written by Sugarberry and Tabby
The sun was setting over the western waters as Garnet and Wishbone walked along the small but beautiful beach. They had arrived at their honeymoon destination several hours earlier, taking the time to settle into their rooms at the isolated location of the chalky stucco ocean front villa that now glowed pink from the sunset. Having spoken for the smallest suite available, the newlyweds had been able to afford this luxurious hide-away.
Glancing at the mare that had become his wife only yesterday, Wishbone grinned. “So, do you think you’ll be able to handle being pampered by this efficient staff for an entire week?”
Taking her husband’s hoof in her own, Garnet smiled back. “It’s going to be tough, but I’ll learn to adjust.”
The two of them had been met by the brisk and efficient manager of the rambling seaside estate known as Pearlhaven, shown to their rooms by a stone-faced steward, and introduced to the amenities of their domicile by a orderly and obliging maid. The accommodations were small but luxurious; and their every need had been anticipated. No doubt they would have a comfortable stay.
“Just don’t get used to it,” Wishbone warned, drawing Garnet into his forelegs. “Reality will hit hard once we’re back in Dream Valley, what with school and work and all.” He kissed the tip of the nose of the scarlet mare.
“Reality with you I look forward to,” Garnet replied, her violet eyes shining with a brilliance that rivaled the orange orb sinking into the sea.
“This is the current reality,” whispered Wishbone, taking her breath away with a kiss.
The sun had long since disappeared into its watery bed before the two ponies returned to Pearlhaven. Their attention being centered on each other, they did not notice the spectral face with large, luminous eyes that watched them curiously from the gathering tide.
* * *
“May I get you anything else?” queried the waiter solicitously. “Chef Camembert has created a delectable parfait featuring lemons. It’s quite refreshing.”
“Tempting...” sighed Garnet, leaning back from the table. She and Wishbone had just consumed a meal fit for a king, and nothing had been wanting. Still, a heavenly dessert...
“Bring it on,” drawled Wishbone, having found the tasteful and artistic dishes of Camembert delicious but rather on the light side. And there would be none of Sugarberry’s cookies and milk to raid in the middle of the night... not that he would have need of such a diversion.
As Quicksand headed for the kitchen, Wishbone surveyed the patio that looked out over the sparkling ocean and grinned at his wife. “It’s like we’ve got this whole place to ourselves; I thought there’d be other guests.”
He had no sooner finished speaking when two ponies clattered onto the flagstones from the direction of the beach, both of them looking rather bedraggled and out-of-sorts.
“You miscalculated,” growled the stallion, glaring angrily at the mare. “It’s all your fault.”
The mare, a petite lavender pony with pink hair shot through with sparks of glittering silver, returned an equally aggravated look at her companion. “It was your incompetence that caused...” she began, then stopped suddenly as she became aware of Wishbone and Garnet watching with intrigued expressions. “Oh. The new guests are here,” she said expressively, calling her compatriot’s attention to that fact.
The two newcomers shared a guarded glance, then moved across the patio to seat themselves at the table farthest from Garnet and Wishbone who had finally remembered their manners and had turned their attention away from the squabbling couple.
“Will that be us in a couple of years?” queried Garnet softly, her eyes sparkling.
“Sooner,” Wishbone glibly admitted. “We’ll be constantly arguing over which movie to watch on that awesome entertainment system Sable gave us.”
Garnet rolled her eyes expressively. “Spike and Friendly and Caravel and the rest of that crew will probably have it worn out by the time we get back.”
“I’m not sure it was wise to give them free access to our apartment while we’re gone, but it seemed the only way to hold them off last night.”
Quicksand returned at that moment with Wishbone and Garnet’s desserts; as he set the creamy concoctions before them, he glanced across at the late arrivals. Having sensed that Wishbone and Garnet were not the priggish type, the waiter decided to drop the formality that his boss demanded and engage in a little gossip. “So they finally showed up, did they?” he said, nodding toward the two ponies.
“They’re two of the other paying guests?” questioned Wishbone.
“Yes, Tinder and Honeydew. They spend most of their time out on their boat.”
“Surely there are other guests as well,” Garnet prodded, curious to learn of the other occupants of their temporary home.
“Oh, yeah. At least, there’s a group that made reservations. They haven’t shown up yet.”
“A group?” asked Wishbone. “You mean, like a convention?”
“Not anything that drastic,” grinned Quicksand. “Just five ponies; they take pictures or somethin’.”
“It’s the perfect setting for that,” allowed Garnet, once more taking in the soothing sight of the opalescent moon smiling down over the water.
“Could we get some service over here?” grated the pony identified as Tinder. He tossed back his emerald green mane with impatience.
“‘S’cuse me,” winked Quicksand as he took his leave of Wishbone and Garnet. “Catch ya later.” He sped off to meet the demands of the harried Tinder.
“I doubt that,” Wishbone murmured under his breath, sending his bride a warm and tender look.
* * *
Strolling along the white sandy beach of the bay the following morning, Garnet kept her gaze downward as she searched for seashells. She had promised Tabby to keep her eyes open for any appropriate shells that would provide homes for the elusive hermit crabs in which Tabby had recently developed an interest. Thomas had merely shrugged his shoulders as yet another animal species was included in the menagerie that Tabby gathered around herself at their mansion.
“Oh, cool!” she choked as she stumbled over a prime specimen buried beneath her hooves. She reached down to pick up the beige and ivory spiraled dome, and cautiously peered inside. “No one’s home,” she surmised, dropping the shell into her backpack.
