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Time Turner and the Ghost Horses

Part 2

Chapter 3: Ponyville

Tony took a few steps forward.

This time Time Turner was better prepared, but he still didn't see what had actually happened. He concluded that West must be that much better with his own abilities to have noticed anything before.

They were on the old Royal Road looking towards a distant Canterlot. Tony turned south.

"I can see what you meant by 'old fashioned', TT. So what does this library of your look like?"

"It's a tree."

"By a tree? Which one?"

"No, it's a tree. Hollow tree. Biggest one in town."

"That one?" Tony was pointing.

"That would be it."


Time Turner got off and so did Jackalope, leaving an ordinary sized white bull between them.

"You know, TT, it's gonna be hours and hours before West and the Appleloosans are ready. How about I do some sightseeing for a change?"

Before he knew what to say Jackalope had pounced on him and stuck some sort of hat on his noggin. Tony snickered a little before commenting that it looked nice.

"So I'm the official tour guide with an official tour guide hat?" Time Turner mumbled to himself as he led the way into Ponyville.

Just across the bridge into town a pair of tourists with out-west accents joined them.

Starting with the clock tower, then on around towards the bowling alley — buffalo and pony tourists sure are easy to please it turned out — Time Turner steered his small group towards Sugarcube Corner where he hoped the town's real tour guide might be. If not there then city hall.

"So that's the Quills and Sofas store we've heard so much about!" the stallion exclaimed as they passed by on their way to the confectionary.

There was no way, Time Turner told himself, that anypony from Seasaddle knew of or even cared about the store that, usually, sells only two things! This was clearly Jackalope's doing. Somehow. Were these even real ponies or were they like the critter band?

Then some-pink-pony bounded past and came to a halt in front of Tony.

"I didn't know bunnies had antlers. Is this white buffalo yours, Mr. Bunny?"

"Bunny?" the stallion tourist seemed confused.

"Hello, Pinkie Pie." Time Turner waved.

"Oh! Hi, Time Turner! Nice hat. I told Derpy you were in A-a-applelooosa! So is this your white buffalo or does it belong to the jackalope?"

Jackalope was peering intently at Pinkie Pie from where he had retreated under Tony's chin. Tony looked irritated. Possibly for being spoken about like he was someone's pet.

"Isn't that Braeburn's catch phrase?" Time Turner asked.

"But it's so much fun to say! 'A-a-applelooosa!' Especially they way he says it all-" she reared up and whinnied.

"So you know my little Bro's name?" Tony asked even as his expression changed dramatically away from irritation.

"Of course, it's Frank."

Jackalope's jaw sagged.

"No! Wait! Billy? Cole? Butch? I know: Jessie!"

Jackalope hopped up and down and kissed her, causing her already pinkish nose to blush.

"It's Jackalope." Tony informed.

She leaned forward and said conspiratorially: "You know, Jessie, you really should find the original this goes to. I bet he's missing it."

He saluted and seemed to say that he'd make it a priority.

Then she said bye and merrily skipped away in a more hurried Pinkie Pie style.

"There's more to that filly than meets the eye." Tony chuckled.

Jackalope, now wearing a red shirt with silver braid, turned and chittered in annoyance.

"What do you mean wrong fandom?"

He started hopping away without replying.

"So it's 'Jessie' now?" Time Turner asked as he followed.

"mmmmm-hmmmm!" the critter replied.

"Who is this 'Jessie'?" the mare tourist asked as she caught up.

Within moments of entering Sugarcube Corner a rather infringed upon looking Eiffel had managed to separate the Seasaddlers from his "assistant" and Time Turner from his new hat, which he thanked him for bringing to him. Watching them go away with Eiffel, Time Turner was sure they had not been real ponies after all: Pinky Pie hadn't even acknowledged them. Kinda sad because they seemed like a really sweet couple.

As they ate their parfaits, he listened to Tony and "Jessie" as they had a conversation about the town, well, half of the conversation at any rate. Wondered what the jackalope was up to and if it had anything to do with being a spirit of discord that the Princess had seemed so concerned about.

"Turner's giving us the silent treatment." Tony finally observed.

"Just thinking about what we should look for at the library. Any old history books, of course, but myths too. Books on flora and fauna of Equestria might be beneficial. Maybe campfire stories because they say a surprising number of those are based in real happenings."

"You think the stallion's name is Fauna?"

Time Turner's jaw sagged a bit.

"Gotcha!" Tony said smugly.

Before long they found themselves squeezing Tony through the front door to the library, which had never struck as being smaller than other doors in Ponyville.

"Ease off, Time Turner!" Spike admonished, "If you push too hard the big guy'll just be even more stuck."

"Yeah, I shouldn't have had that second parfait."

"Like that would make any difference?" Time Tuner silently joked as he stopped pushing on Tony's flank and sat on his own haunches in a huff.

"Any ideas?" he said out loud.

"I could go get Twilight?" the dragon offered.

A moment of silence, then: "There may be something I can do to help out, lil'dude." Tony seemed reluctant.


"Say, TT, would you, you know, back up? Say a good four or five stride trot? Maybe ten just to be safe?”

He stood up and did as asked.

"Are you backed off, Turner?"



Tony let loose an impressive blast.

"Seriously?!" Spike sounded like he was holding his nose.

"Yeah, not quite there though."

"I'm really sure Twilight isn't far—"

And then after the next one Tony was through the door.

Whatever Tony was the gas was apparently a lot like real gas. Not normally something any pony thinks much of but when somepony or bull's got talent it deserves real respect; and, maybe a minute for the air to thin. Inside, Time Turner found a demure buffalo looking on as Spike waved a rag in front of his face, seemingly oblivious to a melodramatically heaving jackalope standing next to him.

"I normally don't, The Blonde Surfer me that is, so I guess it's been building for a while."

"I seem to recall the last time I was out Los Pegasus way that there are some beach games you must be unfamiliar with."

"Dude, I'm a bovine! What's cool for a pint sized pony trying to impress is off limits for me where the mares are concerned."

That gave some pause. Time Turner had never even considered that ponies might have a different attitude where non-pony kind were concerned about something so universal. It didn't seem to much stop the local herd of dairy cows and their bulls if that were the case.

"Everyone gets bloat gas." he reassured instead.

"I'm sure." Spike obviously wasn't as he was returning from throwing open more windows, "So, what brings you all to the library today?" he smiled as he resumed his normal cheerful demeanor.

"We are looking for information about a herd of cursed horses from down south," Time Turner started to explain, "and thought we'd see what could be learned here first."

"So you are looking for?"

"Well, ancient history, references to Equestrian fauna, myths, legends, ghost stories."


Tony eyed Spike: "Nah, nothing like that."

"Oh? That's good. Twilights says that there is no such things as zombies," he began as he walked away towards the library's book stacks, "but I'm not so sure. Granted, it was just a bunch of ponies afraid of Zecora last time…"

While Spike continued his rather detailed description of all the debates that he and Twilight had had about the trotting dead, he continued to bring book after book and stack them in groups. By the time he'd finished bringing up four large stacks of books he had managed to lay out his theory about how zombies were not only real but had successfully hidden among pony folk by assuming the forms of the ponies that they had eaten.

"Sounds more like changelings, bro."


"Well, not 'Changelings', 'more like changelings'."

Spike wasn't getting it. Time Turner definitely didn't. Jessie face pawed himself.

"But that's for some other day, right, bro?"

"Riiiight. Okay, I've split up the books we had into a stack on ancient history, a stack on nature, a stack on mythology, and a stack on traditional horror stories. Does that sound about right to you?"

And rather impressive stacks they were too.

Without waiting for a reply, Spike dove into the stack for ancient history that, being the smallest, he probably hoped would yield results the fastest. It was obvious that he wasn't doing much more than scanning the tables of contents for mere mention of cursed horses or the like. With a sigh Tony ambled over to the larger stack of mythology and began scanning the pages very fast, magically flipping them as adeptly as any unicorn might.

"Somehow," Time Turner silently confessed to himself, "I must have been willfully confused about what library research would actually entail when it came time to it."

As he was considering which stack to attack he noticed Jessie pull two books out of the presently unattended stacks and set them by themselves. Then the little guy took a book that Spike had just set aside and placed it back on top of the pile.

"THIS doesn't look promising." the dragon sighed as he set aside one book and grabbed the one that obviously held what they were looking for.

He opened it and started to read: "What a minute!"

Then tossed it aside.

Time Turner was considering saying something but Jessie picked up the book and slid it under the one on top of Spike's stack. Then he decided to place the other two books under it for good measure. So the pony decided to wait for it. Tony seemed to have noticed what was happening too as he'd stopped flipping pages.

Spike's face contorted into a scowl that, were he not a baby dragon, might have been genuinely, horribly, terrifying.

"Who knew we had three copies of the history of the Everfree Era? I must be slipping to have brought them all."

He set the book aside.

Then he scolded himself for misplacing the next two books.

An exasperated looking jackalope picked up the discarded books and began waving them at the junior librarian.


Then he lifted one high over his head and almost seemed like he would—

"Don't hit my baby dragon!" Twilight Sparkle thundered as the door to the library flew open, barely staying on its hinges.

"Bad Jessie!" Pinkie echoed.

"Don't hit- Arrrrrrhg! Where did YOU come from?!?" Spike was clutching at his chest as he was gawking at the jackalope.

Jessie shrank into himself and got all soulful eyes.

Twilight sighed as she trotted into the room: "I get it, you were just trying to get his attention a bit more forcefully than before."

He nodded enthusiastically.

"Okay, Pinkie, I see the bunny with antlers; but, this," she poked at Tony, "is not some wandering spirit. He's a buffalo. Remember?"

The book that Jessie had been waving at Spike floated from his paws.

"I read this recently." she gave Jessie a sidelong glance, "Got a thing for ancient history?"

"Chitta-chit-chit-chit!" the critter explained.

Spike gently prodded the jackalope with a claw as if checking to see that he was real.

"So what other books were you interested in?"

"And why did you want me to be the one who found them?" Spike wondered.

Jessie rolled his eyes and pointed.

She picked up the first, turned to Time Turner: "Planning on giving Carefree and Sandstorm nightmares after that camping trip you were planning?"

"No…. Wait? What? They didn't go?"

"No, they didn't." the third floated over to her, "Parsley's Magical Flora and Fauna? I remember this one ... it's a primer."

Magical creatures and campfire stories? The Everfree Era?

"Twilight, you said you'd read the one about the Everfree Era recently. Can you tell me if it said anything about wolves called the 'Hunters of All Flesh' or a cursed herd of horses?"

"Okay, two things: ewwwww; and, 'cursed' ... seriously?" she smirked.

He nodded.

"Well," pages started furiously flipping, "there's a chapter on infamous criminals. Can you tell me more about these ponies?"

"Not 'ponies,'" Tony corrected, "horses: bigger without decorative flanks."

