|       It was a rather lazy, much-too-ordinary afternoon when Ember stopped by Snuzzle’s place. |
“Whatcha doin’?” asked the baby pony.
“Nothing, really,” replied Snuzzle in a sigh. She glanced at the baby pony from where she was flopped on a bean bag chair in her living room. “Why, you’re blue today!” she exclaimed.
Ember, like a handful of baby ponies, was able to change color in accordance with her mood. Most ponies outgrew this ability, but so far Buttons the unicorn was the only adult pony that could consistantly change colors-not just body color, but occasionally hair color and even symbol enhancement.
“I’m soooooooooo bored!” Ember started to whine, “and none of the baby ponies want to play with me, and all of the adults are ignoring me, and I just want something to do,” she cried, forgetting that most ponies got totally frustrated by her whining and crying. Fortunately, Snuzzle was in a rather good mood today.
“Well, I was going to go to the Pretty Parlor and see what Peachy and Twinkles are doing, if you wanna come with,” Snuzzle offered.
Ember perked up. “Really? The Pretty Parlor? Do you think she’ll do my hair?” Ember asked excitedly.
“We won’t know sitting around here!” replied Snuzzle. “Come on, let’s go.”
And with that, they headed out of Snuzzle’s place and over to the Prety Parlor.
*       *      *
It was a rather slow day at the Pretty Parlor, as all days were lately. Heart Throb had come in for her daily styling and was completely boring Peachy with the latest gossip about the Princess Ponies.
“Really, Peachy, that Princess Dawn cannot sing! Yet she thinks she’s got SUCH a beautiful voice! And I totally heard that Sparkle had her horn redone last month when she was on “vacation”. Primrose is really the only truly sweet of the princesses, believe me on that one!” Heart Throb babbled as Peachy tied a bow in her forelock.
“Mmm hmmm....” said Peachy, in that tone where you can tell you’re being half-ignored, unless you’re Heart Throb, of course. “Oh-hi Sis!” Peachy said happily as Snuzzle & Ember walked into the shop. Any distraction from Heart Throb’s inane babble was welcome, and Snuzzle, her twin sister, was a wonderful distraction.
“Hello Cousin Snuzzle,” acknowledged Heart Throb. “What are you up to today? I’m having my hair done. I honestly think that having a professional look after my hair on a regular basis will keep it looking as good as it was when I was Ember’s age!”
“Ummm....yeah, well, hello Heart Throb. I thought you usually came in earlier,” Snuzzle said, half to herself since Heart Throb generally never listed to others anyway. She was possibly the most self-absorbed pony Snuzzle knew, with the exception of a few of the Princess ponies, but seeing as they were royalty they at least deserved to be self-absorbed. And it didn’t help that Snuzzle & Peachy were related to Heart Throb either.
“I opened the shop late today,” Peachy said before Heart Throb could get started with her tirade of having to wait outside in such “dreadful” weather for all of an hour. “Twinkles knocked the alarm clock, so it didn’t go off this morning and I overslept. Fortunately, there was only a mild blizzard for Heart Throb to wait in,” she said condescendingly.
“I’ll have you know it was sprinkling out here this morning!” Heart Throb insisted. “I was soaked by the time you opened your shop! Had you been here on time, you would not have had to re-wash my hair, then dry it, and I would have been out of here hours ago! I swear, sometimes I wonder if you two aren’t poking fun at me,” she said determinedly.
“It’s all in good fun, Heart Throb,” said Snuzzle. “Anyway, Ember is bored, and I’ve been doing nothing today, so I just wanted to see if you were busy today, Peaches. Maybe we could go for a hike.”
“Sure, sounds good, Snuz” said Peachy as she finished putting bows in Heart Throb’s mane and moved to her tail. “I’ve been wanting to explore that meadow by where the Dream Beauties live. Maybe we could go there.”
Upon hearing that they would be going near the Dream Beauties’ home, Heart Throb was immediately interested. “Maybe I could tag along,” she offered. “You never know when a pair of wings will come in handy.”
