how many kivas have you seen, Clever Clover? I mean, isn’t this your first trip to the Crystal Desert?”
“Yeah, but Belle Star and I visited a couple of sites on the way.”
“Uh huh. And my mom took me on a trip when I was a little girl and we saw a really big kiva! Hm, I can’t remember what she called it. But it was in the middle of a biiiiig city in the shadow of a mountain.”
“What!?” Coyote was shocked. “That’s Pueblo Amarillo! I’ve dreamed of going there my whole life! But it’s off limits to visitors. How did your mom get you in? She isn’t a pot-hunter, is she?”
“Oh no, she isn’t a hunter. She’s an archaeologist.”
“Really? Did she work at Pueblo Amarillo?”
“No. She was on vacation. I think grandpa helped arrange the trip.”
“Oh yeah, the head of the Pony Sea Patrol. Do you think you could put in a good word with your grandpa for me?”
“Uh, okay. I’ll see what I can do.”
Clever Clover glanced at his pocket watch. “Okay, I guess it’s time to get moving.”
The three ponies began their final assent to the kiva. Clever Clover went first, followed by Belle Star and finally Coyote. They were connected by a safety line in case one of them fell. At the top of the cliff was a box of tools and supplies the archaeologists had been using to record the kiva. They recovered their gear and climbed down through the square opening into the kiva, a circular chamber cut into the top of the mesa. The only illumination was from the entry in the center of the roof. The ponies went about their work, measuring, photographing, mapping, and recording every detail of the ancient structure.
Coyote was measuring a discolored spot on the floor of the kiva that had caught his eye. He took out his trowel and slid the blade into a narrow crack in the floor. “Hey guys, check this out!”
“What is it, Coyote?” asked Clever Clover.
“I’m not sure.” Coyote leaned on the trowel and a segment of the floor lifted up. “What the…!?”
Clever Clover came over to see what his co-worker had discovered. Coyote lifted the floor panel away to expose an opening into another chamber. “This is different,” said Clever Clover. “Hey, Belle Star, come over here.”
“What is it…oh!”
Coyote shined his flashlight down the hole. “So, Clever Clover, what do you think we should do?”
“I guess one of us at least should go down there and see what’s there so we can tell Kiva as much as possible. Coyote, it’s your find; you should be the first one to take the plunge. Belle Star, go get some rope. I’ll take some pictures. Coyote, take some measurements of the opening and the panel.”
“Right!” the ponies replied in unison.
Belle Star returned shortly with the rope, one end of which was then tied to the entry ladder and the other was lowered through the mysterious opening. Clever Clover handed Coyote the camera. “All right, get a few pictures and measurements of whatever is down there. If it turns out to be a large chamber or a complex of chambers, don’t waste your time trying to map the whole thing; there’ll be time for that later.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know the drill.” Coyote began to climb down into the darkness. Clever Clover and Belle Star watched from above, but before long he was out of sight. Clever Clover shone a light down the hole but there was no sign of Coyote.
“Hey, Coyote!” Clever Clover called down the hole. There was no response. “Coyote? Are you alright?”
“Where did he go?” asked Belle Star.
“I don’t know.”
Then Coyote’s weak voice come up from the hole. “Hey guys! I made it down, but I twisted my ankle and dropped my flashlight. Could one of you come down and give me a hoof?”
“I’ll be right down,” said Clever Clover. The purple pony carefully climbed down the rope. Belle Star shone a light down the hole, but there was still no sign of Coyote. “Coyote, where are you?”
“I’m down at the bottom of a dark hole.” Coyote’s voice seemed to be growing more distant.
When Clever Clover reached the bottom of the hole, he got out his flashlight and looked around. He was standing in the center of a square room. There were two doorways on opposite sides of the room. Coyote, and his flashlight, were nowhere to be seen. “Coyote!” Clever Clover called out, but there was no response. There were no tracks in the sand to indicate where Coyote might have gone. The purple pony shone his light through one of the doors. Beyond was another room much like the first, but without any other exit. Clever Clover investigated the other door. This one led to a larger room with three other doors, two on one wall and one on another. He proceeded cautiously into the third chamber. There was still no sign of any tracks, but in one corner of the room was an unusual mound of sand. Clever Clover walked over to the mound of sand. Something was out of place here. He reached down, grabbed a lock of red-orange hair, and gave it a solid yank.