"Right, that eliminates criminals. I would guess foreign affairs." she considered Tony for a moment, "Ah! There was a war with a powerful tribe from the south during the reign of Evergreen the Great. Does that sound right?" she held the book at a page for him to see.


Time Turner grinned like a foal who had just found a stash of sugar cubes in his hay.

"Twilight, please correct me if I'm wrong, but, Queen Evergreen had a somewhat dodgy reputation on account of controlling the Timber Wolves?"

"Not really deserved. Before she brought them to heel and reduced their numbers they were becoming a real menace."

"I mean about how she used them? She wasn't exactly known for being merciful."

The unicorn reluctantly nodded. Time Turner could understand, so little survived about Equestrian history from before Princess Celestia that ponies could get a little defensive about anypony who was remembered by name. Nevermind someponies like Evergreen and Fortunate.

"Tony, I think we need to make some adjustments to the wolf masks: add some greenery…. Twilight, would you be interested in helping us?"

"Do what?"

"Hold a rodeo. Assuming, of course, we can get Ponyville's star athlete to agree to participate."

The three books found their way to her bag.

"Come on, Spike. Lets see what Time Turner has got himself into."

"... and that, pony friends, is what happened in Appleloosa after you left." Tony finished his tale in classic fashion.

Silence reigned in the Apple family home for about a minute.

"Spooky!" Rainbow Dash — Twilight Sparkel’s whole herd of friends had assembled and was present — chimed.

"You see, Sugarcube, I told you curses was real!"

Twilight forced a smile: "Jessie the jackalope here is really an immortal trickster and your buffalo stampede has been running from a herd of cursed, fire breathing horse spirits for thousands of years and didn't even know about it?"


"If it will help any, we're fairly certain that the horses are flesh and blood." Time Turner offered.

"Of course they are!" she rolled her eyes.

"Skeptics." Tony mused.

"So, Applejack, will you help us?"

"Round up these critters of yours and cut out the stallion, the biggest and meanest o'the bunch, just like that?"

Time Turner nodded.

"Big Mac, does it say glutton fer punishment anywhere on my hide?"


"You wouldn't be doing this alone." Time Turner reassured.

"Oh, that's a given. But let me ask you something, just what does this Secret Service pony intend to do with the stallion once he's corralled? Throw him in a cage over a war fought who knows how long ago?"

"We were going to try to talk to him first." he hoped.

"Might neighborly of you! And what about his kin? Is your plan really to force them back on the trail to run forever without him?"

Even Jessie hung his head when it was put that way, causing Fluttershy to try to comfort him.

"Look, I understand it's a worry the stallion will find a way to free his kinfolk and that they might be unfriendly when he does. Can't say I'd blame them at this point. But if the only way this ends is more heartache for them poor critters you can count me out!" she stamped a hoof, "Get Braeburn to cut him out of the herd for you since he's so badge struck."

Time Turner was thinking about that "can do" look in West's eye even as all enthusiasm for the plan was waning.

"You know," Spike was waving around a quill and paper, "there may still be a way to address all of Applejack's concerns?"

Twilight laughed, took the implements, and started writing a long letter. Time Turner tried to look over her shoulder but she turned herself to block his view. After all of fifteen minutes of very unhurried musing and some writing she pronounced completion with an enthusiastic: "There! Spike will you do the honors?"

He rolled the letter, sealed it up with pressed red wax, and burned it with his breath.

"Dragon mail: niiiiice!" Tony chimed.

"It's called 'Dragon Mail?' Dragons communicate this way?" Spike's eyes were pleading for more.

"Of course. The seals-"

"Spike, I explained how this worked to you ages ago."

"But, Twilight, you didn't call it 'Dragon Mail.'"

"Bro," Tony spoke conspiratorially, "did she ever tell you the seals will work with 'mischievous missiles' too. Even-"

"Which!" Twilight physically interposed herself between the dragon and buffalo, "Is something I'm sure the Princess has already taken into account, right?" she glared.

"Oh yeah, easy-peasey." Tony managed an almost honest smile, "It's all in how you make the seals."

"Correct!" Twilight said with an air of or-else finality.

Some minutes later the baby dragon belched and a second note appeared out of the flames.

Twilight quietly read it and then showed it to Applejack: "Will this do?"

"To Special Agent West," Applejack began reading out loud, "uh-huh…. erm… We have received information concerning war prisoners that our illustrious ancestor, Evergreen the Great, condemned. The circumstances and conduct of this war are presently not well understood; yet, after so long a time we cannot help but imagine that it is more than enough. Therefore we direct you to ascertain the intentions of this Stallion and his people and if they are content to cease hostilities, and if the Buffalo Nation is amicable … yeah, Twilight, ah reckon this will do just nicely! Where do ah sign up?"

Chapter 4: Roundup

"That was … different." Twilight muttered before Tony even had a chance to complain about his now badly overloaded back.

On his massive white form even seven ponies, a baby dragon, and one jackalope had all seemed to sink into his shaggy coat with room to spare but now they were literally falling off, at least in Time Turner's case. The blue dress dressed jackalope was back and looked rather harried as it tried to give every passenger a proper seeing off even as they didn't cooperate by being orderly about it.

Rainbow Dash was simply up and off.

"Wheeeee!" Pinky Pie dove off like she was diving into a swimming hole.

"Did anypony think about a ladder or maybe some more dignified means of departure?" Rarity complained before she reluctantly hopped over onto Sheriff Silverstar's desk.

Applejack hopped down to the floor with the purposeful grace of the athlete she was.

Then Twilight and Spike reappeared at floor level from a puff of smoke.

"Thank you very much, Mister Tony." Fluttershy demurely said before she lifted herself into the air.

"You are very welcome." he said back.

Time Turner, who had actually unceremoniously tumbled off first, got a few moments to contemplate how there was Jessie and that other jackalope that looked almost exactly alike save how their respective costumes made their shapes seem different. With Fluttershy's warmly acknowledged departure the second jackalope disappeared leaving only Jessie.

"The pink one is not going to try to sing to the horses, is she?" Chief Thunderhooves asked the Sheriff as they peered in from the outside.

"No," Tony seemed to consider something Rainbow Dash must have said, "I'm not going into business." and she shrugged.

Of all the mares only Applejack seemed to take time to consider the armory but she said nothing about it.

West arrived in moments and if he was surprised to see so many he gave no indication. He addressed Twilight Sparkle first by name, as Miss Sparkle, she didn't seem to know him, before introducing himself and giving polite hellos to everypony else. Twilight removed the Princess' letter from her pack and gave it to him.

"To Special Agent West of Her Majesty's Secret Service from the desk of-" West looked askance at Twilight before he went back to reading. His face was an expressionless mask until he reached the end of the note when he got an "All-righty then!" look to neatly contrast his earlier dubious one.

"War prisoners condemned by Evergreen the Great," he sighed as he rolled up the scroll and put it away in his own pack, "didn't see that coming. Miss Sparkle, it says you are to assist the Appleloosans with the rest of the herd once Miss Apple has-"

"That's just 'Applejack.'" the farm pony corrected.

"Apologies. -once Applejack has managed to separate the stallion from the others and then you will leave him to me."

"I do not believe that was specified." Twilight protested.

"This is not open for debate, Miss Sparkle. You and your friends can lose yourself in our herd and enjoy safety in numbers. Let us be the ones who stands out from the crowd and takes any lumps. Applejack, the moment you and Braeburn have got him separated out of his herd I want you to pull back too. And Braeburn?"


"If at that point you have to drag your cousin out of harms way to make sure she is, then please do so."

"May be easier said than done."

"You got that right!" Applejack enthusiastically agreed.

"What about us?" Rainbow Dash announced, hugging on Fluttershy, "We can make sure none of them make for the sky!"

"I'd really rather—" a soft voice began.

"Actually, I would like you two to stay with the herd too." West smiled warmly, "These aren't winged horses after all."

"Thankyou." Fluttershy offered even as Dash seemed disappointed.

West grimaced a little as if his hopes for things easily going his way were rapidly unraveling. Muttered "Matched set." as he drew close to Time Turner.

"What about me?" Time Turner asked, "You said 'us' in that taking lumps bit? Or is there some other 'us' that you have in mind?"

"I don't know yet. Time Turner, Twilight Sparkle may not have made a big show of it earlier in Ponyville but there was a second small note inside the first she just passed to me. It's addressed to you."



A small scrap of folded paper drifted over held by the unicorn's magic and popped its seal. As Time Turner squinted it moved slightly to be in better light. He'd seen enough reproductions of Princess Celestia's writing to realize whose lips, or rather horn, was behind it.

"My dear Time Turner, it would seem that the ponies that you came to see me about and these horses are not one and the same. I count this as no small blessing for all my little ponies considering the nature of the mares that you described. I believe it is premature to speculate about any connection between them besides that the timbers wolves who harried the tribe we are now concerned with are also called hunters; still, there must yet be some special role for you to play in this affair and I have no doubt that when the moment arises that you will step forward as the stallion I believe you to be and make yourself known."

It was signed "Very Cordially Your Princess Celestia" … which was super-duper neat and not even something he’d imagined to put on his bucket list in the first place!

"I'm in." he said with unforced smile as the note refolded and made its way to his pack, but then: "Boy, am I ever in…." he muttered, realization sinking in.

The whole town, the Ponyville ponies, plus three buffalo and one little dragon, were soon busy on modifying the wolf costumes or carving wood posts for the fake Stone Grove. Everypony was a buzz with excitement. Not odd for herd folk normally used to being occupied with their own solitary affairs. Curiously no impromptu sing alongs broke out. Not even when Rarity got musically flustered over "keep it simple" or when Applejack and Braeburn started getting a bit singsongy describing how timber wolves acted and sounded. Pity, that.

As with the fortification of Appleloosa things rapidly came together, and by nighttime everypony had settled in around campfires just outside of town, their work done, to enjoy a communal meal. Somepony yelled “Let’s get’a’goin’!” and a couple of fiddlers began playing an upbeat hoedown tune with Cherry Strudel calling the dance.

“It’s an old barn swing, hey pretty lil’things, come on an’join right in! Shake your tail, just let it flail, it’s time for us to sing!”

“It’s an old barn swing,” most everypony jumped up to their hooves in pairs and joined in, “not some wooden thing, it moves when we begin. Let’s shake our tails and let ’em flail:” and then dancing stallions and colts all announced of their mare or filly, “I’ve got this pretty lil’thing!”

“Oh my!” Rarity, who had been sitting nearby, looked about at all those around her. West quickly was there raising and stamping his right forehoof a few times, asking: “Lady?”

“I’m NOT dancing with Turner.” Tony firmly announced as his mother pushed a distressed looking Chief Thunderhooves away from their fire and into the fray, leaving the two of them and Jessie the Red Shirted Jackalope seemingly all alone off their hooves.

“Form a ring for this old barn swing!” Strudel announced, “It’s time to stomp and time to swing! Mare then Colt, line up slowpokes, before the tune come round again!”

