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Part The Last: Ripples



“We do have a few loose ends,” said Cookie.


“Some unfinished business,” said Pansy.


“And I suppose we can cover this, if for no better reason than to keep these two from twisting my foreleg.”  Clover indicated her companions with her chin.  “There’s no reason to leave you hanging and spoil your holiday, not over minor spoilers.  A few day’s advance notice should cause too much damage.”


“On Hearth’s Warming Morn you will get a big basket delivered,” said Pansy.  “It’s from Spike.  He really wants you to know that he’s not mad, and there are no hard feelings.  The basket is full of his Hearth’s Warming cookies, and they’re the way you like them, unfrosted.”


All three mares made faces at this.


“Oh, and Twilight Sparkle did not make him do it,” added Clover.  “This is all Spike’s idea.”


“You aren’t going loose your teaching certificate,” said Cookie.  She grinned at Quiz.  “I hope weren’t counting on using that as an excuse to get out of teaching.  You get a mark on your record, and you’re on probation.  Cheerilee will be reviewing your lesson plans very carefully.”


“That seems unusually generous,” said Quiz.  She blushed.  “I am, after all, a… pornographer.”


Accidental pornographer,” corrected Pansy.  “This is just a suggestion, but I think maybe you should read more poetry.”


“The Ponyville Board of Education had a simple choice.  Deal with angry parents who will eventually calm down, or deal with an angry Princess Luna, who won’t.  I suspect it helps that the offending poem happens to be Miss Pince Nez’s favorite.”


“And Diamond Tiara?” asked Quiz.


“She gets to think about what she did to you,” said Cookie.  “While one holiday vacation with her parents.  At least I’m sure she’s think about it, at least a bit, as she enjoys herself at the beach.  She might not even laugh.”


“Not all our stories have happy endings,” said Clover.


“Finally, you will find something in your bag that you overlooked,” said Pansy.


“And with that, I believe our work here is done,” said Clover.  “If you haven’t learned what we’ve tried to teach you, then we just can’t help you, Quizzical.”


“At the very least, I do feel better,” said Quiz.  “I take back what I said about the world being better off without me.  It seems that I have done good after all, and it feels good to know it.  The feeling is difficult to explain…”


“It’s called pride, Quiz,” said Cookie.  “You should cultivate it.  You’re entitled.”


“I shall trust you on that,” said Quiz.


There was a long silence, as the three mares stared at each other.  Finally, Cookie asked, “Is that a victory?  Do we get to count that as a victory?”


“Oh, let’s,” answered Pansy.  “This is Quiz we’re working with, after all.  Good going US!!!”


At that, the three mares rose and did a three-way high hoof.  “Founders of Equestria, Self-Worth Advisors!  Yay!!!”


“But I still don’t understand,” said Quiz.  “You made it all sound so extraordinary.  I do not feel extraordinary.  Nothing I did felt extraordinary at the time.”


“It’s all about ripples, Quizzical,” said Clover.


“Ripples?”


“Ripples,” said Clover.  “Everything we do and say in this world creates ripples.  They flow and reverberate through all of creation.  What we do to or for one pony effects the next pony they meet, and so on.”


“And you are just getting started, Little One,” said Cookie.  “It isn’t much of a spoiler to say, we expect much more from you in the future.”


“The best that we can hope for in this world, is that we create good ripples,” said Clover.


“And you, Quizzical Greystone, create ripples that are wonderful!” said Pansy.


“I think that I understand that,” said Quiz.  “What do I do now?”


“Now you go to sleep,” said Clover.


“Sleep?  But I do not feel…”


And Quiz fell asleep.


#


Quiz slowly opened her eyes.


“Oh, good.  She’s awake.”


Quiz was on the train.  Across from her sat Sunflower and Marigold.  Quiz sat up carefully when she realized her head was resting against Weaver Bird.


“How do you feel, Quiz?” asked Weaver.  “You really scared us for a while there.”


“I am well.  There is not even a headache,” said Quiz.  “What are you all doing here?”


“We all just happened to be in the station when you had your accident,” said Marigold.  “You staggered onto the train, then fell over onto the seat.  You’ve been out ever since.”


“We were chatting, and discovered how we all know you,” said Weaver.  “We’ve been kind of watching over you ever since.”


“Crazy coincidence, huh?” said Sunflower.  “Hay, why are you looking at me like that?”


“Oh, no reason,” said Quiz.


“Well, stop it, it’s creepy!”


“Sorry.  What are you all doing here, anyway?”


Sunflower pointed to a box under her seat.  “I was picking up samples.  They’re from the Everfree Forest; very rare and very valuable.  We couldn’t send them through the mail.  So, naturally, Professor Seedling sent her intern to personally carry them.”


“I’m heading home from a sales trip to Manehattan,” said Weaver.  “Rarity actually recommended me to Coco Pommel!  I have a whole bag full of orders.  I can’t wait to tell Persimmon all about it.”


“That is great news, Mrs. Bird.  Please tell your daughter that Miss Fancy Graphs said hello.”