Snuzzle and Peachy shared a look that was indistinguishable to the others-one of those looks that said “She’s going to be a total pain in the butt, but she’s family so we really can’t say no.”
“Sure, I suppose that would be okay,” started Peachy.
“Of course, there is a lot of dust on that trail,” continued Snuzzle.
“And the trees have all those leaves falling-you know how tangly they get in mane hair,” added Peachy.
“And the path goes by the ocean, so there are all those seagulls just waiting to poop on an unsuspecting pony.....” Snuzzle said.
“Now I know you two are just teasing with me!” exclaimed Heart Throb. “Besides, I’ll just fly above you all. So it’ll be no problem for me.”
Ember, having watched the entire conversation as if it were a tennis match, snickered softly to herself. “Do the seagulls really try to poop on ponies?” she asked Snuzzle.
“Well, the seaponies say it’s accidental, but I’m convinced they do it on purpose,” she replied.
Peachy finished Heart Throb’s hair. “Okay, we’re done here Hearty. TWINKLES! COME!” she yelled for her tabby cat.
“MUST you shout for that cat? And how many times must I remind you not to call me Hearty? It’s bad enough that you two have those silly nicknames for each other, I’ll not be a part of it!” Heart Throb insisted.
Twinkles scampered up to Peachy. “We’re going for a hike!” she told the kitten as they all left the Pretty Parlor and Peachy locked it up.
“Yeah, and Heart Throb’s going too, so it’ll be tons of fun,” said Snuzzle with only enough sarcasm for everyone except Heart Throb to pick up on. And they all headed into the woods, with Heart Throb flying overhead.
*      *      *
The three ponies tramped along the dusty path by the river through the woods until they got to the meadow near the Haunted Forest.
“Are you sure it’s safe to go through here?” Ember asked warily.
“As long as it isn’t night, Halloween, Friday the 13th, or a full moon, we’ll be fine.” Snuzzle looked around as she thought through the list. “It’s not a full moon today, right Peaches?”
“I don’t think so-Hey Heart Throb!” she yelled toward the sky.
Heart Throb floated down to them, still fluttering in the air. “What?”
“Can you tell up there what the moon looks like?”
“Oh, there’s the tiniest crescent of a moon! It’s just beautiful. I was thinking it’s a shame that Moondancer isn’t here to see it,” Heart Throb babbled.
“Okay, good. We’re fine, then,” Peachy said to Snuzzle & Ember. “Thanks Hearty...Throb”
Heart Throb gave her a bit of a look, but couldn’t be too mad because Peachy had obviously tried not to use the ever dreaded nickname, plus she’d actually been helpful, so she was sure they wouldn’t make fun of her as much after this. “You’re welcome. Are we off again, then?”
“Yep. The forest is safe today.” Heart Throb floated back into the air, and the three earth ponies trotted along the path and through the dark, webby forest.
*      *      *
About an hour later they had reached the meadow where the Dream Beauties often played, but none of them were around. Heart Throb, obviously disappointed, went to the pond to look at her reflection. Peachy and Twinkles began to explore separate areas, and Ember & Snuzzle began to hunt for new flowers and butterflies that weren’t seen in Dream Valley. As Ember came across a tiny blue butterfly, they all heard Twinkles meowing frantically. Everyone ran to her, and Peachy listened intently.
“She came across a chipmunk...he found some kind of strange rock...it hums when someone lays with it...they’ve been taking turns looking after it, but they can’t keep looking after it because they have their own families to look after....they want to know if we will take care of it?” Peachy translated as Twinkles mewed. Twinkles nodded & mewed to her.
“Sounds like some kind of egg,” said Snuzzle. “I wonder what kind, though?”
“Well, we won’t know if we don’t go look,” said Heart Throb impudently.