“Countryponies!” Rainbow Dash huffed from where she, Twilight and Fluttershy had been left sitting.

“Strike that.” Tony hopped up and bounded over to the pegasus, shook his hoary head before bowing towards the smirking blue pony.

“Why not?” she shrugged.

Time Turner felt sorry for Twilight and Fluttershy, left by themselves. Twilight seemed to be biting her lip while Fluttershy was trying to hide behind her wings.

Barely audible in the musical din was an impatient thumping sound near his legs. He looked down to see an exasperated Jessie motioning towards at the unicorn mare with a fluid rolling of his forelegs.

“You think I should ask the filly to dance?” he wondered.

Jessie clawed at his own face and rolled his eyes. Crossed his forelegs and shook his head ‘yes’.

“But what about Fluttershy?”

The smiling critter produced a hat from no where, hopped over to the pegasus, and soon had pulled her towards the circle to join in.

Time Turner followed.

“Wow, a real hoedown!” Twilight said as he approached, “I’d read about these before coming to Ponyville and even saw one at Sweet Apple Acres. I should get notes this time!” she beamed, a notebook drifting from her pack.

Time Turner really wanted to face hoof, but instead he repeated the request to dance as West curiously done moments before.

“Wait, you want me to dance?”

“Lady Sparkle.” he smiled.



She seemed uncertain.

“We can claim a place near Chief Thunderhooves, that way no one will notice that I’m not much good at dancing.” Time Turner chimed.

Twilight smiled and hopped up.

“I still don’t know who was responsible for that pie over my door.” she practically accused.

They were barely in the circle before the music came around again.

“This circle’s full, this swing’s been swung, join in and let us have some fun!”

“Prance to the left then prance to the right,” everyone who knew the lyrics began singing, “we’re having us a hoedown tonight. The barn is missing, the swing’s not there, the fiddle is playin’so we don’t care! Got me a handsome fella” the fillies sang, “an’me a pretty gal,” the colt’s refrain, “the caller is ready to show us how. Let’s canter about in this ring: all us ponies on a string.”

“A flight!” Dash loudly proclaimed.

“Now let us see if you can take a hint:” Cherry Strudel continued, ignoring Dash, “jump to the left with all your might! Now turn on your hooves like a foal taking flight! Kick the air with might. Circle your filly once to the right, nose to nose she’ll circle you back. … Hey ponies, here comes that music again!”

“Canter two steps forward, prance five steps back — if you’re dancing with a bull you might want to halve that.” he offered without rhyme then waited a bit till: “Hop up off all fours and punch the air, spin’round and come on home! Yee-haw! … Hey these fiddlers are hot let’s hear some of that!”

The ring reformed while the fiddlers played.

“Let’s try again, though let me sing: prance to the left then prance to the right, we’re having us a hoedown tonight. The barn is missing, the swing’s not there, the fiddle’s a playin’so we don’t care! Those Fillies got some fellas an’us fellas some gals, go on and canter like you all know how. Canter all about this ring: all us ponies in a flight.”

“Flight!” Dash shouted, then: “Oh, horsefeathers!”


“Prance to the left then prance to the right,” everyone was singing, “we’re having us a hoedown tonight. The barn is missing, the swing’s not there, the fiddle is playin’so we don’t care! Got me a handsome fella” the fillies sang, “an’me a pretty gal,” the colt’s refrain, “the caller is ready to show us how. Let’s canter about in this ring: all us ponies on a string.”

“Not bad but now let’s pick up the pace! We’re gonna have us a race. Run round in a circle with no where to go … hey, who out there still wants to go into politics? Yeah, that’s why I got stuck being mayor.”

The music stopped. Somepony gave out a loud rhasberry.

Cherry Strudel began stomping a forehoof and the fiddlers started again.

“Okay mares, let’s change partners to your right.”

Twilight shrugged and moved to dance with Meadow Song. She was replaced by a big mare that Time Turner somehow hadn’t met before, a paint … a new resident?

“Lady.” he bowed respectfully and the mare responded in kind.

“Foreleg in foreleg….” Cherry Strudel commanded, “Swing your gal as we prance about, make circles on our ring with that prettily lil’thing! Once more to the left then once to the right. Bow to your other, step up an’to the right…. Side by side, not slowing down now, circle about like y’all know how! Keep a’going while the music rolls … any day now … common fellas, cut us some slack.”

In response the fiddlers started playing the song from the beginning and everyone sang the chorus.  Defeated, the mayor just laughed it off and continued.

“Okay mares, it’s your time so prance on into the ring… Up on two legs like a chorus line. Don’t complain you’re doing fine! Twirl about to the right and left, clap your hooves and shake your manes! … Mane, Apple Fritter, mane.… Now hoof to hoof and circle about, do a jig and give a shout! Skip to the right, canter along, finish up with the words to a song!”

“Oh …  when … the … ponies go marching in!” the fillies began as they trotted.

Time Turner marveled at their choice of song. Nothing he would have ever predicted. But they sang the whole thing with full choral flourish just the same. Soon they had returned to their starting places in the ring and the fiddlers somehow managed to believably transition back to the expected fare.

“Okay fellas. You’ve seen what you’re up against. Don’t embarrass yourselves too much. Canter into the—“

A shaft of light cut through the darkness and lit the center of the ring. There, where the ground seemed to light up in a rainbow of light to keep beat with some strange music was Jessie in some all white suit, standing in a very odd pose where one paw was held high. A confused looking Fluttershy stood nearby in some flowing red dress.

As the critter danced quite a few ponies, including Time Turner, face hoofed. The mare that had temporarily replaced Twilight just grunted displeasure, saying: “Jackalopes!”

With all the gawking ponies it didn’t take long for Jessie’s dance to come grinding to a halt. With a look of utter defeat he slinked off and Fluttershy, ever alert to the travails of critters, ran off to look after the “poor little thing!”

Then the oddest thing: a jackalope wearing a fancy countrypony dress and a big bow by one ear hopped over to Cherry Strudel and the fiddlers and seemed to be begging them. They started playing and the mood began to pick up. But Captain Jackalope from earlier burst on the scene — somehow in that get up he just wasn’t “Jessie” — and confronted Girly with some small book he had, with something in it.

Girly read. Shook her head ‘no’. Pointed to the fiddlers.

He pointed at the gold braid on his shirt.

She spread out her paws, pads up, and seemed to be pleading with heaven itself.

Captain Jackalope, sporting a smug grin, smugly tucked the little book away and in a puff of red smoke reappeared as Jessie.

It would be hard for anypony to describe the look on Girly’s face, though it seemed as if a dense cloud of doom and gloom must be rising from her. She raised her right paw towards Jessie, one toe extended, and then something smashed into him, hard, sending him flying. Before anypony could think to react she spun around and threw two tiny things that grew ever larger as they sped through the air right towards Time Turner.

A pie. Lemon meringue to be precise. Very, very good lemon meringue to be precisely precise.

Angry critter sounds between his legs made Time Turner glance down once he’d wiped his eyes clear of pie. There was Jackalope. Not Jessie. Jackalope. Covered in what seemed to be cherry pie goop. Time Turner loved cherry pie. If her cherry pie was as good as her lemon meringue … but no, he refrained from tasting. So very cherry….

Later on he would deny he’d drooled.

Jackalope flung the goop from his fur and shook it from his antlers and seemed to announce in a tinny voice: “FEMALES!”

Time Turner blinked hard. If Jackalope was over here then why did Futtershy look so distraught over there?

He followed after a hard running Twilight Sparkle, ran right past Girly who was even then doing what she peaceably could to get the hoedown going again. In Fluttershy’s forelegs she cradled a small broken form in a red shirt with silver braid.

“He didn’t deserve this!” she announced.

“Jackalope is okay.” Time Turner said without conviction as that certainly was Jessie in her arms, “He’s over there … see?”

“He’s a meanie!” the mare confessed as friends rapidly gathered round her, “All Lady Jackalope wanted was let them dance together, with us, just this once and he wouldn’t let her. All Jessie was to him was a way to get a pie in Time Turner’s fa- a- ace….” her battle to hold back her tears was lost.

Somehow the music had begun, Time Turner looked around to see ponies, two buffalo, and two dozen horses looking very different than the way Tony had described them from his vision: all dancing. Once again showing how you could knock ponies down but not keep’em down.

He began to reassess just how harmless a spirit of discord might really be.

“We can’t leave him out here.” he heard himself saying, “Fluttershy, you and the rest go back to where ponies are happy and I’ll take care of Jessie. After that you can come and grieve.”

“As horrible as it seems: he is right.” Rarity offered, “Didn’t you imply that these horses needed some happiness? Darling, we are it. It’s what Jessie would have wanted.”

“I’ll help Turner.” West said.

“Me too.” Tony added.

“I….” without another word Fluttershy passed Jessie to Time Turner and, surrounded by her friends, went back to the others.

“Remember when my dad said there were rules to Jackalope’s games?”

“Later, Tony.” West admonished.

Holding Jessie, Time Turner three legged it to the presently empty town cemetery. Using magic West effortlessly dug out a proper grave and Tony managed a box from some of the still abundant scrap wood all over the place.

He knew this wasn’t the first friend he’d lost. It wouldn’t be the last. Bouncing back wasn’t forgetting. Not now nor ever. They placed his little hat, the one he’d donned in order to dance with Fluttershy, on the humble marker that Time Turner had set up.

Strangely, this Lady Jackalope all dressed in widow’s weeds was the only other one there. It was impossible to forget that she’d been the one to do whatever she did to Jessie but the critter was clearly grief stricken and for some reason that mattered more than understanding why. Somehow, dawn was on them all before they knew it. Not long after Lady Jackalope had disappeared. The music stopped. Those fiddlers must have been exhausted.

“What do we do about Jackalope?” West finally asked.

“I didn’t see this coming.” Tony softly said.

“We do nothing.” Time Turner announced.

“What?!” they questioned in unison.

“It’s like Tony said. Jackalope plays by rules. Maybe he doesn’t even get to choose the rules. None of the rest of us really do. If we’re on the right side of the rules we’ve got nothing to fear.”

“And if we’re on the wrong side?” West demanded.

“We may have just comforted the one being that will make sure we’ll be okay. It makes a little sense. Just a little. She clearly has a big heart in that tiny frame. Big enough to play by what rules applied even if it meant having to stand all night by this lonely grave.”

“I wouldn’t want to be Jackalope when he gets home today.” West confessed.

“I wonder if she’s painted somewhere on that wall?”

“Tony, I might be able to help you with that. If it would be okay with Chief Thunderhooves?”

“Not his call. I’ll ask Grandpa.”

“But you said—” West began.

“Yeah, I did!” the bull grinned.

The mares trotted up bearing some breakfast for the boys. Their mood was somber yet not really sad.