Coyote shot from the mound with a howl of pain. “What’d you do that for?” he whined.
“I keep telling you that these practical jokes are going to get you into trouble some day.”
“Aw, come on, I’m just having a little fun.”
“Is everything all right down there?” Belle Star’s voice echoed down from above.
“Everything’s fine,” Clever Clover replied. “Coyote was just playing one of his pranks. Why don’t you come down here? We might as well all have a look around.” The princely pony turned to Coyote. “By the way, how did you get into the next room without leaving any tracks?”
“That is an ancient secret passed down to me from my ancestors. Ancestors who may very well have lived in these very ruins.”
Clever Clover shook his head. “Whatever.”
Belle Star joined them in the chamber. “I’m glad to see you’re all right, Coyote. I was very worried.”
“Sorry to harass you like that. I was just having a little fun.”
“Well, playtime’s over. Let’s have a look around this place.” The three ponies began to explore the complex of underground chambers. As they progressed deeper into the unknown, Clever Clover counted his paces and sketched a rough map to keep from getting lost. Coyote carried the camera to photograph any interesting features they might come across. Belle Star made written descriptions of the complex.
“Have you noticed how the chambers seem more crude the farther we go?” Belle Star commented.
Clever Clover nodded. “Yeah, I wonder what it could mean?”
“Well, according to my ancestors, life originated in the underworld and eventually migrated to the surface,” said Coyote. “The kiva is supposed to symbolize that journey. This could just be an expanded representation.”
“So you think we’ll end up in the underworld if we keep going?”
“That sounds scary.”
“Caves were seen as the natural entrances to the underworld. There is probably a cave complex somewhere under the mesa. In fact, theses chambers could have been carved out of the natural caves.”
“That makes sense.” Clever Clover checked his watch. “It’s getting late. We should probably turn back.”
“But I was really hoping to see where this all leads.”
“Would you rather make the climb back to camp in the dark? We can always come back tomorrow. In fact, it might be best if we brought our tents up to the kiva and just camped out up there. It’s going to take a long time to explore this entire complex. Of course, the final decision will be up to Kiva.”
“Right. I guess you’re right. Let’s head back.”
* * *
The trio of archaeologist ponies made their way back through the underground complex to the kiva and down the cliff, along the ledge, through the crevice, and finally down the ledges to the base of the mesa. They reached the camp just after sunset.
“Where have you three been?” demanded Kiva, the head archaeologist. “You should have finished that kiva by noon.”
“Well, boss, we got a little side-tracked,” said Coyote.
Belle Star nodded. “Uh huh. We almost ended up in the underworld.”
“What are you talking about? Clever Clover, can you tell me what happened?”
“We found a complex of chambers under the kiva. We took some time to do a preliminary examination, but they were too expansive to fully explore. We were hoping we could establish a secondary camp up by the kiva to expedite the exploration.”
Kiva shook his head. “I’m sorry, but that will have to wait until next year. Our budget for this season is almost gone, and we may not be able to finish as much as I had planned already.”
“We have to wait a whole year?” whined Coyote. “This could be the greatest archaeological discovery of the century!”
“I know that. It’s all the more reason to wait until we have the time and resources to do it right. But, I guess I could see if the university would be willing to grant me some extra funding. Maybe we could get back to it as soon as this fall. Can I assume that the three of you would like to be in on it when we do get the funding?”
“Yes sir!” they responded in unison.
by Tabby (TabbyMLP@aol.com)
“Here are the manuscripts you wanted,” Sapphire said, carelessly tossing the pages onto Macarius’ desk.
“It’s about time,” the blue stallion muttered, leafing through them. “By the way, Sapphire–“ Sapphire, heading for the door, turned back around and looked at him. “–I was displeased with your behavior this afternoon.”
“My behavior?” Sapphire echoed incredulously. “What are you talking about?”
“You were flirting with Beauregard,” Macarius said bluntly.
“Wha–? I was not flirting with him!” Sapphire said vehemently. “And even if I was, I don’t see what concern it is of yours!”
“Anything that affects operations here concerns me,” Macarius said, his gaze pinning Sapphire’s. “And you took an inordinately long amount of time to conclude business with him.”
“I was instilling customer confidence, but of course you wouldn’t know anything about that!” Sapphire snapped. “I was asking him about his family... he’s married, you know.”