“There’s another one,” said Wishbone, pointing to a beauty just at the edge of the lapping waves. He retrieved it and added it to their collection.
The two ponies, oblivious to anything except the sand and the shells, spent the next hour or two with their heads down and their eyes inspecting the shore.
“This one is mine!” called Garnet as the lapping waves delivered a creamy, spiny shell at her hooves. “Isn’t it beautiful?” She held it up for Wishbone to see the pearlite pink interior.
“Beautiful,” Wishbone breathed, his eyes not on the shell but on his wife.
“Oh! You!” Garnet laughed, splashing the stallion with the readily available surf, then retreating up the beach.
Shaking the water out of his mane, Wishbone sprinted after the mare, catching her easily and pulling him into his forelegs. “You can’t escape.”
“Who said I wanted to?” Garnet whispered, lifting her lips to his.
Suddenly, the roaring noise of an engine interrupted the romantic moment. Sand billowed out in clouds as a vehicle, driving at a high speed, appeared from over a sand dune. Music was blaring from the stereo and loud shouts came from the ponies within.
“LOUDER!! LOUDER!! TURN IT UP!!!”
“HAIKU, SLOW DOWN!! THERE ARE PONIES AHEAD!”
“I SAW THEM ALREADY! MITZI, WOULD YOU STOP FOOLING WITH THE RADIO!”
“HEY, WOULDN’T THIS BE A GOOD PLACE TO STOP?”
“WOOHOO! WE CAN HIT THE SURF!”
“NO! I MEAN, LOOK FOR THE CRITTER! PUT ON THE BRAKES!”
The vehicle came to a skidding halt just yards from Garnet and Wishbone, who could only gape in disbelief as the five ponies leaped from the buggy. At least the loud music and shouting were gone as one of the mares trained a camera on the stallion of the group who stood before the picturesque horizon and began his narration.
“Here we are at lovely Coral Cove on the west shore of Ponyland! While we’re here, we’ll be able to check out all the awesome coral reefs and aquatic life and stuff, but our main objective is to follow up on reports we’ve heard of a very rare albino aquatic animal in this area! See if we succeed...”
“Um, excuse me, but what are you ponies doing?” Wishbone put in weakly.
The aqua stallion whirled around as if noticing the couple for the first time. “Great, just great!” he fumed. “Now you’ve ruined my intro! Just who do you think you are, anyway?”
“We were trying to enjoy some privacy,” Garnet said, looking at the stranger pointedly.
“Whatever.” Turning and ignoring Garnet, Cazador continued. “Okay, Psyche, take it from the beginning. All right! Here we are at the lovely...”
* * *
“So much for peace and quiet,” sighed Garnet, watching the dune buggy as it disappeared in the direction of Pearlhaven, leaving a trail of disturbed sand in its wake. Cazador and his crew had finished their preliminary taping and were now headed for some rest and relaxation to revitalize themselves before beginning their quest in earnest.
“Hopefully, they’ll spend most of their time far, far away,” responded Wishbone. “At least, they didn’t run over our picnic basket.”
Chef Camembert had prepared a delightful lunch for the newlyweds to take with them so that they would not have to time their walk to return for the noon luncheon. That morning, listening to their request for a simple packet of sandwiches, the chef had scoffed. “For you, I will prepare a special treat... something for lovers, no?” He had disappeared into his kitchen; and by the time Garnet and Wishbone had finished breakfast and been ready to set off on their excursion, he had gifted them with a closed basket with the admonition, “Don’t open until lunchtime!” He had then thumped Wishbone on the back and winked broadly at Garnet.
With the sun high in the sky, Garnet and Wishbone found that they had slowly but surely worked their way almost to the rocky outcropping that formed the southernmost curve of the sheltered bay. Where they now stood, the beach was littered with rocks of varying sizes; and the further they went, the larger the rocks became until they were butted up against the sea wall itself. “Look, Garnet. That rock is flat enough to be our table,” Wishbone pointed out, “and the two smaller ones can be our chairs.”
“Perfect!” glowed Garnet, just now realizing how hungry she was. As Wishbone set the picnic hamper on the rock, she reached to open the hinged lid, uncovering a neatly folded tablecloth. “Camembert thought of everything,” she enthused, lifting out the pristine lily white square of linen edged in lace. “How romantic!” Two matching napkins followed.
With the lapping waves providing a melody accompanied by the cries of several circling seagulls, the little ponies unpacked the further treasures of the basket. There were two delicate porcelain plates with a shell pattern painted on them, silverware, crystal wine glasses, and a single red rose complete with vase.
Beneath these accessories was the heart of the chef’s work. Packed in ice were creme vichyssoise, crackers and pate, pasta salad, frosted fruits, deviled eggs, salad greens, bite-sized delicately-iced cakes, nuts, and a bottle of deep red wine. Like two foals at a pretend tea-party, Wishbone and Garnet set out the dishes and arranged their plates and proceeded to enjoy the luxury of Camembert’s offering as the sun edged its way westward and the shadows began to creep slowly from the rocky cliffs.
The two ponies sat and talked long after the food was gone, finding that a world with no distractions provided the perfect stage to express thoughts and fancies that in a faster paced setting would be lost or discounted.
After packing up all the items from their al fresco luncheon, Garnet made an observation. “We’ve been here nearly twenty-four hours and haven’t been in the water yet.”