“The horses are gone!” Spike informed, “That other Jackalope went around hugging them all before dawn and then … poof! Twilight said they must have been on the trail too long but I still think they were ghosts all along. And there was this weird unplanned meteor shower too. Twenty four of them, just like those horses.”

Time Turner found the will to eat the blintzes he’d been given: “True believers!” he laughed to himself.


A lonely figure stood watch by a solitary grave. Ran a paw under its nose and sniffed sadly.

“I am glad,” a lovely voice announced the arrival of someone new, “that this Jessie actually meant something to you.”

Jackalope glanced Celestia’s way as she settled in beside him. His critter noises seemed to say: “Yeah, ain’t I the lucky one!”

After a long moment she sighed: “You cannot let this overwhelm you. Not like I once did. I hear from good sources that someone may need you. It’s good to be needed…. Do you want to talk about it?”
Time Turner and the Ghost Horses, Part 2

Taking place after "Over a Barrel", Time Turner and the Ghost Horses follows my earlier story, Time Turner and the Talented Pony.…

The first part of Time Turner and the Ghost Horses is here:…

Watching the episode is probably a must.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic belongs to Laruen Faust and Hasbro

Time Turner and the Ghost Horses

Part 1

Prologue: Night Terrors

Sounds of heavy hoof-falls, as if the whole of Equestria were groaning under their weight. They fell like mallets on stone and rose with something like a rush of wind. On and on they came through the darkness, echoing through the empty mists.

Time Turner was trapped between the Everfree Forest and the cliff where fallen Fallen Galloping Bridge might have once let him flee to Rambling Rock Ridge.

His chest was heaving as if he'd been running forever, legs aching, heart pounding, panic gripping. He pressed himself against the edge as close as he dare: a rear hoof knocking a small stone down into the raging river below.

Three sets of hoofbeats casually, terrifyingly, cantered up the trace towards him and the tumult of them tore his world apart.

But then they were there: the Thorns!

Razor, the earth pony and their queen, was first, standing right before him in all her awful elegance. Then Black spread her heavy ebony wings as she cut off any escape to the west. Finally Poison, the unicorn, stood to the east.

Their baleful and hungry glares chilled body and soul as they pawed the ground where they stood. He could feel how heavy their hearts were, eternally burdened and bound, making them in turn a burden to the world itself.

Though only Poison wore any kind of a crown, a plain tiara of gold, he knew they were all true Queens of Despair. Hope, happiness … even resignation to his fate and what meager comfort that might have afforded him: these could not endure their presence. Tears, he was even beyond tears….

"Hunters!" Razor Thorn commanded.

Time Turner thought to scream.

Small paws shook his head violently, shook him awake. He gasped from relief as he sat up in bed, memories of the dream fading save for the last terrible moments at the cliff which remained all too clear and left him trembling.

It was night.


The Grand Appleloosian.

His room.

The one he always stayed in.

He slowly glanced around at familiar surroundings; but, what he saw in the mirror by moonlight made him gasp: a visibly trembling Jackalope was clinging to his throat, eyes wide with fear.

"Oh, no, no, no, there, there!" he said softly, reassuringly, as he gently stroked Jackalope's head.

Could his nightmare have somehow scared a being like Jackalope?

A knock at the door.

"Time Turner?" it was Cherry Strudel, "Are you okay in there? I heard … something screaming."


Careful to hold Jackalope as reassuringly as he could he three-legged his way to the door. Cherry Strudel's eyes widened when he saw the bunny.

"I was right: it sounded like a rabbit screaming." he said with concern, "I was making my rounds …  had a pet rabbit growing up, it suffered anxiety attacks." by way of explanation.

"What did you do to help it?"

"Whatever it took. Jackalope, can I do anything to help?"

He could feel Jackalope let go with one paw. Cherry Strudel's expression quickly displayed understanding.

"Oh! Come on, Time Turner, bring him downstairs."

In short order they had retreated into the kitchen where coffee was served, black for the ponies and chocolate peppermint latte for Jackalope — whose tiny cup shook in his paws as he sipped. Slowly, the critter calmed down. Then he gave Cherry Strudel a bunny-sized hoof bump before hugging Time Turner and finally presenting his cup for another refill.

"What was that about? Are you okay?"

Time Turner tried to remember without collapsing into a mound of hairy distress: "Strudel, have you ever heard of anyponies called the Thorns? A unicorn, pegasus, and earth pony?"

He shook his head no.

"Nor have I…."

Chapter 1: Canterlot

"Dearest Sister Tilly,

"I'm sorry if the tone of my last note worried you at all.

"I'm finally homeward bound from Appleloosa; but, I have to go to Canterlot first. As you may have heard the clock tower fell when the buffalo stampeded — which was only the beginning of the strangeness. Still, everything ended well and they've even rehired me for the new clock!

"There is another matter that I need you to look into. Will you please inquire of Zecora (I know she still intimidates you a little but do this for me) if she has ever heard of ponies called the Thorns: an earth pony called Razor, pegasus called Black, and unicorn known as Poison. Quickly send a note with anything she may know, no matter how unimportant it may seem, to me care of Aunt Effie in Canterlot.

"Other than that I would encourage you to avoid the Everfree Forest for the time being, especially the east of it. I can't explain, just being cautious. I had a very bad dream not long after seeing a stunning clear vision: part of that aforementioned strangeness. Tell you all about that later. Probably nothing at all. Still, a little caution never hurt anypony.

"Give Mom and Dad a hug for me. Tell Carefree and Sandstorm I'm sorry for missing our camping trip. I hope everything went well.

"Your Loving Brother, Time."

He sealed up the letter and addressed it without even the slightest tremble, again thankful that like all ponies he knew he could roll back on his hooves after getting kicked down, and passed it over with 5 cents to the clerk at Ponyville's train station.

"The engineer said that you might've fixed our train problems with Appleloosa?"

"Here's hoping."

"Hey, Turner!" a snowflake-appaloosa unicorn named West called out the window from the train, "Are you still in or should we cash you out?"

"On my way!"

Since West had boarded the train at Dodge Junction they, Morton Saltworthy, and Fedora had been in a marathon poker game: overall looser pays for dinner on arrival at Canterlot. West had slowly pulled ahead, while Time Turner had steadily fallen behind. By the time the train pulled into Canterlot it was official: he would be buying. Fortunately he had a standing discount in the hole even if the cards had been against him the whole trip.

Time Turner leaned out the window and called to a porter — a large bay stallion he'd not seen before.

Proper unicorn porters, sadly rare outside of Canterlot or Manehattan, can spoil a traveling pony with their ability to easily shift bulky or heavy items; however, every so often you find one that, for whatever reason, liked to do things with his hooves. This was one of those times. While his traveling companions saw to their own luggage, he and the porter carefully carried the case with his Time Balance off of the train and over to a nearby cart. Then he went back for his own duffle bag. To his surprise the porter was up in the cart with the others and the empty harness floated as if occupied.

"Where to?"

"Bakes Bakery on Plenty Lane. I'll need your help with my case and the trot up."

"Cliffway or High Road?"


So they went, pulled along by the unicorn's magic.

Cliffway wasn't just for the scenery, in the right light you could see the taller bits of Ponyville against the velvety green backdrop of the Evergreen Forest, but it was a strategic move too. Since it took longer to take Cliffway it meant that they would miss the worst of the dinner rush and have more time to enjoy their meal in a quieter restaurant as a result. On a hunch, just to avoid certain complications, he got his new-to-him buffalo calf pull-over that  Tony had given him — it certainly didn't fit the bull anymore — out of his duffle bag and put it on. He needn't have bothered.

"Hi, Time! You look great! New Outfit?" Charcoal Bakes greeted him at close quarters while he was carrying his half of his Time Balance.

"Oh … hey, Charcoal. How have you been?" he shifted his load to better face her.

"Same as ever," she beamed, "I keep trying to persuade the folks to add grilled vegetables to the menu but we've no Charcoal Turner."

The weight of the case left his hooves as a suddenly impatient porter magically took over, which let Time Turner drop to a more comfortable stance.

"Well, Hearths Warming is never really far off: maybe I can get you one? A charcoal turner that is."

"I would like that, Mister Turner. Bye now!" she bumped his nose with hers before pirouetting about and skipping into the bakery like a foal.

He got his duffle bag and went upstairs. Paid the porter and explained to Effie and Big News why he was eating out.

Back down stairs Charcoal was waiting tables, as gregarious as ever, and he had to admit it: she let him escape yet again back there. He was never quite sure if it was some game she was playing on the back of an ancient dare issued by Tilly or if she really thought he was her one and only. Either way: that mare was too aggressive by half.

"Someday," he thought, "I may not let her let me get away and that'll show her!"

After spending all that time on the train talking and playing cards there wasn't much to say over dinner. Everypony knew that Morton Saltworthy was in town to give the Princess a report on events in Appleloosa and ask for more money for some deputies, that Fedora was in town to drum up business, that West was in town to meet with his mysterious employer, and that Time Turner was here to visit family. Though after seeing him with Charcoal out front Fedora joked that he was really here prospecting for family. That one got a good laugh.

In truth, Time Turner was hoping to see the Princess too: only about that strangely powerful nightmare of his.

"Tomorrow at one.” Morton reminded him as they went their separate ways.

"Thanks for dinner, Turner." West trotted off.

Fedora just tipped his hat.

“One?” Charcoal asked.

"I'm hoping to see the Princess as well."

"In that case I'll make sure we've got some of Mom's banana bread ready! It never hurts to come bearing gifts, after all, and the Princess loves our banana bread!"

The rest of the night, before a late bedtime that is, was spent getting more lessons in poker from Big News and Effie.

"Getting up with the chickens" is, for most in Canterlot, a bit of down-home banter from places like Ponyville; however, when the only guest room is also their roost it has a different meaning no matter how well behaved they are.

"You need to report in down stairs." Aunt Effie needlessly reminded him of his part of the previous night's discount, "Are you going to wear that to see the Princess?" she pointed at his pull over that he'd not even bothered to take off.

Was he? It might make giving his story a bit of needed color.

"I thought I would."

"Then give it over. It's one thing to look like a buffalo colt, but smelling like one is an entirely different matter. The hat too."

"It's new." he protested.

"Time, I know you're no dandy, but letting a hat go just because 'it's new' just isn't done."

He surrendered his country duds.

"And would it hurt to go by Big Jake's before you see the Princess?" she called after him as he walked out, "Your mane is a disgrace, and don't get me started on the feathering!"

Same old Aunt Effie!

"Mrs. Bakes, is my mane a disgrace?" he asked as he hung up his apron now that the lunch rush was over.

"That mare!" she swore, "Mister Bakes, when you've a moment will you see after Time so Effie will leave him be?"

"Let me deal with the till first, Mother."

"You go and wait for him in the back. I'll have that banana bread ready to see you off."

For those lucky enough to really know Bakeses there was more than one mane whisperer in Canterlot, a free one too Time Turner congratulated himself. Back upstairs Aunt Effie definitely approved of the change. She had his pack and pull over cleaned and his hat like showroom new. All dolled up he commented that he'd have to chase the mares away.