“Well, just see that you don’t waste any unnecessary time in the future,” Macarius terminated the conversation, turning back to the pages.
Sapphire left his office in a huff. That stallion was insufferable! “What a jerk,” she muttered as she stalked down the hallway. Macarius had to find fault with everything she did! Why couldn’t he have stayed back in Forest Brook when this new merged branch of their families’ publishing firms opened in Dream Valley?
It was time for her shift to end, so Sapphire headed towards the main doors, glad to be able to get away from her arch nemesis’ overbearing presence. He’d always been like that, ever since the first time they had met. The incident still seemed like just yesterday to Sapphire; the memory was still crystal clear...
* * *
Twelve-year-old Sapphire was skipping down the school hallway toward the auditorium, where a very special tryout was being held that afternoon. She paused to feel the bag at her side to ensure that her treasured flute was still there. Being reassured, she continued on her way.
“Hey, Sapphire.” A colt stepped out in front of her. “I gotta show you something.”
Sapphire snuck her nose up in the air as she strolled past him. She’d had enough of this colt and his buddies since yesterday. “I can’t think what you’d have to show me that would be of any interest,” she said primly.
“Yeah, well, I was thinking about what you said yesterday to me and the guys,” young Macarius acknowledged. “And I decided you were right.”
“Really?” Sapphire’s eyes lit-up; it was so great when another pony saw it her way! “So you admit that your science project is really lame?”
“Yeah, and we’ve decided to do something else. I thought you’d like to come and see it.”
The little blow-up of yesterday had started when Sapphire had walked by the table where Macarius, Heath, and Renny were working on their project for the science fair, and she had quite innocently commented that their volcano looked more like a heap of lumpy mashed potatoes than anything else. The colts had, for some reason, taken offense to her statement (she had just been trying to offer advice! Some ponies!) and a major exchange of heated words followed. In the end, Heath had called her a stupid know-it-all, Renny a clueless airhead, and Macarius an ignorant interfering girl. Sapphire, before stomping off in an angry huff, declared that a volcano was a totally unoriginal idea, anyway, and they would so not win any prizes for it. And that was how matters stood when Macarius approached Sapphire in the hall.
“Well...” Sapphire hesitated. “If it doesn’t take too long.” She looked up at the clock on the wall; it was still ten minutes before tryouts.
“It’ll just take a minute,” Macarius assured her, taking her hoof and literally dragging her down a side passage.
“Where is it?” Sapphire demanded.
“In here.” Macarius came to a stop in front of a closed door.
“In there?” Sapphire said suspiciously. “But that’s just an old storage room, isn’t it?”
“We got permission... come on, look.” He swung the door open for her.
Sapphire peered in without actually entering the room. “I don’t see anything.”
Muttering something like “dumb girls,” Macarius shoved past her and flipped the light switch.
“I still don’t see it,” Sapphire protested, stepping over the threshold and eyeing all the shelves lining the walls. “Where–“
Suddenly, the door slammed shut. Someone was out in the hallway, messing with the lock. Two voices were laughing. “Hah! This’ll show ya, Sapphire,” Heath’s unmistakable voice said.
“Yeah! Nobody makes fun of our volcano and gets away with it!” Renny chortled. “Catch ya later, airhead!”
Before Macarius had time to react to the mistake that had been made, the clopping of hooves on the hallway floor and raucous laughter signified that his two buddies had already made good their escape. “Hey! Hey, I’m still in here!” he shouted, pounding on the door, but in vain.
Sapphire whirled on him with fire in her eyes. “You... you... worm,” she hissed. “You did this all on purpose! You jerk!”
Macarius sighed and leaned into the wall. “At least if you hadn’t been so stupid I wouldn’t be in here, too.”
“But I have to get out!” Sapphire pounded on the door for help and shouted for someone to help, but to no avail. “The band tryouts are in just a little while! I can’t miss that!”
“Maybe you should have thought of that before making fun of our volcano,” Macarius smirked.
“I was just making a helpful suggestion, you dork!” Sapphire shouted. “You guys take things way too personally!”
“Anyway, you’re just missing one band practice. I don’t see what the big deal is, really,” Macarius shrugged.
“What the big deal is?” Sapphire echoed. “Well, for your information, this is a tryout session! A play producer is going to be here and he’s going to pick the most talented students to perform the music for a play he’s putting on in Wild Oaks!”