“That’s easily remedied.” Wishbone gazed out over the fluid expanse of the ocean and noted a buoy in the distance. “I’ll race you to that buoy and back again.”
“You’re on!” Not standing on ceremony, Garnet immediately hit the surf, giving herself a head-start as Wishbone faltered momentarily as he set the picnic basket safely out of reach of the waves.
Neither pony was that adept at swimming, their experience with the sport having amounted to foalhood romps in lethargic meadow streams; but what they lacked in form, they made up in effort. Garnet splashed her way to the buoy first and began the trek back to the sandy shore. She made one mistake, however, laughing at Wishbone’s slower progress as she met him which goaded him into trying harder and- possibly- not quite reaching the buoy before he turned to follow the mare.
Garnet had made in about half-way back to shore when she turned her head to look behind her to see where Wishbone was when she caught a flash of white out of the corner of her eye as something quickly submerged several yards off her left side. The motion distracted her and worried her just a bit, causing her to stop swimming; treading water, she hovered where she was, gently paddling as she peered into the water where she had last seen the fleeting specter.
“You’ve given up already?” teased Wishbone as he came up beside her .
“I saw something...”
“Quicksand said there’s nothing dangerous in these waters,” Wishbone stated, but he, too, began to peer into the depths.
“There was a brief glint of white,” Garnet explained. “I couldn’t identify...”
“There’s something coming around behind us,” Wishbone warned, perceiving a ghostly form circling below the surface.
“Where?” croaked Garnet, turning quickly and grabbing onto Wishbone, effectively drawing both of them underwater.
Paddling to gain the surface again, Garnet was further discomposed to feel the feather-light touch of what she could only imagine to be a fin brush against her. Erupting from the water at the same time as Wishbone, she gasped. “What is that thing?”
She got her answer as that “thing” burst out of the water only a foreleg’s reach away from the two ponies, fastening them with a look that could only be described as... cherubic. The little creature was pure white from what was visible of it, its head in the shape and size of a baby pony, the only color being in the round, innocent eyes that peered at them in apparent inquisitiveness. Those eyes were a pure, glowing pink. Perky ears gave it an intelligent appearance.
Before either pony could say a word, the compact creature propelled itself upward, out of the water, and dived beneath the surface, showering Wishbone and Garnet while revealing his fish-like body and fins. Brushing her hoof across her eyes, Garnet giggled. “That was a sea pony!”
“A baby sea pony, at that,” agreed Wishbone, following the little aquatic pony’s progress as it swam under them before resurfacing. It flashed them a sassy grin before propelling itself out to deeper water; then, noting that the scarlet mare and the rose-red stallion remained where they were, the sea pony circled around and came directly toward them, nudging them with its nose when he came near. Once more, it circled and headed out toward the horizon.
“I think he wants us to follow him,” Garnet decided.
“Either that or play with him,” Wishbone countered, noting the mischievous expression on the sea pony’s face.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Garnet took off after the nimble youngster, and Wishbone promptly followed.
For the next hour, the two ponies and the pearl-white baby sea pony frolicked in the ocean, all three playing together like foals released for recess. The sea pony instigated a game of tag; and with his natural abilities to maneuver through the water, he was able to dominate, leaving Garnet and Wishbone breathless and laughing and seeking shallower water.
Rolling on the gentle waves, the sea pony allowed them a few moments to recover while he continued to perform acrobatics that, even at his young age, already showed great grace and power. The ponies marveled at his ability to twist and turn, dive and leap, circle and race, all with unbounded energy.
It was not long before the little fellow was again entreating the ponies to join with him in the fun, his pink eyes shining in entreaty. He submerged, only to return with a conch shell that he tossed off his nose to Garnet who in turn threw it to Wishbone from whom it was sent once more to the sea pony, and so began a game of catch which turned into a riotous round of keep-away as the sea pony and Wishbone hoarded the shell between them.
Laughing and holding her side, Garnet called timeout. “I can’t keep this up,” she panted, collapsing in the shallows and brushing the mane out of her eyes.
“How about we declare a truce, Bobby?” Wishbone asked of the sea pony, applying the moniker that he and Garnet had been using to refer to the little tyke who was always bobbing up in front of them.
The sea pony showed his agreement with a leap out of the water accompanied by a splash of foamy brine from his tail. When he reappeared, there was a grin on his face.
“This has been great fun, Bobby,” Garnet said, “but I’ll bet you’re parents are getting worried about you. We should be getting home, too. We can play more tomorrow.”
Reminded of his parents and home, the smile left the little aquatic creature’s face and he looked heartbroken; before either pony could say a word, he slipped under the surface of the water without leaving a ripple and was gone.
Both ponies stared out over the sparkling seascape for some idea where the baby sea pony was headed, but there was not a sign of his progress through the water. The only thing besides themselves in the entire vista was a motorboat just nosing its way from around the rocky southern arm of the bay.
“That’s Tinder and Honeydew.” Even at this distance, Garnet recognized the squabbling couple from last evening.
“Let’s hope they had a more enjoyable day than yesterday,” Wishbone grinned. “I think the villa will have enough excitement of its own with the new guests without those two cutting up at each other.”
“Yeah,” Garnet agreed, accepting Wishbone’s forehoof to pull her to her hooves. She took one more speculative look across the water at the motorboat before allowing Wishbone to walk her up the beach.