"You'd have to stop running first, Time."

Charcoal was waiting at the bottom of the steps with his bread. Wished him luck.

Was he running?

He met up with Morton Saltworthy, who had actually had gone to see Big Jake, near Joe's place.

It wasn't until the palace gates loomed into view, what with all the E.U.P. ponies protecting it, that the enormity of what he was presuming to do started to sink in. Here he was: Time Turner, without an appointment and no facts at all … just a bad dream and supposition. He was let in, of course, after declaring all he was carrying; but, only into the room where those waiting for an audience stayed till admitted or sent packing. Though immaculate and beautiful, the room was still drearily quiet in the way all such official waiting rooms were.

Minutes before two an attendant came to get them; however, just after leaving the waiting room the Master of Guilds for Equestria's Time Ponies pulled him aside and led him from the palace to a terrace in the gardens. The blue unicorn pointed at one of the tables which offered a favorable view of a large fountain.

"How have you been, Time? It's been too long! I hear you've come packing some Bakes' banana bread?"

"I've been doing— Wait, are you reading low level security reports now?"

"Time, I'll jump right into it," he said ignoring the question, "the mayor of Appleloosa sent a letter of his own to Princess Celestia. He said you had a nightmare that, and I'll use his own words: 'put the fear of Nightmare Moon herself into Jackalope.' Also said you asked him about someponies called Thorns: one from each of the tribes. From what I've been able to patch together from the rest of his letter, this happened several nights after you must to have had a clear vision. Am I correct?"

"Yes. Have you heard of them?"

"No, I can't say I have. But you think they're real?"

"I've tried not to think about it too much. Just remember what I can."

"Good call! Let the Princess decide for herself if there's anything in it. But, Time, you and I both know the old pony's tale about prophetic dreams after a clear vision: not much to hang a hat on. So how was it?"

Just remembering all that glory … for a moment Time Turner just mutely sat there. Master waited with obvious patience.

"Very clear. I'm, as you know, one of those wheels in wheels sorts, and what I saw was — it had to have been right at the moment that Jackalope's confinement ended — it was … awesome! Not just a few, fuzzy and dim wheels but many, delicate, and blazing bright from the reds below to blue heavens to the whitish blues far above. Gave me insomnia. Spent most of the night looking out the window at where the clock tower had been."

Master nodded thoughtfully.

"Time, though I know it would be like looking through a darkened glass would you permit me to glance over your shoulder?"

At least he was being taken seriously, so he nodded his assent.

Master produced his own miniature Time Balance, the very latest model.

"Clear your mind, focus on the sand, and think about what you saw."

He did as asked. A few moments later the Master of Guilds let out a sigh. Started playing with his Time Balance, possibly wishing he could have been there too rather than get it second-hoof with all the limitations that implied.

"It was still several nights later. Not at all what I would expect."

"I know."

"What else have you done to learn about these mares?"

"Not much. The next morning I trotted out to the buffalo village to see Tony Thunderhooves but his mother, Strongheart, said he'd gone on something called a 'dream walk' and would be gone for a while. I sent a letter to Tilly to ask a zebra named Zecora about them but I don't know what, if anything, she may have had opportunity to learn yet."

"I'm putting this one in the plausible category. Stay here.… I'm afraid the wait may be long." he took his Time Balance and left.

More waiting … but at least the scenery was nice. Of course, it was scenery he couldn't nibble on and the bread was off limits too. Before long, just to combat boredom, he started trying to throw his hat over the horn of a nearby unicorn statue. Hours passed.

He'd just made his longest attempt yet when a warm, friendly voice asked if he liked chamomile tea.

He turned with a start: it really was Princess Celestia! He started to bow but she stopped him by shaking her head no.

"I understand you had quite the adventure?” she said while his hat floated back to him.

At the same time a number of plates bearing food plus some cups and a large teapot drifted from behind her to settle neatly on the garden table.

"Yes, your Highness." Time Turner was trying to remember all he'd ever been taught about etiquette.

"Is that the new style in Appleloosa?"

He reflexively glanced at his attire.

"Actually, these once belonged to young Master Thunderhooves, he calls himself 'The Blonde Surfer' professionally. They are what I wore when we caught Jackalope."

"Yes," the tea poured, "about Jackalope. I have some questions. First exactly what did this Blonde Surfer say about him?"

"He said he was a spirit of discord;" though the teapot trembled slightly Time Turner didn't notice, "but, when I asked Tony about that he said he wasn't THE Spirit of Discord — whatever that means — and by way of explaining what I presume to be the difference said the little guy doesn't like to laugh alone. I can attest to that myself: Jackalope has a real sense of humor and the jokes he plays, while they may be crude, are not mean. In fact it was his love of whimsey, that according to buffalo lore certain games can have rules where Jackalope is concerned, that formed the basis for Chief Thunderhooves' plan to capture him. The critter didn't know Tony had made it so I could see him so all I had to do was get close. The whole thing was actually adapted from a Daring Do book they had."

"Sounds exciting."

He nodded vigorously and asked if she'd like to hear the story. When she said she would he described how he and Cherryloma had first officially started the showdown by announcing their presence and calling the critter "yellow". Confessed it seemed odd that Jackalope was actually wearing a get-up like in the book: how could he know? Hummed the music the critter band was playing, its rising crescendo, as they slowly advanced towards one another.

"When I was close enough I asked one last time where he was. Just as he was pulling something out to throw at me, I reached out and grabbed him. Then the band, his costume, the pie my face was about to receive, even his extra growth — he's really no bigger than any ordinary rabbit — just disappeared. Oh, was he fit to be tied! But once Cherryloma got him to promise he'd speak with her I let him go and all he did was cross his lil'forelegs and kick the dust."

"You were about to get a pie in the face?"

"I believe so. It seems to be his style."

"The foal is the one who talked to Jackalope?

"Yes, your Majesty. Tony said she was the first to see Jackalope so she'd have to be the one to make him see reason."

"The mayor’s letter said that you didn't even listen in."

“Ah, no … I didn't. I just felt I had to trust her, that Tony was right to put confidence in her. Though I sorta knew what she was going to say."

"I'm also told that Jackalope has joined their community. Do you agree with the town council that this creature is friendly, or even beneficial?"

"Yes, Highness. Though in all fairness I probably had a strong influence on that view."

"How so?"

"After the stampede I kept thinking about the weapons that Sheriff Silverstar had passed over to use pies in the defense of the town. There had been a lot of silliness creeping into Appleloosan life … but this was … wonderful."

She didn't smile as he expected she would.

"You don't think that a 'spirit of discord' would have had something to do with there being hostilities in the first place?"

"I … honestly hadn't even thought about that."

"What do you think led to the stampede? As someone who visited often." then she smiled, "To your credit much more so than my engineers."

"Since almost the founding of the town the odd cow, sometimes with a calf, would wander into town. They would usually be upset for reasons unknown and then wander back off to parts unknown. I do remember attempts to make them feel welcome; but, no one — myself included — ever bothered to find out where it was they came from and went to. I guess we were always too busy building Appleloosa for that." he hung his head for a moment, "Until Little Strongheart led Cherryloma and I to their nearby village I'm pretty sure none of us even suspected that there was such a thing. Even the camp, which arrived near town not long before the stampede, caught most ponies by surprise. … I guess everyone on both sides was so sure that their position was obvious that no one even thought, much less bothered, to make it known."

"A lack of communication."

"Yes, Princess Celestia."

"About this Blonde Surfer. What is your impression of him?"

"Odd, fun-loving and powerful. He seemed to say that he can magically project himself as a white buffalo to far off places, and he goes by 'The Blonde Surfer' because 'The Albino Surfer' wouldn't gain as much traction with the ladies. Also, before I even asked about not being able to see Jackalope he knew why I was there … despite us surprising him that we were there at all just moments before. Apparently we'd interrupted him projecting himself or whatever he calls it. He said something about drowning, constables and lifeguards."

"I received a report from that day about a white buffalo who, after presumably drowning in an accident near Los Pegasus, still showed up later that day, his 'death' not withstanding."

"That would probably be him."

She laughed: "One of the more interesting uses of magical powers I've yet to come across."

She actually poured more tea for both of them, with her hooves, but then sat her floating cup down. If he recalled his etiquette that meant he should stop drinking and eating too.

"Time Turner, I don't think I've ever heard of three sisters with the description and name you gave mayor Strudel. Could you provide me more details?"

"Yes, Princess! I only remember the last moments of the dream but I must have been running hard through the Everfree Forest. I was on the trace that used to join up with the Fallen Galloping Bridge-"

"Which has long since fallen." she smirked.

Time Turner had to laugh too, though he was sure she'd condemned it and had it safely demolished long before anypony would have gotten hurt in some collapse.

"I haven't been on that trace since I was a colt with my mentor…. Princess, when I was little I used to go stomping around and make believe I was some towering stallion. Never quite got there. Even at my worst I can never achieve the sheer volume that my uncle Big News can, who despite being a unicorn can be stompier than any three or four stallions his size have any business being."

"He does it to intimidate. Even tried that trick on me once…. Once…. What does this have to do with these mares?" she took a sip.

Remembering, Time Turner chugged his tea. Didn't even notice the refill.

"They moved with refined and unhurried grace. They shouldn't have made a commotion at all. While I was pressing myself against that cliff, as they cantered up, their hoof-falls seemed to tear the world apart. What really scared me, well, one of the things that really scared me,” he tried and failed to block the memory of actually seeing them, “was that I could swear that their hearts were so heavy that they burdened the land. I don't know if this even makes sense but can a pegasus have such a heavy heart that it can't fly? I somehow knew Black Thorn couldn't fly even though her wings were intact."

"The pegasus was named Black? You know their personal names?"

"Yes. The earth pony Razor was leading the others. She was barely warm hued, maybe off-white. Black was like her name. Poison was … in the moonlight she looked like she might have been pale blue. All lovely … baleful…."

"There's something else?"

"They are Queens of Despair. Not like how Tony said Jackalope wasn't THE spirit of discord. These were the real deal." he shook his head, "I'm sorry, that's just supposition. Still, in my years I've encountered a few bad ponies and was even there at the Summer Solace celebration when Nightmare Moon appeared … but none of them, not even her, made me feel like that."


"As if despair wasn't just something they caused but what they actually were. I've never really felt hopeless like-" he was shaking, even tearing up a little, just to remember it and not hold it at bay anymore. Maybe not so up on his hooves after all?

She reached over and patted him on the head and calmed him: "I can see why you were scared. I think I would be too, standing where you were. So, what did they do?"

"Razor called for some hunters; but, that's when Jackalope shook me awake. He was obviously terrified and had apparently been screaming, at least that's what Cherry Strudel said. It took most of three tiny cups of chocolate peppermint latte to finally calm him down."