“Well, he’d never pick you, that’s for sure, so I don’t see why you’re so hysterical,” Macarius said in a bored tone.
“Not pick me?” Sapphire shrieked. “I’m a great flutist! I know I’d have a chance... if I could just get there!”
“It’s not like I can do anything... even if I wanted to,” Macarius said.
“And if I got in that play, it could be just the beginning for me,” Sapphire ranted on. “Who knows what options I’d have open for me after that! And if I don’t get out of here in time, then...”
“Scream all you want; nobody’s gonna hear you down here.”
Sapphire ignored his warning and for the next hour or so proceeded to scream and shout and pound and cry. It was all futile. Eventually Sapphire heard in the distance various footfalls and chatter. Her heart sunk. Were those all the band ponies getting out of the tryout? She screamed louder. After what seemed an eternity, the one pony that confirmed Sapphire’s worst fears finally came. The music teacher.
“Is someone trapped in there? I don’t have the key for this door; I’ll have to go get the janitor. Hang tight.”
“Oh, Sapphire, it’s you! We wondered where you were. How did you–”
“Miss Astilbe, the tryout,” Sapphire gasped out. “Is it–“
”I’m sorry,” Miss Astilbe said, looking at her sympathetically. “It’s over. I’m afraid it’s too late for you.”
“But, it wasn’t my fault!” Sapphire pleaded. “He– that jerk– he locked me in! Isn’t there anything I can do– there must be a way! I have to have a chance! Please!”
Miss Astilbe looked truly apologetic. “If I could do anything for you, Sapphire, I would; but the choices have already been made. I really am sorry. But there are always other opportunities–“
Sapphire blindly turned away and faced Macarius with tear-filled eyes. There was never going to be another opportunity like this. “I hate you,” she whispered in a blind rage.
Macarius remained unmoved, his composure never wavering through his entire ordeal with Sapphire. “Tough luck, Sapph,” he waved carelessly as he wandered down the hallway. Sapphire turned and ran down the hallway in the opposite direction before she completely broke down. Her family was right; the Monks were a terrible bunch of ponies.
And what was possibly the most painful part of it all was that Macarius’ group’s project won first place at the science fair the next week.
* * *
Coming out of her reverie, Sapphire found herself staring out the glass doors at a late summer thunderstorm. The sky was black, thunder boomed, lightning flashed, rain poured down, and the wind was lashing mercilessly. Not really relishing the idea of walking home in a storm like that, Sapphire sighed and made her way to the employee’s lounge where she could wait until it had blown over.
She had just helped herself to a cookie from the tray and sat down with a magazine to flip through when the room was cast into darkness. “Oh great, a power outage,” Sapphire grumbled, impatiently waiting for the lights to come back on. They didn’t. Sighing, the stumbled out of the room and into the hallway, groping her way towards the front desk where she might find an emergency flashlight.
Hugging the wall, Sapphire had only gone a few feet before bumping into a small table and sending a vase of flowers crashing to the ground. She blindly picked her way around the mess and winced as she stepped in the sharp edge of a piece of the shattered vase. This really wasn’t turning out to be her day. Too bad everyone else had gone home already, and she was the only one here unless Ma–
“Oof!” Suddenly Sapphire bumped into something much taller than a table, but fortunately much softer as well.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the unknown pony apologized. “Are you okay?” He held her away from him and tried to get a feel for her face.
“Macarius?” Sapphire croaked. Wow, the day kept getting better and better. What could beat bumping, quite literally, into one’s nemesis in a dark hallway?
“Oh, it’s you.” Macarius abruptly thrust her away. “I thought you’d have gone home by now.”
“I was just waiting out the storm,” Sapphire snapped, resenting the lowering tone he had switched to when he had realized it was her and not some other mare.
“I was just going to the main desk,” Macarius continued calmly, “to attempt to locate a flashlight. You may come with me or continue to stumble around in the dark.”
“Jerk,” Sapphire hissed, but nonetheless trailed behind him... as well as she could trail someone she could barely make out in the darkness.
Upon reaching the desk, Sapphire listened to him opening drawers and rustling through them. She smirked with pleasure as she head a can of pens falls over onto the floor. “Real graceful, Macarius,” she said mockingly.
“Well, at least I found something,” Macarius countered, and suddenly a low beam was coming out of the flashlight he had unearthed.