* * *
Lowering the binoculars from his eyes, Tinder growled. “They’ve seen the sea pony.”
“While we spent our day miles south of here!” Honeydew growled back. “I told you...”
“Don’t start, Dewy,” Tinder warned. “If you’d of moved in faster when we had our chance...”
“Stow it!” Honeydew tossed her head in warning. “You designed the cage, remember? ‘It’ll hold anything,’ you said. Anything... except a supple baby sea pony.”
“How was I to know it would wriggle free of its parents? He never left their side before.”
“You didn’t think, Tinder. I suggest you start doing a little more of that now. Skeesicks isn’t known for his patience, you know.”
A glint of fear appeared in Tinder’s eyes, and he stopped his blustering. “Yeah, I know.”
* * *
The main suite of rooms at Pearlhaven occupied the central complex of the villa and was fronted with a flowered terrace that looked out over the sandy beach that ended at the ocean’s edge. Dividing the private terrace from the communal dining patio was a high hedge that prevented visual access but did nothing to deter the flow of sound that emanated from Mitzi’s boom box. Garnet prodded Wishbone toward the table the greatest distance from Cazador and crew’s lodgings and slipped into her chair with a yawn.
“That water frolic wore me out,” she admitted, rubbing the sore muscles in her forelegs.
“Bobby was a bundle of energy,” agreed Wishbone. “I wonder where the rest of his family was.”
“That’s been bothering me, too. Did you see how worried he looked just before he took off?”
“He probably realized he’d just missed supper,” Wishbone surmised. “I’m starved.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” quipped Quicksand as he came up to their table. “What can I get you this evening?”
“Ear plugs!” Garnet brooded as a particularly raucous melody came through the hedge.
Quicksand snickered. “Get used to it. Cazador and his girls are booked through the end of the week, same as you.”
“Isn’t there any liability for noise pollution?” queried Wishbone.
Chuckling, Quicksand admitted, “Camembert is on the warpath himself. His souffle fell, and he’s convinced that it was the loud music that did it.”
“The music doesn’t seem to bother you,” noted Garnet, glaring at the waiter.
“Have you seen those four mares?” he asked, a dreamy expression settling over his face. “Asta... Mitzi... Haiku... Psyche... Their names read like a mantra or something.”
“Throw Cazador in the mix,” Wishbone grinned.
Quicksand quickly came careening into that compelling conundrum. “He does throw it off, doesn’t he? I only wish I had a following of groupies like those four.” He phased out again, his thoughts pleasant.
“You might have a chance to gain a following if you’d carry through on your job more circumspectly,” hinted Wishbone, anxious for his supper.
“What? Oh! May I take your order?”
* * *
In the opposite corner of the patio, Tinder and Honeydew seemed subdued, whether from the blaring music or from their earlier contention was anyone’s guess. Both ponies brooded over their drinks in sulky silence which became tangible as the music suddenly ended and the metal gate between the terrace and the patio opened on its oiled hinges.
Through the opening advanced a peach-colored unicorn followed by a sky-blue pegasus and a bright yellow earth pony. Bringing up the rear was an aqua earth pony in deep conversation with a brash young stallion with a unicorn’s horn spouting from beneath his grape-colored mane, his cyan-blue body lean and trim. The quintet marched to the large center table, and the girls let Cazador seat himself at the head before they all clustered around him. “Well, girls, tomorrow’s the day,” their leader announced.
“Hooray!” Mitzi enthused. “I have so wanted to go surfing!”
“No, not surfing,” Psyche chided her. “Besides, I don’t think the waves are that big, anyway.”
“The sea otter, remember?” Cazador said. “The albino one some guys have reported seeing. But we’re also going to do some underwater diving to explore the coral reefs.”
“It would be so cool to have an albino sea otter,” Haiku mused.
“I had an albino bunny once,” Asta recalled. “He was so cute! But I’ve never seen an albino anything else.”
“Well, I guarantee that by tomorrow at this time we will have been successful on our quest! We’ve got plenty of tricks to try, and he won’t be able to slip by,” Cazador decreed grandly, and this was followed by the clinking of glasses before they settled down to their meal.
* * *
“Now what are we going to do?” hissed Honeydew after hearing of Cazador’s plans. “If he finds that little white imp first, the whole world will know about it. Skeesicks won’t be happy with us if that happens.”
“You think I don’t know that?” growled Tinder. “Give me some time to think.”
“We don’t have time!”
“Shut up, willya’? Just... shut... up!” Tinder barked, then threw back his chair and stomped from the patio, leaving Honeydew to face the inquisitive looks from the other guests.
* * *
Cazador’s plans had dismayed Garnet as well. “Wishbone,” she whispered, “do you think the albino sea otter Cazador’s searching for could actually be Bobby?”
“Bobby isn’t a sea otter,” pointed out Wishbone.
“Of course he’s not, but think about it. From a distance and without a clear view like we had, he might have looked like a sea otter to whomever spotted him.”
Wishbone stared at his wife. “You’ve got a point there. What will the little guy do if Cazador’s rowdy crew come looking for him?”
“And he’s so trusting,” Garnet worried. “Can you imagine how he’d react to have those five ponies come roaring up to him?”
“Well, I’d assume he’d keep his distance. He’s slippery enough to evade them if he wants to.”
“I suppose that’s true. But... but what if Cazador plans to capture Bobby? He sounds determined to find the creature he’s after, and he seems to have any number of plans to accomplish his goal.”