She took a long noisy sip from her cup and seemed deep in thought.

"The Master of Guilds said that you had tried to not analyze the dream. So you are claiming this mainly as your experience of it?"

"Yes, Princess Celestia."

"I still do not recognize these three, so I cannot say if they would be real or representational of something else. But after having taken on my sister's duties for so many years I do know that nightmares don't just evoke details that the dreamer has never experienced at some level. So, unless you are putting on some act yourself, this was no ordinary dream."

He was confused and must have looked like it because she laughed infectiously.

"Did you ever dream about headless horses, Time Turner?"

"Yes, we used to tell that one when camping."

"In my experience when I was told it was necessary to enter such dreams it was just a headless horse: a rather silly creature. Thankfully there is nothing in most of my little ponies' lives to make a genuine horror of any of his kind. But these Queens of yours are entirely different. There has been nothing in the world similar to them for a very long time now so that you could even know what they were like. And, yes, a heavy heart can affect anypony's magic no matter the tribe or how powerful the pony, though it usually requires terrible sadness, loneliness and guilt. Thus our options are that something new to you broke into your life or else you are not what you seem to be…. Mr. Turner, are you what you seem to be?"

He gulped hard as he considered how serious she was being: "I think so."

"Then that settles it!" she smiled warmly, "Now, how about that banana bread?"

Time Turner reached into his pack and presented it formally to the Princess.

She sent him home with instructions to forward anything about Tilly's meeting with Zecora to her.

Once again he chose Cliffway, though any hoped for view of Ponyville was obscured by storm clouds. As he walked along he wondered what he should do now? He'd had another adventure of a lifetime and dined with royalty. Big checks on his bucket list done and gone. Though why he was so dubiously lucky as to keep getting to check the former off was beyond him. Maybe he should save up over the next year and travel overseas? Or maybe he could stop his running that Aunt Effie claimed he was … running? Sigh…. Of course, his personal life wasn't nearly so simple as everypony assumed-


He could have sworn that he'd just seen a giant shimmering white buffalo walking by a stream in the valley below.

"I have bison on the brain." he chided himself as he walked on.

Then he saw the white buffalo again. This time it was in a park he knew just outside of Canterlot's magical defenses.

He asked himself how many white buffalo there could be as he galloped towards Cliffway's lone city gate. A ruddy pegasus guard in armor let him pass and cautioned about running on Switchback. Time Turner knew the trail well and would have gone no faster than a canter even without the warning. Several times more on the way down he caught sight of the bull. Once off Switchback he really put hoof to pavement and was in the park in no time at all.

No Tony though.

He trotted over to the park's fancy fountain and took a long drink.

"Turner!" Tony announced his presence, "It seems my navigator got us just where we needed to go after all!"

Time Turner spun round to come face to face with a truly, astonishingly massive shimmering white bull.

"Navigator?" he asked.

Popping up from over Tony's oversized shoulder, as if out of this thick wooly coat, came a tiny brown form wearing a yellow shirt and brandishing a pie that he hurled headlong at Time Turner's noggin.

Time Turner flinched as he braced for impact. Moments and nothing. He peeked: it had stopped in midair mere inches away.

While Tony laughed a familiar voice scolded: "I can see that someone has a low regard for fine baked goods." the pie floated to settle neatly on a nearby bench.

West trotted calmly into view: "Turner."

"West." Tony's voice lacked his normal exuberance, as if he was greeting his nemesis.

"Calf?" West questioned, though in the same tone.

"Say, Turner, how do you know this kill joy?"

"Ah … we met maybe seven years ago in Balitmare. Since then I've bumped into him every so often while riding the train."

“That's a new look for you, calf. Looks nice. How's your Grandpa?"

"Stampeding with his fathers."

"I'm sorry, Anthony, I didn't know."

Tony nodded.

"So, is anypony else is up there?" West looked up at Tony's shoulder.

"Hi, Mr. Time Turner!" Cherryloma poked her head up and waved.

"Come on down." West's tone was warm and reassuring, "You too, friend Jackalope."

In moments both Radish foals and Little Strongheart had climbed down.

Then Jackalope jumped down and Tony returned to normal size and stopped shimmering.

"So, working together you were able to transport the foals?" West asked.

"Certainamundo! With Captain Jackalope along for the ride-" Jackalope was pointing to gold braiding on his sleeve as if that explained everything, "-I was able to, heh, you know, be their transporter…. Ummmm … You're not gonna call the constables on us, are you West?"

"In case you've forgotten: I am the 'constables.'" West informed, lifting his hat to reveal a badge attached inside: "Special Agent West of Her Majesty's Secret Service. You, Mr. Turner, landed yourself a spot amongst my case load last week: just routine because of Appleloosa so nothing scary. When I saw you wearing Anthony's old hobo duds last night I figured he must have been involved too."

"Why bring them here?" Time Turner asked, pushing the fact that he was on any secret service pony's case load as far from his mind as he could.

"Therein lies a tale. But the short, short version is my Bro, Jackalope, here was worried about Cherryloma's safety and when her parents and mine got together they decided the other munchkins should be removed from any potential harms way too."

"I don't need protecting." Little Strongheart protested.

"I'm sure you don't." West chimed as he put his hat back on.

"What did that pony mean when he called you a 'hobo?'" the calf demanded of her brother.

"Later, Munchkin. I'm guessing Special Agent West here wants to know why you do need protection?"

"Please, Anthony."

"When Turner and the Little Dudette confronted my compadre, Jackalope," Tony's voice had changed and he sounded a lot like his father just now, "something still did not seem as it should so I journeyed on a dream walk to see what it was that was amiss. Several days and nights I wandered lonely paths in meditation when, the last night, I saw a ghastly vision of horses, not little pastel ponies with decorous flanks, but horses: gaunt and terrible charging across the sky. Their hooves, eyes and breath were all like fire and their pelts like hot coals that rippled bright red where muscles strained. As I watched the path they were running on seemed to curve downward, leading to the ground, but at the last moment, just as the stallion at the head of the herd managed to set one hoof on the ground, they just jumbled up against each other and were thrown back up high into the sky. After some really old school cursing, not something I'd repeat before the calfs, they charged away.

"When I saw how close they all came to making land I immediately ran as fast as I could, and maybe a little faster than I should, to one of my people's sacred places where we preserve the wisdom of our people from long ago in carving. There I saw an image of these very horses and I was able to recall the part of the litany that dealt with them: the Hunters of All Flesh, a cursed herd from the place of the Sixteen Wanderers doomed to try to catch us buffalo as we stampede across lands they once ruled."

His voice returned to normal: "It is most embarrassing that we buffalo had forgotten that … sorry."

"But they didn't escape?" Time Turner asked.

"They caught up with the herd." Little Strongheart accused grimly, "Now, I wonder how that happened?"

Tony gave her sidelong glare: "Anyway, they didn't get free, free. So a celebration was in order and I'm not one to pass up on a little celebrating. Which is what I was doing when Jackalope showed up with Chief Thunderhooves and company in tow. With his shadow puppetry he was able to convey the rest of the story. It seems that he'd been sleeping by Turner here and had managed to wake him up before the herd could charge through."

Time Turner shrank and trembled as he remembered Razor calling for her hunters.

"After that he stayed with the foals since he was concerned that they would try again using Cherryloma. When Turner left town, Jackalope somehow impressed on her parents to look for me. One thing led to another and, well, here we are. Cherryloma to keep her away from the stallion and the other munchkins to keep their moms happy."

"Anthony, are these horses carnivorous?" West pressed.

"My distant forebears did not pass down in the Litany just why they were called 'Hunters of All Flesh.' Sorry. If it means anything, I'm already planning a hiking trip back to make sure nothing else of importance has been forgotten."

"You brought the foals to me?” Time Turner beamed, “Thanks, I'm honored!"

"S'pose. But TT, we were really thinking they could stay with any heavy hitters you happened to know."

West laughed: "Canterlot's defenses should suffice. Turner, why not take them to stay with your Aunt and Uncle? Then get back here with that novelty hour glass of yours pronto."

"I really didn't need any protection." Little Strongheart protested again as they trotted up Switchback.

"It's for Strongheart's sake. Try to keep that in mind." Time Turner encouraged her.

"I guess." she sighed.

"Is there any ice cream where we're goin', Mr. Time Turner?" Hedley was hopeful.

"More than that, lad!"

The trio visibly brightened.

"So, have you figured out what you're going to tell the Princess?" Time Turner asked as he trotted up to where West, Tony and Jackalope were.

West just glanced his way before going back to eating a slice of apple pie: "This is my job. No need to bother her for just one stallion."

A plate with pie floated over to land in front of him.

Time Turner looked around: "Where were you hiding the plates?"

"Just eat and I'll explain. First, we will avail ourselves of this transportation technique that Anthony and Jackalope have concocted to return south. It seems his flesh and blood body is back there being protected by the Thunderhooveses and Radishes and I've no intention of leaving either him or them vulnerable. Then Anthony thinks Chief Thunderhooves may let us see these cave paintings he mentioned: just to make sure we've got all the facts straight. Then, and only then, will I consider bothering Princess Celestia."

West returned to eating his slice of pie.

"You still didn't explain about the plates." Time Turner grumbled.

He supposed he was going to have to graze on the pie like Tony was.

"TT, that box on your back looks heavy."

“I’m used to it, Tony."

Chapter 2: Badlands

Jackalope climbed up on Tony's head and they went through a check list: with Tony the one calling "Check!" to Jackalope's chittering. Then the bull started to shimmer and grew again.

"All, aboard!" West announced and Time Turner found himself and his case hoisted into the air and deposited on the back of the giant bull. Then the unicorn disappeared below in a puff of smoke and reappeared on Tony's back the same.

Tony took a few steps forwards.

"Everyone off!" a suddenly smaller Tony chimed.

"That was … different." West muttered.

"Behold! The Blonde Surfer returns!" Chief Thunderhooves announced.

Time Turner glanced around, Canterlot was nowhere in sight. Instead they were at the mouth of a box canyon. The Thunderhooveses and Radishes were there tending a roaring campfire and seemed to be cooking. Something sure smelled good at any rate.

"Like, off I say?"

He glanced down. Tony was his normal coal black self. A pleasantly grinning Jackalope had apparently given up his yellow shirt for a blue dress-like outfit and matching jaunty hat and seemed to be indicating the way off. He cheerfully waved at West as he hopped down. Then waved at Time Turner as he was again hoisted into the air to be deposited on the ground right by a yellow shirted Jackalope.

"Okay…." Time Turner considered two jackalopes for a moment; but, now there was only one.

"Mr. Turner?" Horsey stood up, "Good to see you again. Tony, I thought you said you were going to get the cavalry?"

"That's us." West indicated, lifting his hat to show his badge.

"Chief Thunderhooves and Mother, Mister and Misses Radish: this is West, a secret agent pony. West, this is … you know."

"Honored to meet you all!"