“Great, so now we can see. A lot of good that does to calm the storm down,” Sapphire said snappishly, forgetting that she, too, had set out in search of the device.
“No, but with it we can find... ah-hah!” Macarius got his hooves on a small portable radio situated on the desk. “This should be on battery power... let’s see.” He turned the dial and a staticky transmission came out.
“...Dream Valley and the surrounding area is under a severe thunderstorm warning until eight o’ clock P.M... residents are advised to stay indoors and seek appropriate cover... be prepared for heavy rain, hail, and strong winds... the power company has reported a massive power outage throughout much of the city; please be patient while the problem is resolved... as always, stay tuned to WPNY for the latest weather developments... repeat, Dream Valley and the–“
Sapphire sighed and turned away. “Well, I guess we’re stuck here for awhile then.”
Macarius ignored her. “It looks like the wind’s getting worse,” he commented, looking out the window.
“I’m not afraid or anything, you know,” Sapphire retorted, feeling the need to retaliate even from a simple statement.
“I didn’t think you would be. Or at least that you’d admit it to me if you were,” Macarius smirked. “We can either wait it out here or in the basement. Do you want to flirt with danger or play it safe?”
Sapphire didn’t want to appear a sissy, but as a particularly strong gust of wind rocked the building she wavered. Nevertheless... “It’ll be over soon,” she predicted, putting on a brave front. “No need to hide in the corner like a...” Suddenly a tremendous burst of lightning lit up the outside and shook the ground. Shrieking, Sapphire jumped at the shock and found herself in Macarius’ forelegs, who looked like he was trying hard not to laugh.
Sapphire glared at him and backed away. “I’m going to the basement,” she said, mustering as much dignity as possible. “At least then I’m away from you.” Sniffing, she stalked off.
“Sure. Just don’t get lost,” Macarius called after her in a snide tone.
“I know my way around– oof!”
“Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go with you. After all, I wouldn’t want all the Fairfaxes after my blood if anything happened to their precious Sapphire. Why, it might open up the feud all over again,” Macarius said in a bored tone, stepping past her and leading the way with his flashlight. Sapphire remained silent, and just glowered at him behind his back.
They made their way down into the basement of the plant in which all excess materials– paper, ink, and the like– were stored on shelves lining the walls.
Sapphire perched on a large cardboard box in the corner, tapping her hoof impatiently. Macarius leaned against the wall opposite her, looking bored. Neither of them spoke for a long while.
“Do you still play the flute?” Macarius’ question was so unexpected and irrelevant to the matters at hoof that Sapphire was caught off guard.
“What?” she said.
“The flute. You know, a musical instrument. You played it once.”
“Oh,” Sapphire said. “No, I haven’t played that for ages.”
“Oh.” Macarius lapsed into silence again.
Sapphire laughed bitterly. “This is a lot like that day back in sixth grade, isn’t it?”
“You’re not locked in,” Macarius said matter-of-factly.
“I might as well be. It’s not like I can go outside.”
“You know, I didn’t think it was really going to mean that much to you when we locked you in the storage room that time.”
“You never did stop to think about the consequences of your actions,” she glared at him.
“It didn’t seem like that big of a deal.”
“Not that big of a deal!” Sapphire cried out. “That tryout was my lifeblood for months! I practiced harder than I ever had before in my life. I was so counting on getting a part in playing music for that play. I knew I could do it. Then I didn’t even have a chance.” Her voice was rising steadily. “You killed a dream that day, you know! And you don’t even care! Then or now!” She squeezed her eyes shut but some tears trickled down her cheek anyway. “I thought, if I made it through that tryout, I’d have my ticket to stardom. But thanks to you– thanks to you–“
”Why did you stop?” he asked abruptly.
“Playing the flute.”
“Some memories are just too painful to face again, I guess.”
“I hadn’t thought you’d let something like that deter you.”
“Yeah, well, I guess I’m not as strong as you thought I was.”
“Yeah.” Macarius peered up the stairwell. “I think the storm might have passed. I’ll go check.” So saying, he excused himself from the room.
Sapphire scowled after him. Why had he brought up that incident, anyway? It was obvious that he still wasn’t sorry about it. He must have done it just to resurrect painful memories for her. He was always going to be the same arrogant uncaring Macarius.