“Why don’t you ask him?” smiled Wishbone. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind a few interested questions about his techniques. The guy seems to enjoy adulation.”
Wishbone and Garnet both looked to where Cazador and the mares still tarried, the stallion like some potentate with his harem around him.
* * *
“Could you guys tell me more about your enterprise?” Garnet asked sweetly, going over to Cazador’s table and taking in the entire group with her winning smile.
Mitzi gasped. “I didn’t know we had a starship! Awesome!”
Cazador ignored Mitzi and turned to Garnet with a smile of his own. “Hey, you’re one of the ponies from the beach yesterday, aren’t you? Sorry if I was short with you; it happens sometimes when I get engrossed in my work.” He shrugged. “So, what do you want to know?”
“Well... what do you do with these animals you go after?” Garnet put forward.
“Oh, Psyche just trains the camera on them and I say some lines,” Cazador said nonchalantly. “It’s a pretty cool job, actually. Me and the girls were just coming down from Lake Limestone after encountering some really nasty badgers. It was funny, though, because- ”
“So you don’t capture them?” Garnet interrupted.
“Capture them?” Cazador paused to laugh. “Hah, no, the last time I tried that I got this one chick seriously mad at me. But then I landed this show so now I only film the things.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Speaking of which, I wonder how Tiny’s doing. I should stop by and see him again, maybe challenge him to a rematch...”
“Tiny?” Garnet queried. “You mean the Bigfoot? You were in Dream Valley?”
“Yup,” Cazador confirmed. “That was before I got my start in show biz. I wanted to catch this bigfoot I’d heard about to sell to some laboratory and make a name for myself. As it turned out, this chick talked me out of it; but the footage I got of Tiny landed me my own show.” He paused. “And y’know, Tabby really was right; it’s a lot cooler seeing these critters in their native habitats. If I can show them to other ponies and have adventures along the way, I’m happy.”
“You mean you know Tabby?” Garnet asked incredulously.
“I’m pretty sure that was her name,” Cazador acknowledged. “She had a big mansion on the edge of town. Why, do you know her?”
“Yeah, she’s a friend of mine,” Garnet said.
“Cool!” Cazador said. “Yeah, I should see her again, too... how about a trip to Dream Valley, girls? You can see where I got my start and meet Tiny the Bigfoot!”
Cheering broke out around the table. Garnet took the opportunity to escape, a bit concerned about Cazador and his crew breaking up the peace in Dream Valley, but glad to know they had no nefarious intentions in regards to Bobby.
* * *
Garnet and Wishbone were up with the dawning of a new day, anxious to warn the baby sea pony of the arrival of rackety visitors to the beach, even if their only intent was to catch him on film. Having seen Cazador and crew in action yesterday, Garnet knew that any plans they might have would involve a certain amount of pandemonium which would certainly frighten the sea pony and probably send him into hiding; this would solve Bobby’s immediate problem but would prolong the agony as Cazador would not give up his quest until he had the footage he had come to Pearlhaven to get.
To prevent any unnecessary disruption of Bobby’s life, Garnet and Wishbone aspired to convince the baby sea pony to keep a safe distance from the film crew, but to cavort and entertain them within range of their camera lenses so that they would be satisfied to leave him in peace. The two ponies sincerely hoped that Bobby would come out to meet them again today as he had so trustingly done yesterday.
It was not until they were nearing the rocky curvature of the southern arm of the cove that the two ponies began searching the water for a sign of their new friend. Nothing but the gentle lapping of the waves broke the surface of the water although pristine alabaster sea gulls soared overhead, squawking their singular epithets at the brightly-colored invaders of their domain.
“What a racket those birds can make!” griped Wishbone, taking his eyes off the ocean to look up into the soft blue sky to watch the gracefully soaring avian flock.
“We’ve interrupted their breakfast,” surmised Garnet. “I hope they don’t scare Bobby off.”
“Let’s wade out into the water,” suggested Wishbone. “Maybe he’s waiting for us to enter his realm.”
When both ponies were paddling gently in the deeper waters, they were accosted almost immediately by the vivacious sea creature; Bobby circled them, then dove to loop under them, before coming to a splattering stop in front of them.
“Good morning, little fella,” Wishbone greeted, grinning as the sea pony bobbed in rhythm with the ocean’s movement. “Have you been waiting for us?”
For his answer, the sea pony brushed close to Wishbone, then to Garnet, as if his soft touch spoke of his joy at seeing them. Garnet giggled in delight to feel the gentleness of the baby while Bobby continued to cavort around her and Wishbone as if he was expending a surplus of energy that had been bottled up too long. She was just about to explain her and Wishbone’s mission when the sea pony shot away from them, turning to look at them with a beseeching expression for them to follow him. The two ponies did, and Bobby led them on a merry chase of follow-the-leader, his expertise in the watery world enabling him to move and turn with reckless abandon, completely evading his land-based companions. His happy face, however, revealed the fun he was having.
“Let’s split up,” Garnet proposed as she and Wishbone lost track of the baby sea pony temporarily. “Maybe we can convince him to slow down long enough to listen to us if we don’t follow his lead.”
“Fine... with... me...” gasped Wishbone. “Need... to... rest...”
Laughing, Garnet splashed him with water. “Go on toward shore, then, landlubber.” Garnet herself headed in the opposite direction, aiming for the area she had last seen the sea pony, when Bobby came erupting through the surface directly in front of her, his eyes sparkling with delight at having confounded the ponies as to his whereabouts.