Everyone looked at Heart Throb, a bit surprised to hear she wanted to make such an effort. “Well, I can be adventurous sometimes, despite what everyone else says!” Heart Throb replied to their stares. “Show us the egg, Twinkles,” she said to the cat. With that, Twinkles took them on a rather precarious path to a small rocky area where a chipmunk lay huddled around an egg that was humming a barely audible melody.
“Wow!” Ember whispered. “How are we going to get to it?” she asked the other ponies. The egg was almost unreachable by ponies that could only walk.
“Well, I’d really rather not lay there with it, it’s a rather dirty spot,” hedged Heart Throb.
“I think I can get to it,” said Snuzzle, as she eyed a possible route. The other ponies held their breath as she managed her way along the rocky cliff and to the magical egg. “I’ll stay here with the egg. Peachy, Ember, and Twinkles-you go try to find the Dream Beauties. Heart Throb-you go back to Dream Valley and find whatever Pegasi are around. I doubt I’ll get out of here without some winged help,” Snuzzle stated, looking back at the path she took and realizing just what a precarious situation she had gotten herself into.
The other ponies nodded and left. Snuzzle curled up with the egg, wondering what would hatch, and if she was in more danger than she realized.
*      *      *
Peachy, Ember, and Twinkles looked everywhere for the Dream Beauties, but they had a habit of never making themselves seen unless they wanted company. Finally, they found the caves that the Beauties inhabited, but no one was home. Instead, there was a note saying that any creature were welcome to use the caves as the Dream Beauties were visiting the Fairies, but that any guests were to treat the caves with the same respect they would treat their own home. Dejected, the trio left the cave and headed back to the cliff to tell Snuzzle what they had found.
*      *      *
Meanwhile, Heart Throb had reached Dream Valley, having flown so hard she was absolutely breathless. Medley was the first pony she ran into, and luckily, she was a pegasus! Medley, curious at what could have caused Heart Throb not only to fly so hard she couldn’t breath, but also noticing that Heart Throb’s normally perfect hair was droopy and missing 3 of her regular 9 bows, waited as Heart Throb caught her breath. Finally, Heart Throb was able to tell Medley about their trip, the egg, Snuzzle’s getting caught on a cliff, and her trek back to get help.
“Oh my gosh! You wait here and rest-I’ll go get more pegs. How many do you think we should need? Oh, I should think 3 or 4 more of us could get Snuzzle of that cliff easily. Oh, but we should get some rope too! Oh, I’ll stop by somewhere to get rope, oh, where do you think I could get it? Oh, never mind answering that, I’ll figure it out myself. Oh, how exciting this is!” Medley excitedly left Heart Throb. About 20 minutes later, she returned with Surprise, Skydancer, Firefly, Hippity Hop, and Honeysuckle, a flutter pony. Medley was also carrying a long jump rope.
“Oh, I saw Skippity-Doo, and she said that we must take her jump rope, and oh-Honeysuckle offered to come help, even though she’s a flutter pony and not as strong as the rest of us, but oh, I know she’ll be ever-so-helpful once we get there, and oh, I think we’re all ready now!” Medley looked around at everyone smiling. “Oh, this is just going to be such an adventure!” she exclaimed.
“Why exactly did Snuzzle go onto a cliff?” Firefly asked Heart Throb. “I mean, what on earth was that girl thinking? Hasn’t she a brain in her head?” Firefly shook her head as she thought about the little gray earth pony known for her impulsive behavior. “I mean, we all know she’s gotten herself into some situations, but I think this one takes the cake!”
“There was an egg...and it was humming, and, well, can we just go help her?” Heart Throb said, somewhat impatiently. After all, Snuzzle was her cousin, and even if she wasn’t always nice to Heart Throb, they did love each other in a way that the other ponies couldn’t understand. With that, the ponies took flight, Heart Throb leading the way.
*      *      *
Snuzzle lay curled around the egg, waiting for her friends to come help her. She doubted the Dream Beauties would be there, as they would have come to at least talk to her by now. Snuzzle had been the first pony to meet the Dream Beauties, and they had a special bond. It came as no surprise when Peachy and Ember poked their heads from behind a rock to tell her the Dream Beauties were away visiting friends.