"And where is my Little Strongheart?" Strongheart demanded.

"All the foals are safe within Canterlot's defenses." Time Turner informed.

Three quarters of the parents showed intense relief.

"Good!" Strongheart stamped a hoof, "NOW you can try whatever fool stunt you were thinking about pulling, Thundy."

"You have a plan?!" West sounded hopeful.

"More of an idea." Chief Thunderhooves admitted.

"We were trying to think of a way to lure the stallion into a trap and capture him so he can't free his companions." Horsey explained.

"With no results so far." the Chief added.

"It's actually a good start. At least it lets me know what's expected." West trotted over to the campfire, "Chief Thunderhooves, your son Tony, The Blonde Surfer, explained the situation here rather well but I was wondering if I and Time Turner could see this sacred cave for ourselves? Maybe then we could-"

"No!!!" the Chief snorted.

"-have something intelligent … to ask… horsefeathers…." West softly muttered.

"Usually 'no' Father?" Tony pleaded in his formal voice.

"Yes!" Strongheart poked her bull with a hoof, giving him an "or else" look.

In turn he gave her a look that Time Turner had seen cross his own dad's face often enough, the: "not in front of the guests" look. But it was too late and the damage was done.

"Very well, BUT these two ponies shall only see the sacred carvings of this herd and none of the others! My Son, you will see that this is so."

"Yes, Father!" then his voice returned to normal, "Say, West, help me free Turner from his box. I'm pretty sure he can't take his do-dad given the Chief's explicit command."

A few moments later and West swore: "Trust a newspony to use a knot no one can untie!" he then stamped a fore hoof against the ground at an odd angle causing part of his shoe to fall away. It turned out to be a small knife. Once Time Turner had been cut free he returned it to its hiding place.

"This way, ponies." Tony was pointing further on into the canyon.

At the end of the box canyon were a number of watersheds from higher up. Tony led them into one, commenting that they were no place to be in a thunderstorm. As they climbed up over dazzling polished sandstone surfaces West asked if it really was possible to only see just those cave paintings.

"It is," Tony whispered, "provided we can all agree beforehoof that those were all you saw and we stick to the story. Otherwise we need to turn back now."

"Oh, I didn't see anything else." Time Turner whispered back.

"There were other paintings there?" West wondered in mock innocence.


After a few moments Time Turner asked for clarification if these were paintings or carvings. Tony said they were both.

Having scrambled upwards some 200 or more feet towards the mesa they came out into another small canyon that soon let out into a larger and deeper one with a small lake surrounded by little stone mushroom things.

"Mineral deposits. Don't drink the water." he warned, "West, there are some torches kept up there," he pointed to a ledge above them, "can you get me one."

West leaned against the wall, then stepped back still on his hind legs trying to get a better look.

"Yeah, can just see them."

One floated down.

The sun was going down fast and Tony picked up the pace. Soon they were at the mouth of a cave like the one the village was built in. It had blank walls and was empty save a for a low stone wall in the middle.

Tony took the torch and put it into a stone sconce in the wall.

"You didn't see this either." he advised as he struck the ground with a hoof producing purplish fire that clung to him till he transferred it to the torch.

The walls came to life in vibrant, moving color.

"Moving paintings!" West whistled in admiration.

“They’re carved so they stand out too.” Tony pointed out.

“All the more impressive.” West added.

"Over here!" Tony called.

There was the buffalo herd being chased around the stampede grounds by stylized horses. After a few moments the image reset and started further up on the wall inside a circle of fifteen critters of all types. The horses ran from there, or rather were being chased Time Turner noted, all the way to the stampede grounds where buffalo were already running.

"Say, Tony," West was pointing at the picture, "it looks like your people were stampeding here before the horses started chasing you."

Tony and West watched while Time Turner was concentrating more at the other end of the story.

"I can see that. Cool beans! At least I know my tribe hasn't been running our legs off all these years just to keep some horses occupied!"

"That's the Sixteen Wanderers?" Time Turner asked.

"Yeah, all fifteen of them." Tony snorted.

That caught Time Turner's attention.

"But what about this wolf," he pointed as it chased the herd from the other wanderers to the stampede grounds, "he's the sixteenth, right?"

Tony and West watched the image more closely before asking: "What wolf?" in unison.

Time Turner waited till the image reset.

"He starts here in the middle of the others with the herd, and chases them all the way. You can't see him?"

They shook their heads.

That one stumped!

Then: "Tony, is that fire of yours like dragon fire?"

"My people did not need dragons-"

"No, 'like dragon fire' … you know magical fire that's also real, ordinary fire-fire too?"

"S'pose. Yeah."

Time Turner laughed: "Your ancestors were very, very clever!"

"Of course!" Tony trumpeted, before looking around for a bit while silently pawing at the ground, then: "Why?"

"Unlike magical fire, ordinary fire happens in something we Time Ponies call Thingtime. There are these two kinds of time, you see, Thingtime is the time for, well, things, and then there's … a different kind of time for living creatures like you or I. Living things in this instance including magical fire that is only magical fire. Most folks don't notice because these happen together." then he pointed to the moving painting,"But your ancestors made a magical painting within another magical painting that is revealed by Thingtime fire rather than just the magical fire that keeps everything else going."

"This wolf we can't see?" West was tapping a forehoof.

"I get it!" Tony shouted, "Without being aware of this 'Thingtime' of yours we can't see the wolf it gives life to. That way … whoa!" he was looking all around the cavern, "About that trip back here I mentioned, I may have to double down on my studies before I take it. There are some achievements I obviously still lack. Bummer! So much for the surfing competition...."

Time Turner marveled that Tony's powers might still be immature.

"But why hide only some of the image when it's all hidden?" West was shaking his mane in annoyance.

"To make sure only someone with the right abilities can see them properly." Time Turner prodded, "Say, West, do the Sixteen Wanderers remind you of anything?"

He considered them.

"The animals shown and that one is missing?"



"Tony, is there a statue of a wolf anywhere along the stampede grounds. Maybe fifteen or so feet tall?"

"Could be. Just a lot bigger." he chuckled.

West's ears snapped to attention: "The Stone Grove!"

Then he paced back and forth for a few minutes before announcing: "I have a plan!"

High above them on top of the mesa another pair of ears turned together in rapt attention.

"You want to do what?!" Chief Thunderhooves thundered.

"Blindfold the wolf." West was grinning.

"So you can let these horses go free?"

"No, Sir, it won't get that far. The Stone Grove, what you call Sixteen Wanderers, is incomplete anyway so it would probably be useless to them. I only want to lure the herd to a fake set of wanderers so we can separate the stallion from the others and deal with just him."

"Can you deal with this stallion?"

"Oh, I think I can do what needs to be done." West smiled wickedly, "I was tops of my class in magic and I've picked up some tricks since then."

"And how do you propose to remake these Sixteen Wanderers?"

"I believe that your son and Turner here can manage the trick if they work together."

"I realize that you are an accomplished pony; but, do you know the ways of The Blonde Surfer?"

He bit his lip.

"Do you even understand Time Turner's magic?"

"Not as such."

"Do you see my problem?"

"Father, it's a good plan." Tony jumped in, "once we use a fake Sixteen Wanderers as bait, with the help of Appleloosans wearing wolf masks, we can force the rest of the herd back onto the Stampede Grounds where they've been contained all these generations. Unmask the wolf and they'll bother no one."

"Why use the ponies, my son? We are bigger and stronger than they are."

"These horses have also been chasing your herd for who knows how long. No way to know if they hold a grudge against you." West explained.

"Granted." Chief Thunderhooves sighed, "So who do you plan on cutting this stallion out of the herd?"

"I believe I know just the mare for the job." Time Turner offered, "Provided we can get her to agree to help us."

The four parents talked it over and decided it was as good a plan as they were likely to come across, and so gave it their stamp of approval.  They then broke camp and started back towards Appleloosa with Chief Thunderhooves, Jackalope and West leading the way.

At one point during the night Time Turner noticed Tony lagging behind and looking troubled so he stood still to let the bull catch up to him.

"I figured you'd catch on sooner or later, TT." Tony softly said.

"What's wrong?"

"Eh … grammar. Don't laugh, TT. It's just that I've been thinking about that wolf I still can't see. In Old Bison, which is what the Litany is in, there's an issue with transitive verbs and multiple subjects that's got me thinking. You see, a wolf chasing the herd become a second subject and without knowing about it the cadence might have got thrown off a bit. Now that I've had some more time to think about it the 'Hunter of All Flesh' should actually refer to the wolf and not the horses."

"Makes more sense than carnivorous horses."

"Yeah, then there's me wondering why my people would stick your Stone Grove all the way up north. That doesn't make much sense either."

Time Turner nodded.

"So while we’re up north looking for this mare of yours, maybe we could try to find out if there's anything you ponies may have forgotten about too? Just to be sure."

"Ponyville had a good library even before its new librarian came along. It'll be a good place to start asking questions."

"Thanks, TT! … … You know, Gramps and I never managed to get that far north: what's Ponyville like?"

Time Turner thought for a moment: "Imagine a city that doesn't look or smell like a city. Ponyville is like that. Even the newer parts of town are old fashioned. About the only modern anything is the bowling alley! Half the town still hasn't forgiven the architect."

"Sounds nice."

They walked on through the night talking about parts of Equestria that Tony hadn't seen or parts of the Land of Stampedes that Time Turner hadn't even a clue about but which Tony was pleased to describe. He started to wander if maybe he shouldn't explore the south with Tony rather than go on some grand tour that so many had gone on before him. In the back of his mind he pondered if he might also help Tony with Thingtime, what with his Grandpa no longer available.

They made Appleloosa in the in the dark hours before morning and were welcomed into the Radish home where West was afforded the foals’ bed while Time Turner and the buffalo slept on the floor.

Dreamless sleep.

Time Turner awoke and found himself buried between Chief Thunderhooves' and Tony's backs, not able to move because of their combined weight. Both were snoring.

A few moments passed before a rumbling snort announced the arrival of Strongheart who used her head to gently pry a way out for the trapped pony.

"Only two snores." she softly explained as he freed himself, then she led him away through the kitchen where the Radishes and she were keeping themselves very busy.

Out back of the Radish home a small crowd had gathered in a town meeting rather less formal and much less intimidating than the last one they had had for Time Turner's benefit. West was midway through explaining the plan referencing a map someone had produced that somehow included the area near this wolf they were to blindfold. It was soon decided that Sheriff Silverstar's jail would be the safest place to keep Tony's helpless body while he and Time Turner went north. Several of the foals in the local art class presented their designs for wolf costumes, happy to have things besides apple trees or horse drawn carriages to sketch. Modifications were suggested to make the wolves look a little less like toothy squirrels and the foals went back to work.

Before long the bulls had roused and been brought up to date by West.

"I never thought I'd be putting you in jail, Anthony!" West laughed as the doors to Sheriff Silverstar's office swung open.