“Bobby, let’s swim over by Wish...” the mare was saying when she became aware of something large looming off to her right. With a gasp, she turned to see what it was that was bearing down on her and Bobby just as the smooth sleek side of a motorboat struck her, sending her into unconsciousness, her last impression- the name of the boat, Ne’er Do Well..- flashing into oblivion.
* * *
The cries of the sea gulls seemed more agitated as Wishbone gained the shallow water leading up to the beach; as he plopped down to catch his breath, he looked out over the water to see what had caught the birds’ attention when he caught sight instead of a dark blue sailboat close into shore- too close, he realized. The boat was in the vicinity of where he had taken leave of Garnet.
Clambering to his hooves, Wishbone forgot the fatigue he had been feeling as he pushed himself out to deeper water once again in a frantic effort to locate his wife. There was no sign of her anywhere near the vicinity of the boat, but a quick glance of the surrounding area also proved futile. Neither was there any evidence of the white sea pony.
Swimming for all he was worth, Wishbone concentrated on the sailboat, feeling a sense of foreboding. He recognized the two ponies on the boat: Honeydew and Tinder. Honeydew seemed to be to be working with the motor while Tinder was hauling something- someone!- onto the boat. The brilliant red coloring of the body of that someone identified her as Garnet, limp as a rag doll; and Wishbone intensified his efforts to reach the vessel.
His yell for the occupants of the boat to “Stop!” was drowned out as the motor came to life, and the craft took off for the tip of the rocky arm of the cove, moving away from Wishbone and widening the gap between him and Garnet. It soon became obvious that he was no match for the motorized craft, and the stallion watched in dismay as the boat disappeared around the protruding stretch of rocky shore.
For a moment, Wishbone stopped dead in the water, then with renewed effort he turned and propelled himself back to the beach. The sound of another throbbing engine met his ears; and, for once, he was glad for the presence of Cazador at Pearlhaven.
“Caz!” he gasped, raising his foreleg to signal the stallion of his need for help.
Seeing Wishbone ready to collapse as he staggered out of the ocean, Cazador jumped from the dune buggy and raced to offer his support. Wishbone, however, brushed off his assistance. “They’ve... got... Garnet!”
A stunned look crossed Cazador’s face as his head jerked up to gaze out at the tranquil surface of the water. “Sharks?” He turned back towards the dune buggy and yelled, “Psyche! Ready the camera! I’m goin’ in!”
“Not sharks!” Wishbone took a moment to glare at Cazador’s obtuseness. “Tinder and Honeydew.” As Cazador still looked bemused, Wishbone added, “The two quarrelsome guests at Pearlhaven.”
“Why would anyone kidnap your wife?”
“I don’t know! I just know they did! And I’ve got to find her!” Having regained his breath, Wishbone was ready to dash off in the direction the boat had gone.
“Whoa!” Cazador called, grabbing Wishbone’s foreleg. “What’s your plan?”
“Plan? I’m going to get my wife back!” He yanked his foreleg from Cazador’s grasp and set off.
Cazador shrugged. “Well, girls, we can either let this guy make a mess of his rescue attempt or go after and help. How about it?”
“Yeah!” screamed Mitzi, Haiku, Asta, and Psyche in unison.
* * *
“Why’d ya go and haul her on board?” griped Honeydew, staring down at the wet and still unconscious mare who lay on the deck of the boat. Now that they had rounded the jut of rock, she and her accomplice could breathe easier.
“What? I was supposed to leave her there to drown?” Tinder threw a coiled rope in Honeydew’s direction. “Just get her trussed up so she can’t cause any trouble when she comes to.”
“What about the scamp?” Honeydew bit out as she grabbed at the rope. “Is he okay?”
Glancing over the stern, Tinder nodded. “He seems to be.”
“He’d better be, or Skeesicks will have our hide,” muttered the mare as she wound the ropes tightly around Garnet’s appendages.
Captured in the confines of a sturdy netlike device now trailing the boat, the baby sea pony struggled fruitlessly to pinpoint a means of escape. Finding none, he prepared himself for the first opportunity to match his wits against those of his abductors.
Meanwhile, the boat continued its slow but steady course south, past the rough and rocky shoreline, a complement of sea gulls soaring far overhead.
* * *
“Get in!” Cazador yelled as Haiku stopped the dune buggy just ahead of the running stallion, causing Wishbone to careen into the vehicle. Cazador and Psyche reached out, grabbing the rose-red pony and pulling him aboard, giving him no real choice in the matter.
“Would you please explain what’s going on here?” queried Psyche, keeping a grip on Wishbone’s foreleg as if expecting him to leap off again as Haiku shot the dune buggy forward. “Asta and Mitzi have gone back to Pearlhaven to notify the authorities that something shady’s going on, but we need the details.”
Closing his eyes briefly to gather together his thoughts, Wishbone took a deep breath. “Garnet and I were in the water with Bobby when all of a sudden this boat appeared out of nowhere and hauled Garnet off.”
“And what about this Bobby?” wondered Haiku.
“I... I don’t know. I didn’t see any more of him.”
“Man, you get all freaked out when your wife is abducted but totally forget about your buddy?” Cazador shook his head. “Or was he abducted, too?”
“I didn’t see him in the water or in the boat,” Wishbone admitted. “I assume he swam away when he sensed trouble; he was kinda shy.” He ran his hoof through his mane in a distracted manner.