“Well, I’m sure Heart Throb will pull through, it’ll just take a bit more time that if the Beauties were around,” Snuzzle said.
Peachy and Ember were surprised to hear Snuzzle say something nice about her cousin. “Yeah, I know, she can be a pain in the butt, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith in her,” Snuzzle replied to their looks of astonishment. “We’re cousins-I love her, she loves me-Peachy, STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT! Sure, she’s gossipy and self-absorbed and prissy at times, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a good pony who knows how to do the right thing! Now why don’t you two go off and explore? I’ll be fine here until Hearty comes. Really. Twinkles has the right idea-she took off after you discovered the Beauties weren’t around, right?” Peachy and Ember looked at each other. “Peachy, I can practically read your mind, we’re TWINS, remember?”
“Yeah, okay. I guess I’ll know if trouble starts to brew anyway, right?” replied Peachy. “Come on, Ember. I thought I saw a deposit of jade stones before Twinkles went crazy earlier. Let’s go try to find it again.” And with that, Peachy and Ember went off to explore.
About 5 minutes after they had left, Snuzzle began to doze off, hypnotized by the egg’s hum. After only a fifteen minute nap, she felt the egg begin to vibrate. Snuzzle woke and looked at the egg, which was beginning to crack. Deciding the best thing to do would be to leave the egg to itself, Snuzzle watched as it hatched. After about 2 minutes, the egg had entirely hatched and the shell was laying on the ground in pieces. However, Snuzzle could see nothing that would have hatched from the egg! She lowered her nose to the space just above the broken eggshell and felt something slightly furry. Still staring, she saw pink eyes form from no where! “Hello, little creature,” she cooed at what she couldn’t see, and the eyes looked to her and smiled. Snuzzle then saw gray fluff forming around the eyes, growing around until a small ball of gray fluff with pink eyes sat atop the broken eggshell.
“Looks like I hatched a Bushwoolie egg!” Snuzzle exclaimed as the small, gray bushwoolie giggled & began to climb Snuzzle, playing with the hair of her mane & tail and having a wonderful time.
*      *      *
About 10 minutes after the Bushwoolie had hatched, Heart Throb arrived at the cliff. “Seriously, Heart Throb, if she isn’t on this cliff I’m going home!” exclaimed Skydancer. “Really, I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t some stupid joke you and your cousins cooked up for us,” she said with irritation in her voice.
“Well hello to you too!” Snuzzle said to Skydancer. “I’m so sorry we inconvenienced you, after all, I just LOVE getting stuck on cliffs!” Snuzzle said sarcastically.
“I’m so sorry, cousin, I just couldn’t find the cliff for the longest time, but I flew as fast as I could...” Heart Throb said breathlessly.
“I know you did your best, Hearty,” Snuzzle said. “Now how about you guys get us off this cliff?” she asked.
Firefly landed on the cliff next to Snuzzle, the end of the jump rope in her mouth. “Mwe mneeb do mbut vis abround mu...” she said, her voice muffled by the rope in her mouth.
“Oh, she means we need to put this rope around you,” said Medley authoritatively. “Oh, because then we can fly you off the cliff.”
“Yeah, I figured as much,” Snuzzle said, looking at Heart Throb and thinking “couldn’t you find someone OTHER than Medley to help?”
Heart Throb shrugged at Snuzzle, then said “Medley was the first pony I ran into, and she was so helpful, gathering the others and finding the rope....”
Honeysuckle flittered next to the cliff. “Oh my! You have a bushwoolie! He’s a young one, but he isn‘t invisible anymore, so he‘s apparently bonded already,” she said knowingly.
All of the other pegasi gasped. Snuzzle looked at Honeysuckle, ignoring the others. “Yeah, he hatched about half an hour ago. I couldn’t see anything at first, so I nuzzled where I thought he should be, then all of a sudden there were pink eyes looking at me. Then the gray hair formed, and now here he is. What do you mean he’s bonded?”