Even when he held the door open for her when it was deemed safe to go home, Sapphire didn’t say a word.
* * *
It was a few days later that Sapphire let herself into her office at the beginning of the day and found a neatly wrapped box sitting on her desk. Curiously, Sapphire picked it up. The package was long and slim in shape, but there was no card on the outside. Who would have left a present for her? Carefully she untied the silver ribbon and lifted the lid. She gasped at what was inside. It was a beautifully crafted silver flute.
Sapphire shook her head in wonderment. Why would anyone leave a present for her, let alone that it should turn out to be this particular musical instrument? No one here in Dream Valley would have known about her old hobby from her younger days... no one except Macarius. And it couldn’t have been him.
She picked up the flute gently and tried it out for sound. Though she hadn’t played it since sixth grade, her memories of how it worked soon came back to her. She played a simple but lovely melody before noticing there was a small card in the bottom of the box. She picked it up but it was simply signed, “An Admirer.”
Sapphire stepped across the room and opened the door, peering out into the hallway with the flute still in her hooves. Macarius was at the end of the hallway, talking with Silverdust. Upon seeing her gaze resting on him, he looked at her coolly and then turned his attention back to Silverdust.
Sapphire backed into her office and closed the door slowly, her attention centered on the lovely flute. If not Macarius, then who?
Sapphire didn’t know what to think.
by Barnacle (email@example.com)
After their last competition, the Extreme Ponies, along with the rest of the ESL, found themselves on the road to their next destination. This time, however, they were not on their way to another competition, but instead back to North Vancashtierville, where the headquarters for the ESL were being established. After experiencing a profit from the games, the corporation that founded and owned the entire ESL now saw fit to invest in a new complex from which to run things. An entirely new set of buildings had been constructed in record time, and the various departments that had previously been scattered in various locations were now all moving into this one central facility.
Since it would be nearly an entire week before the next ESL competition, everyone was diverted to North Vancashtierville for a few days while Mr. Yanus sorted things out there. Though it wasn’t home to any of the athletes, the city still offered a chance to relax and a few nights in hotel rooms instead of in bunk beds tucked into the small spaces of their coaches.
As the western sky was just beginning to take on a reddish hue, the Extreme Team’s coach was pulling into the new parking garage facility across the street from the ESL Headquarters. In a flurry of activity, its occupants disembarked.
“Dude!” Jet cried as he bounded out of the door and into the garage. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do first, but just so long as I don’t have a camera stuck in my face, I’ll be happy!”
From the top of the stairs, Mogul added, “Yeah, that schedule was nonstop. At least we get a little R-and-R now. Here, you forgot this.” Mogul tossed Jet his duffle bag, but the hyperactive pony wasn’t watching and caught it right in his gut. Mogul just chuckled as Jet collapsed in a heap on the pavement.
“What are you gonna do now that we have a little free time?” Mogul asked Luge as she joined them outside.
“I don’t care, as long as I can spend at least one night in a real bed without you snoring in the bunk right above me, “ Luge replied.
“Even if it is just a hotel room,” Bungee added.
“What are you talking about?” Mogul asked. “I don’t snore.”
Cliff joined all the others outside just in time to join their chorus, “Yes you do!”
“No I don’t,” Mogul replied vehemently.
Noticing that their driver, a young pony about the same age as them, was climbing down from the cab, Mogul engaged him in the debate. “Hey Keefe, you’ve driven for us at night; do I snore?”
“Yeap,” Keefe said matter-of-factly as he locked the door.
The first time I drove for you guys, I thought someone was using a chainsaw in the back.”
Mogul, though proven wrong, wasn’t going to back down just yet. “Well, I bet the rest of you guys snore just as loud.”
“Sorry,” Keefe replied. “You’re the only one. I gotta run. See ya’ll later.”
“See you around, and thanks,” Cliff said as Keefe walked off. Turning his attention back to the group, he said, “Come on, ponies, let’s get our gear and see if we can find this hotel before it gets dark.”
As they began to walk away, Mogul was still muttering to no one in particular “Snore? I don’t snore. I bet they’re the ones that snore.”
“Just drop it already!” Luge exclaimed. “I don’t care if you snore or not, I just want to go to bed!”
“Before you do, you might want to hear what I have to tell you.”
Everyone stopped short and stared at the stranger who just stepped out in front of them from behind one of the other trucks in the garage.