“You really must not like the guy. He could’ve drowned if the boat hit him,” Cazador commented.
“Bobby? Drown? I doubt that,” Wishbone replied. “He’s a sea pony... a baby, but quite adept at swimming and evading boats.”
“A baby sea pony?” asked an interested Cazador.
“Yeah,” Wishbone looked at Cazador guiltily. “An albino baby sea pony.”
A dawning look of understanding passed between Cazador, Psyche, and Haiku. “So our otter turns out to be a sea pony,” mused Haiku.
“Why didn’t you say something about this last night?” Psyche asked. “Your wife talked with Cazador, after all.”
“We wanted to make sure you didn’t have plans to capture the little fellow,” Wishbone admitted. “And then we wanted to warn him of your approach before you scared him to death. You do come on rather strong, you know.”
Cazador grinned. “There’s no denying that.”
“But we still don’t know why your wife was abducted,” Haiku reminded her passengers.
“What are Honeydew and Tinder after?”
“I don’t know,” moaned Wishbone. His eyes gazed ahead to a point where the land and the sea met; ivory dots circled in the sky, reflecting the suns rays. “But if we catch up to those seagulls, we might find some answers.”
“Then what are we waiting for?” murmured Haiku, stepping on the accelerator with a vengeance.
* * *
The Ne’er Do Well continued its southerly route until a high, steep cliff came into view, at which point the boat began to angle into shore, coming dangerously close to the jagged rocks, but at the last moment slipping through a narrow passageway that fed into a small, hidden inlet, circular in nature, formed from the rough terrain. The engine was cut as the boat pulled near the shore, and Tinder jumped out to drag the hull onto the narrow beach.
“Come on, Sleeping Beauty.” Honeydew prodded Garnet none too gently with her hoof.
With her eyes still closed, the befuddled mare asked, “Where... am... I...?” She had been dreaming: She was resting in a hammock under the trees, nearly asleep from the gentle motion of the hammock in the warm breeze. Sunlight streaming through the treetops dappled her face. She should have been comfortable, but she was not. Her legs felt confined and stiff while her head ached atrociously, throbbing in time to an incessant roaring sound that seemed to swell around her. The noise had suddenly gone silent, but the ache in her head continued and was now joined by a painful jabbing in her side.
She opened her eyes and saw the fuzzy outline of a pony. She quickly closed her eyes again. “Honeydew, what’s going on? I feel terrible.”
“Well, get over it,” Honeydew snapped.
Garnet became aware of the mare fumbling with her back hooves and cranked her eyes open again. Lifting her head, she groaned as a piercing pain shot through it. She forced herself to face the pain, however, and soon was able to make out her surroundings. She gasped when she realized that even though Honeydew was untying a rope around her hind legs, her forelegs were still contained.
Suddenly she remembered being in the water with Bobby and receiving a hard jolt from something- a boat, she realized now, as she looked around. “Where’s Bobby?”
“He’s safe enough,” Tinder said, joining Honeydew on the deck. “Can you stand?” The stallion reached down to pull Garnet to her hooves sending another spasm of pain through her head as if it would explode. She swayed and would have fallen if Honeydew and Tinder had not both offered their support.
“We’ll help you out,” Honeydew said. “You’ll feel better in a minute.”
“I still don’t understand what happened,” Garnet said once her hooves were on the rough beach. “Where are we?” She looked around at the wild setting with no sign of Pearlhaven anywhere.
“Let’s just say you were somewhere where you shouldn’t have been,” Tinder rasped. “We saved you from drowning, but you’ll have to stay here for awhile.”
“Where is here?” ranted Garnet
Honeydew gave Garnet a shove down the beach. “It’s a perfectly private cove where nothing untoward will happen to you. Now, move.”
Stumbling over the uneven terrain, Garnet tried to get her bearings. Their location was completely surrounded by wicked-looking cliffs except for the western side which had a partial barrier of jumbled boulders; there seemed to be only one outlet, and that only large enough for a small craft like Tinder and Honeydew owned. Even if she escaped, she could not swim with her forelegs still tied up and she certainly could not scale the walls of the cliffs. Her only consolation was that Tinder and Honeydew did not seem set on any diabolical deed, just putting her out of commission for awhile.
It dawned on Garnet that Wishbone must have seen her abduction and would be in hot pursuit. All she had to do was be patient, and he would come to her rescue.
It was then that Garnet became aware of a haunting sound in the cove; it seemed to emanate from the water itself- an eerie sound that caused her skin to shiver. “What’s that?” she asked of her escorts while still trying to determine the source of the sound for herself.
“It’s the call of some sea creature or other,” Tinder answered, suddenly forcing Garnet to walk out into the water to a depth that the waves lapped around her waist. “Maybe it’s a bunch of sharks,” he grinned mercilessly. Garnet’s forelegs were yanked forward and tied to something that looked like the top of a trap or cage that was partially submerged. She stared in horror as the ropes were tightened down so that she could barely move, her body plastered against the metal bars of the trap. “What are you doing?”
“Stupid question,” Honeydew snorted, giving the rope one final jerk. She grinned at the disheveled mare. “Just pray that your sweetheart will find you before the tide comes in.”
“You can’t just leave me here!”
“We can’t? Just watch us.”