Even if Chief Thunderhooves didn't find it funny, Tony seemed to enjoy the humor, at least until he'd stepped inside and his vision adjusted to the light.

He stared for a few moments at the well secured iron cage on the wall to the right of the door that held an array of lances and other sharp, pointy things. Then he grabbed hold of Jackalope and silently hugged him.

The critter produced a crow bar and tried valiantly to free himself but quickly gave up. Seemed to chitter: "What are you gonna do?" as he shrugged.

Once Tony had let go, though, "Captain Jackalope" — he was still wearing that yellow shirt with the gold braid — was quick to reinstitute his authority and proceeded to inspect both the bull and Time Turner like he was their drill sergeant.

Then he hopped back up on Tony's neck and they went through their check list. Finally Time Turner was hoisted up by West's magic.
Time Turner and the Ghost Horses, Part 1

Taking place after "Over a Barrel", Time Turner and the Ghost Horses follows my earlier story, Time Turner and the Talented Pony.


Continued in Part 2:…

Watching the episode is probably a must. As is reading the earlier story, Time Turner and the Talented Pony.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic belongs to Laruen Faust and Hasbro

What did the writer say when the file disappeared without a trace?

Well ... i'll not repeat that in polite company.

What did he learn?

To not use Notes on his new iPad simply because he had a new toy.

Also, writing with a touch screen sucks for more reasons than just editing.

Thankfully, I've still some of the story in an older form — also on Notes — and I wrote it once so I guess I can write it again, right?

I need something for this head ache....
  • Mood: Shame

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Add a Comment:
wordmongerer Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Well hello there! Thanks so much for watching, ;)
Rurudyne Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2010
You've got some great stuff!
Katmomma Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2008  Professional General Artist
Thanks so much for watching! :hug: Your kitties are so cute :D
Rurudyne Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2008
Thanks, they are cute. At least when they don't fight about who gets to sleep by my side at night they're cute — Little Bit needs to get along with her mother better.

Your kittens are cute too.
cooley Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the watch!
Rurudyne Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2008
Sure! You've got a great gallery.
cloudtheundying Featured By Owner May 27, 2008
lol first comment
in 6 months
just dropped by to say i love your work including the fur real far pieces.
i was wondering
could you possibly tell me the settings you used in each image as i would like to continue this project myself.
you could send in a note if you want.
cloudtheundying Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2008
well could you please reply?
Rurudyne Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2008
Will this thing let me "reply" rather than post or not? If so ...

Sorry, I haven't "actually been" on DeviantArt for a while ... though it's my "home page" I've been linking elsewhere almost as soon as Firefox starts up (I've been running a "Global Cooling Watch" for several months and have been on a Constitution kick too).

Anyway, sorry again, I know it's just an excuse.

And I also seem to have forgotten about the "reply" button since I was last here.... ;)

I'm really glad you like my stuff. :)

As for my fur-real work: yes, I'd be happy to share what I've got with you (files even).

I haven't really abandoned it so much as it's frustrating. Poser 6 will only use 50% of my 2 processors or else seem to ignore one — same difference (do you know how to fix that?) — and even though I've got 4 GB of memory thanks to the way that OS X uses virtual memory (and will just not let me adjust that trait so far as I can figure out) the thing wants to thrash my hard drive anyway even when I've got enough to keep the whole thing in RAM (2.5 GB free at this very moment and it's STILL using 1 GB of virtual memory ... yarg!!!) and quickly slows to a crawl when dealing with so much strand based hair for fur (the reason I've yet to actually put fur on a whole figure) when I don't. I'm not even sure the 32GB you could stick in a MacPro would solve that issue entirely (though I wish I had the disposable cash to find out ;) ).

Maybe the PC version is better?

Anyway, my only gripes about Poser is that it allots hair density by number of hairs 'evenly' per each surface grid rather than by surface area as it states (which means small ones are denser than big ones ... annoying on the face). That and I think the Mac version's memory habits are responsible for occasionally 'breaking' the pz3 files so they don't want to work with FireFly any more (start over time unless I can live with the inferior results of Poser's own engine).

Recalculating dynamics is a pain even if you only use 1 frame (LOTS of growth areas) so I've settled for calculating dynamics once I get a growth area defined that way I'm not doing them all together and having too much loose time to nab snacks. Likewise I tend to reuse shadow map is possible. Something I've had to get used to working with partially furred figures is that fur cast weird shadows on nearby bald regions ... nothing is broke if you see strange shadows on your figures skin.

Some of my efforts have been based on Jessie rather than Furrette in hopes that she would be more stable.

Other than length and length variance (0.005) my last abortive effort (I must have got distracted by something else) I didn't use growth controls. Length variance allows for a subtle sense of variation in the fur coloration using the difference between root and tip color. I have also experimented with using secondary less dense patches of slightly longer fur in the same areas that are a different color to simulate the way many animals have less than pure fur coloration (mixed results there).

I have settled on using both styling controls and dynamics for the rest.

First, because of the way Poser assigns hair density I last used 40K for body fur (though it can need to get much higher if you zoom in and it helps to match skin color to fur to make up the difference when fur density isn't quite high enough). To make up some of the difference in thin areas I long ago settled on thicker hairs (tip=1 root=4 seems to work without getting too coarse). Clumpiness is minimum (.05) because it seem to quickly makes for 'thin' areas. I also use less kink strength (1) just as a matter of preference even though I drop the kink delay to 0.1 (since fur is going to be short anyway). For 0.035 length fur 12 verts seems to work fine (which does help on processor time).

As for dynamics, my last efforts had me leave root stiffness and stiffness falloff alone even though I've experimented with very stiff fur to very limp fur. As yet I've no real preferences except that too stiff fur (for its length) is more likely to let skin show through and too limp is less likely to look like fur and more like hair or wet fur.

Fur color is another to-do. Though the tummy fur in the renders I did while writing this appear whitish, I had left them at the default blond settings. Red fur was rendered for 61R 31G 0B for the root, 128R 63G 0B for the tip, and 194R 98G 0B for specular highlights. Opaque in shadow is turned on in all cases. Values like those seem to return decent results when letting fur length vary. White fur I've done with roots as dark as black, though that often seems gray if the fur density is low, to get variation in 'color' ... most of the time I work with snow white for the tip and root with silver for the specular highlights.

I honestly don't remember what the results were for snow white specular highlights with a darker tips and roots (in a pattern like I use with the red fur above).

This is important: I eventually figured out that you don't have to be a slave to the smooth lines on the surface of your model when placing growth groups. Poser's hair routines seem to want to smooth out those jagged edges I feared early on. This makes the face, abdomen and groin a lot easier to deal with.

Also: occasionally Poser generates REALLY wild hairs when you calculate dynamics. Often just changing something minor about the hair growth or styling (even the number of verts) will solve this. Problem areas include around and below the nose on Furrette for sure.

Now, about those early efforts and the bit where the furred tail is showing. Back then I used growth controls for most effects and didn't even calculate dynamics. I actually figured that growth controls were a better vehicle to achieve predictable results. Also, I had yet to learn how clumpiness could affect the appearance of fur and you can see it in her back. They worked well but it too a lot of effort to vary the pull back a pull down to look right. On a (canine) tail this may be something like the only way though, since tail fur must not drape like ordinary hair even though body fur probably can with no issues. I never tested if that approach had issues in different poses because back then I had yet to figure out that I could drop the number of frames and boy did everything take forever.

Another thing I recall was the obscene hair densities for really short fur on the ears ... something like 300K along with using finer hairs so they don't end up looking like little pyramids or towers (I wasn't using variable length back then to simulate subtle variations in fur color).

I played around with that last abortive effort — using a pose other than just standing — while writing this note.

It seems that normal dynamics may be a bit too limp. I seem to recall that dropping root stiffness falloff gets better results than just making the root very stiff (which is what I did early on after I started actually using dynamics). Dropping root stiffness to 0.033 worked better. Zooming in to 150mm on the posing camera (to crop on her tummy to verify fur settings) I found the need to increase the hair density to 100K just to get decent results (40K was great at 25mm on the main camera).

I also played with white fur at this time as follows: root=silver, tip=mercury and specular=snow (i.e. to remind me of what I couldn't remember earlier). The results weren't bad ... maybe a bit warmer in tone with that red fur.

I should point out that I saw a tutorial somewhere on producing a fur coat where a hair density of 8000 was said to work fine ... so I just don't know why my figures require such high hair count unless A) I'm using REALLY short fur or B) they were using REALLY low levels of magnification (stepping up focal length from 25 to 150 was what made me have to increase the fur density for these trials) or C) there is just something buggy about the Mac version of Poser (and not just Poser in general when it come to using strand based hair like this). Really, all three are likely.

Also, now that I think of it, I don't think hair density affects dynamics and while it may be a pain to go back and manually adjust every growth group later, using lower density fur may help speed setting us a figure in the first place when you aren't using much magnification or doing anything specific pose-wise. Changing hair density shouldn't affect shadow maps, or so I should think. So in theory, you could set up animation with less hair to help things move along and then go back and set it up for the final run ... Oh, for global hair controls!

As for rendering, Poser's render engine creates only translucent fur but is faster and will work when a firefly "gets broken". Canceling renders may have an effect but I'm not sure I can recall that was really the case (I don't cancel them any more these days ... for SOME reason). I've yet to figure a way to fix a specific poser file once whatever happens to cause this happen, happens.

Anyway, I hope that helps you get started. Even though my wireless is as squirrelly as a Screwy Squirrel at times (I need to stop using a 'desk' that is essentially a metal cage even though it looks good and is functional as shelving) I could try to send you some of my pz file folders. Or at least one that got better results (possibly where I was concentrating on the head/face which is more fun to deal with anyway). They would be large but could be sent.


Incidentally, Maya seems to have much better fur controls, actually having a feature for that purpose ... but BOY is Maya pricey and the learning version watermarks everything (a real enthusiasm killer). Do you have Poser 7? If so maybe it has addressed some of these issues I've mentioned (using multiple processors better would be nice ... to think, if I had a G5 MacPro — like I should have bought — it could be effectively ignoring 3 cores instead of just 1).

One thing I've thought of but have not tried is this: define all hair as a gray that will stand out texture wise and substitute color into what is then essentially a B&W file by painting it with a filter in Photoshop. I know there are such filters that translate grayscale into tonal ranges ... they just don't come in the el cheapo Photoshop Elements program I have a this time (I once joked that if you buy a powerful, new computer and then put all your 5-10 year old programs and games on it ... you might be cheap). Presumably, grayscale rendering could be much faster too and this technique would allow for better variation on fur patterns (I wouldn't even try to do a calico or something with spots/stripes and define fur colors the way I've been doing ... something needs to change for that to work well. A feature that would be neat is defining individual strand color based on the skin color beneath ... so you make a pattern to paint on the skin and "Voila!": fur any which way you like it including complex or specific-to-a-character-or-animal patterns).
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