“Bushwoolies are invisible when the hatch. Once they bond to a creature, they become visible in colors that match whatever creature they have bonded with. It’s quite obvious this little guy has bonded with you,” Honeysuckle said. “You’ll have a faithful servant for life!”
“Servant?! I don’t want a servant! Try faithful ‘friend’ for life,” Snuzzle said, looking at the little bushwoolie that was making a nest in her tail. Heart Throb shuddered. “What is it, cousin?” Snuzzle asked.
“Well, for one, I don’t want to even THINK about the time you’ll have untangling that tail. And for two, the princess ponies have made a declaration that they are the only ponies allowed to keep bushwoolies in Ponyland....so....”
“So you’re in trouble,” Surprise finished the sentence for Heart Throb.
*      *      *
After the pegasi had gotten Snuzzle and her bushwoolie off the cliff, everyone but Honeysuckle and Heart Throb flew back to Dream Valley. Snuzzle was pleased that they had kept their comments on her getting stuck on a cliff to a minimum, but there was still the problem of the bushwoolie.
“If the Beauties were here, maybe they would keep him,” offered Ember.
“No,” said Honeysuckle. “He MUST stay with Snuzzle. At this age, he can’t leave her without dire consequences. She’s basically his master....err, I mean mother now.” Honeysuckle looked fondly at the small ball of fluff that was chasing everything that moved, including Twinkles’ tail. “That’s how Bushwoolies are. If you separate them from the creature they bond with, they can die of loneliness.” Honeysuckle looked at Snuzzle. “Maybe you can keep him without the royal ponies finding out about him,” she offered.
“Yeah, like that’s not going to happen. With all those pegs knowing about him, it’ll be around Dream Valley in no time.” Snuzzle sighed. “I’ll just have to figure something out. Heart Throb, I know you’d keep your mouth shut, but do you think Medley would? Her heart’s in the right place, but she tells anyone everything just because it always slips out.”
“You’re right, Snuz,” Heart Throb replied. “Plus, you all think I’M gossipy, but I hear most of it from Surprise. I’d be surprised if this isn’t all over Dream Valley by now.” She looked at her cousin with sorrow. “Well, if you get tossed into jail, maybe Majesty will at least let you take him with you.”
Snuzzle scowled at Heart Throb. “Look, why don’t you fly ahead and tell Majesty I need to seek her counsel, or whatever the term is. Maybe if I appeal to her, she’ll be okay with it. We’ll all head back and meet you at Peachy’s. Your hair really needs to be reworked.”
To everyone’s surprise, Heart Throb said “My hair can wait! I’ll meet you at the castle. Ta ta for now!” And with that she leapt into the air and sped home to Dream Valley.
*      *      *
Medley, of course, hadn’t been able to keep her mouth shut. She started at Lemon Drop’s show stable, telling her about how her friend Peachy’s sister Snuzzle was stuck on a cliff and hatched a bushwoolie, which was bonded to her and now Snuzzle was in sooo much trouble, and who knew what would happen to her? As Medley headed off to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe to tell Scoops and the regular crowd of ponies that would be eating their afternoon ice cream, Brandy ran to the castle to talk to Spike, Majesty’s pet dragon and ultimate confidante. Soon, Ponyland was buzzing with the news that a non-royal pony had a bushwoolie, and Spike was creeping into the throne room to tell Majesty about it.
Majesty, who was working on the royal finances and not really in the mood to be bothered, noticed Spike out of the corner of her eye. “Spike, before you try to hide behind the mirror, what’s wrong?” she intoned.
“Ummm...wulll....ummm....I just heard....ummm....that there’s a new bushwoolie.” Spike hemmed and hawed as he half-hid behind the magic mirror Majesty kept in the throne room.
Smiling at the thought of a new animal in her kingdom, Majesty said “And what would the problem with that be?”