With a heartless chuckle, Tinder and Honeydew returned to their boat; and with a feeling of complete and total helplessness, Garnet watched as they pulled a net out of the water and over the side of the boat with a struggling white baby sea pony trapped inside.
“Bobby!” she screamed, but the sound of the engine revving up covered her anxious call.
* * *
“The gulls have settled over there!” Psyche pointed out. Barely discernable in the distance, the birds were circling off a high point of land that jutted into the ocean.
“Head straight in that direction,” Cazador ordered Haiku.
“Well,” Haiku said, eyeing the path in front of her, “there are a lot of boulders in the way, and it might beat up the car a bit, but I can probably handle it. Hang on!”
“Err... Haiku, I think he meant ‘head straight’ within reason!” Psyche yelled out.
“I did?” Cazador asked.
“Oh, all right.” Haiku set the dune buggy in motion in as straight a path as she could manage. It turned out to be a zigzag, however, as the huge stones blocked their path right and left.
“I could walk faster than this!” Wishbone growled his impatience.
“Slow and steady,” breathed Psyche as she leaned over Haiku’s shoulder, watching the path close off on all sides.
“We’ll have to hoof it from here,” sighed Haiku, bringing the buggy to a halt at a jumble of huge rocks.
“Even that’s going to be slow goin’,” noted Cazador, eyeing the boulders with distaste. Still, he did not hesitate to tackle the challenge. “Hey, Psyche, be sure to get some shots of this!”
The four ponies began to work their hampered way to where they hoped they would find Garnet.
* * *
Those noises again! Garnet tugged once more on the ropes that bound her, but the knots held tight. The haunting sounds that came as if from the heart of the ocean itself had unsettled her normally cool composure; and she found herself looking anxiously about the cove, nervously waiting for something... the not knowing what that something was disconcerted her.
“Wishbone, where are you?” she whispered into the lonely expanse that surrounded her.
Although the water in the cove was clear, the shadow of the towering cliff cast its darkness in such a manner that Garnet could not identify the marine shapes that occasionally swished by her legs that were submerged in the water. Nothing large had swum by, and she was sure that the strange noise she was hearing was made by something at least as big as she was. The thought was not comforting, considering the restrictions she was now under. She strained at the ropes with all her might, collapsing against the side of the cage she was tethered to with one final sob of frustration that rivaled the troubling sounds from the ocean that so dismayed her. Never had she felt so entirely helpless.
Her eyes dimmed by tears, Garnet only slowly became aware that she was not alone. With a gasp, she looked into the partially submerged cage to see two distinct shapes rising from the hidden depths. For a moment, she was terrified, but as the first of the two creatures broke through the surface of the water, she stifled the scream that threatened to erupt and felt a twinge of hope instead. She was staring into the most beautiful limpid eyes she had ever seen.
“We seem to share a common problem,” the moss green sea pony smiled, her voice a musical sound.
Before Garnet could respond, the second shape had become visible as well. “Our predicament seems to warrant that we try to help one another.” This sea pony was a silver gray color with a rumbling voice. “My name is Nauticus and this is my wife, Frothy.”
“Garnet,” murmured the red mare as her eyes took in every detail of the graceful sea ponies. Bobby had been the first baby sea pony she had ever seen in a natural setting, but he had been a compact little bundle compared to the adults she now beheld. She found herself somewhat in awe.
“Garnet,” Frothy repeated after the earth pony. “We didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“We didn’t make ourselves known to you sooner because we were unsure of just where you stood in this mess we find ourselves in,” elaborated Nauticus.
Shaking her head to clear her mind, Garnet finally found her voice. “Just what transpired to get you caged like this?” She nodded at the heavy metal bars that held the two prisoner. “Why would Tinder and Honeydew do such a thing?”
“We have a son,” Frothy explained, her eyes growing cloudy with sadness. “He is rather... unique... and I’m afraid that made him a prize catch for someone out there who has no scruples or sensitivity. The miscreants who wanted him cunningly trapped the three of us, but our son was small enough to wriggle his way out of the trap.”
“It did effectively prevent us from protecting him, however,” sighed Nauticus.
“Bobby...” Garnet had a vivid recollection of the pain and fear in the baby sea pony’s eyes when she had mentioned his parents. No wonder he had been so lonesome as to seek out her and Wishbone’s company. Her heart went out to the two sea ponies who had been forced to stand by helplessly while their small son was abducted. “I failed him, too.”
Nauticus looked at the pony sharply. “You... you know of our little boy? We haven’t seen him since he escaped these bars; we told him to stay away as Tinder and Honeydew kept a close eye on us in the hopes that he would return and they could get their hooves on him.”
“Pure white, with eyes the color of primrose,” Garnet said. “He befriended my husband and I; we were with him this morning when... when...” Garnet closed her eyes and tried to think of exactly what had transpired. “I was sideswiped by a boat and knocked unconscious. The next thing I knew, Honeydew and Tinder were unloading me from the boat and tying me here. I didn’t know they had Bobby until they pulled a net from the water... and there he was.” The thought of the poor little sea pony caused Garnet to tense against her bindings, to no effect.
“Your Bobby is our Whitewhirl,” Frothy realized, flashing a smile at the mare. “He told us to ‘watch out’ for you, but we weren’t clear as to his meaning.”
“He could have meant for us to help you... or to beware of you,” Nauticus expounded.
With a puzzled frown, Garnet asked, “You said you hadn’t seen Bob... Whitewhirl... since you were captured; how could he have told you about me?”