“Who’s this?” Mogul asked.
“Shard,” Cliff said as an introduction and greeting, both with equal malice.
“At least you still remember me,” the pony said with a tip of his hat.
The others had heard of Shard and how he had told Cliff about the trap on the first course they ever ran with the ESL, but only Cliff and Luge had ever met him before. Any descriptions failed to describe Shard. In person, he exuded a dark sort of menace that was almost tangible. Cliff took a step forward while all the others stayed back, not uttering a word.
“So what do you want this time?” Cliff asked. “What kind of game are you playing? You told us about that first trap, but when you never showed up again, we started seeing conspiracies everywhere.”
“Good,” Shard replied. “Now you know what’s it like. If I had told you everything I know, you never would have realized just how serious this whole thing is.”
“And just how serious is the X-Crew cheating?”
Shard tipped his hat so that his eyes were just covered in shadow and said, “The X-Crew aren’t the ones you should be worried about.”
“Than who should we be worried about?” Cliff asked.
Luge finally spoke up, “Are you saying-?”
“Exactly,” Shard nodded. “Yanus is the one who’s had the tracks rigged and then told only the X-Crew about it.”
At that point everyone suddenly broke out.
“No way, Yanus is a jerk but he wouldn’t do that.”
“And even if he did, why?”
“What would he have to gain?”
“I knew it all along! We shoulda never trusted him!”
Cliff suddenly spoke up over all the others, “Why should we even trust you? Who are you?”
“Are you a detective or something?” Blade asked. She had wanted to say lawyer, but that simply seemed too out of character for this rough and tumble pony.
A thin smile creased Shard’s lips but it did nothing to soften his grim visage. If anything, it made him look more menacing. “Yeah,” Shard replied. “Something like that. I’m just someone looking for answers.”
“And those answers would be..?”
Leaning towards Mogul, Jet whispered, “Dude, do we even know what the questions are?”
“I may know more than you about what’s going on, but I don’t know everything. However, I do know how we all can find out.”
“There are files in Yanus’ office that detail everything. I managed to get a look at one of them some months back, which is how I found out about the first track, but I haven’t been able to get anything else since. If we get this information, it will be a big start in nailing him for what he’s done. I’m working on some other things, but we need this first.”
“So you’re suggesting that we break into Mr. Yanus’ office and steal these files?” Cliff said. The very notion was more than a little distasteful to him.
“It would have to be done in complete secret. With everyone moving into the new building, security is light at best. I would have gone already, but I’m not as young as I used to be. However, with your unique talents, I’m sure you could do it completely undetected.
“Cliff, I don’t know about this…” Luge said from behind.
Cliff shared her misgivings, but something in the back of his mind was telling him otherwise. Shard stood back and let the young ponies discuss the situation by themselves.
“We can’t just break into his office, that’s like against the law and stuff,” Bungee said.
“But what about what he’s doing to us?” Blade asked her. “Isn’t that even worse?”
“Dude, why don’t we just call the cops?” Jet inquired.
“We don’t have any proof of anything,” Cliff countered in frustration.
And Mogul added, “Besides, if cops came looking, he’d just destroy the files.”
“It wouldn’t be wise to involve the authorities just yet,” Shard said at that point. “You’re right that he’d be able to destroy the files. If he catches wind of this before I’m ready, it will ruin everything and he will be able to walk away scot free.”
“No way,” Luge said, trying to convince herself more than anyone else. “We can’t do this.”
At that, Mogul scoffed. “If the rest of you aren’t willing to go, I’ll do it alone.”
Cliff quickly silenced them with a wave of his hoof. “Hold up, either all of us are onboard with this or none of us are. We have to make this decision as a group.”
“I’m in this all the way,” Mogul quickly said, but Cliff hushed him again.
“Look, Yanus has been sharing this information with the X-Crew. I think we can be positive of that. If we have it, it levels the playing field and makes everything the way it’s supposed to be.”
“In addition,” Shard said, “you won’t actually be stealing anything. The files need to look like they’ve been untouched. All you’ll be taking out of his office is photocopies.”
“So we get you these files and then we’ll get all the information on the trapped race courses?” Luge asked tentatively.
“It’s just that simple,” Shard replied. “But, in addition to the race information, there’s one more file that relates to some of Sa–Yanus’s earlier activities. I need that one, as well.”