“Ummm....wulll....it seems he’s already bonded to a pony....ummm....”
“Yes, and the problem with this is?” Majesty continued.
“Wulll....ummmm....it’s not a royal pony....sooooo.....”
“Spike, get out from behind that mirror! And why on earth would it matter that the new bushwoolie hadn’t bonded to a royal pony?!?” Majesty was beginning to think something was up.
Spike crept out from behind the mirror, and over to the rack where the royal jewels were stored-though not as substantial a hiding place, it was still a hiding place that would do in a pinch. “Wull....after the proclamation of the princesses that bushwoolies were for royalty only.....”
“WHAT?!?” Majesty was fuming! She was the queen of Ponyland, and as such, the only pony allowed to make royal proclamations, and furious that her younger sisters would ever make a proclamation as silly as this. “Spike, I never authorized such a thing! I want you to get those girls together and tell them to get in here NOW! And STOP TRYING TO HIDE FROM ME! I’m not mad at YOU, you silly dragon.” Majesty signed, walked over to the dragon, and scratched his scales. “First, find some pony to tell...wait-who even found this bushwoolie?”
“Umm....Snuzzle...or Peachy. Wull, I kinda heard the story, but I was....ummm...confused.” Spike looked at his feet, a bit embarrassed .
Majesty chuckled. “Well, have someone find the adult twins and tell them that there’s nothing wrong with them having a bushwoolie. Send Sparkler-she’s good at finding ponies, and she’s got a good head on her shoulders. Then you get those girls and tell them they are to see me immediately! And by that I mean last week!” Majesty looked at the dragon. “And Spike, you’ll never be in trouble with me.” She nuzzled the little dragon in his most ticklish spot, to which he relaxed and giggled, then scampered off to take care of business.
*      *      *
As Peachy, Ember, Snuzzle, Twinkles, and the bushwoolie approached Dream Valley, Sparkler approached them. “Uh oh, Snuz, looks like Majesty sent Sparkler to zap you for getting a bushwoolie!” Ember cried.
“Ember, calm down. Majesty wouldn’t do something like that!” Snuzzle said assuredly, but inside she thought the same exact thing.
“Hi y’all!” Sparkler bubbled when she saw them. “Spike told me to tell the adult twins that the bushwoolie is no biggie. It appears as though the princess ponies made a proclamation without the queen’s permission, and they’re getting it from her now!”
Snuzzle and Peachy looked at each other, as if on cue. “Well. Go figure,” they said in unison. Heart Throb flew up behind Sparkler and landed with a thud.
“Well, everything’s okay,” drawled Heart Throb. When she was feeling especially full of herself, she often donned a Southern accent. “I smoothed it all over for ya, cousin dear,” Heart Throb looked at the other ponies, who were giving her a look of disbelief. “Well, maybe Spike did...anyway, Peachy, can you do my hair now?”
Peachy sighed and began to walk toward her parlor. “You know, Hearty, everyone else uses Fifi’s Perm Shoppe, don’t you think you could try it out once?”
“No! You KNOW how particular I am about my hair-it’s my most favorite asset!” Heart Throb asserted, and began to babble about her hair again.
Snuzzle looked at Ember and Sparkler. “Well, so much for them. Now what should I name this little guy?” She looked at the bushwoolie that was never more than 5 feet away from her.
“I think Ash would be a good name, to go with his gray hair,” said Sparkler.
“Ummm...I don’t know,” said Snuzzle.
Ember looked at the bushwoolie. He would chase a bug, realize how far he was from Snuzzle, then run back and crawl into her hair again. “What about Snuggle?” she offered.
Snuzzle looked at the bushwoolie as he snuggled against her. “Snuggle...Snuggle and Snuzzle...Snuzzle and Snuggle....I like that! Good name, Ember!”
And from then on, whenever you saw one, the other wasn’t far behind.
But what happened to the Princess ponies? Well, that’s another story!