“I’m on holiday leave,” said Marigold.  Quiz noted, quite happily, that there was not paint hiding the bright yellow mark on her forehead.  Quiz also saw that Marigold sported brand new corporal’s chevrons.


“Then you are doing well at your new post, Miss Marigold?”


“Oh, sure.  I really like Eutaw County.  It’s… interesting.  And some of the egg heads at the base need keepers even more than you did, Quiz.  I got passed over by the honor guard again, but I didn’t do that badly trying out.  Maybe next year.  Until then, I’m happy where I am.”


“That is very good news,” said Quiz.


“Um… are you looking at me funny now?  What gives, Quiz?”  asked Marigold.


“Never mind, it is nothing.”  Quiz’s brow furrowed in deep thought.  “I might have heard their voices, in my sleep...could my mind have inserted them into my dream...was it all a dream after all?”


“What was that, Quiz?” asked Weaver.


“Oh, I was formulating a hypothesis.  But it is not important.  It is most likely wrong.”


“Are you sure you’re okay, Quiz?”


“Oh, yes.  I have never felt better.”


The train pulled into the Canterlot station.  Through the window Quiz could see her parents and her older brother.  They waited on the platform, standing with dignified good cheer.  Beside them was Quiz’s little sister Delight, bouncing up and down without restraint, in completely unashamed excitement.


Quiz was on her feet, and went to the door before aisle could fill with passengers.


“Quiz!”  called Weaver.  “Slow down.  You’ve been out of it all the way from Ponyville!”


“But I feel wonderful,” Quiz answered.  “I cannot be held back.”


Quiz was out the door while it was still opening.


“Quiz!” cried Delight.  She dashed towards her sister.  “Quizguizquizquizquiz!!!”


Quiz made the mistake of trying to catch her.  When the sisters were finally untangled, and the rest of the family had helped them up, there were hugs all around.


“I will have us all home soon,” said Chisel Greystone VII.  “It will only take a moment to get our carriage.  But I must first go to the cafe across the street, where I sent our draft stallions to stay warm while we waited.”


    While they waited for her father and the carriage Quiz went to a troupe of Celestial Army volunteers, who were ringing bells in front of the station, dressed as the Founders of Equestria.  As she stood by the bright yellow kettle, Quiz looked in her bag for some loose change.  The moment she opened the bag she remembered that she didn’t have any change.  Then she found three one bit coins, which appeared to have been caught in the pages of her notebook.  Quiz used her magic to drop the coins in the kettle.


    “Thank you, young filly,” said the mare dressed as Clover the Clever.  “Your contribution is appreciated.”


    “Yes, Ma’am, I know,” said Quiz.  “Merry Hearth’s Warming to you.”


The volunteers rang their bells with vigor, and cried, “Merry Hearth’s Warming.”

Part Five: Private Marigold



Everypony in the train car looked at Pansy.  She edged over close to the window, and tried to shrink into the corner between the bench seat and the wall.


“I suppose you all want me to take my turn now?” she wailed.


“Yes, please, Dearie,” said Cookie.


“You haven’t actually pick a life to show Quiz yet, have you?” asked Clover.


“Only because you won’t let me do the one I want!  I want to do Miss Falling Star.”


“No, Pansy.  We can’t show her the future,” said Clover.  “Quiz and Star haven’t even met yet.”


“It would be a spoiler, Pansy,” said Cookie.


“But they’re so important to each other,” cried Pansy.  “Star is Quiz’s first personal assistant.”


“Personal assistant?” asked Quiz.  “Me?”


“Never mind, young filly,” said Clover, sternly.  “Now stop it, Pansy.”


“Pansy does have a point,” mused Cookie.  “Star does become indispensable.  Quiz would have never made it through her first book signing tour without her.”


“Cookie!  Don’t you start, too!”


“Not to mention the lecture series,” said Pansy.


“Pansy!”


“Oh, that is just absurd,” said Quiz.  “If you wish to be taken seriously you shall need a less ridiculous story.  You are, as my friends would say, just messing with me now.”


“We are serious,” said Pansy, sounding a little hurt.  “And it’s not that ridiculous.”

“If they hide the line in another room where you can’t see them you only have to deal with one autograph seeker at a time,” said Cookie.


“And if the stage is lit so you can barely make out only the first row you can lecture…. Blazes, now you have me doing it!”  Clover looked skyward, holding her forelegs wide as if imploring the heavens.  “Pansy, please just take Quiz to her last vision.”


“Very well.  I know where I want to go, I think.  Quiz, in the previous visions you saw how you changed pony’s lives.  This will be a little different.  I’m going to show you a pony you convinced not to change their life.”   Pansy offered Quiz a wing, and Quiz took it.


The world changed.


#


It was late at night in the Royal Archives.  The only light came from the lanterns carried by patrolling guards, and a lamp on one table.


A bat pony mare, in a guard’s uniform, approached the little unicorn studying at the table, and spoke softly.  “It’s very late, Quiz.  You should call it a night.  I know you have an early morning class.”


Pansy giggled.  “When the guards start learning your class schedule, it’s a sign you may be spending too much time here.  Clover wasn’t entirely correct about you never using your Royal visitor’s pass.  You used it a lot, but only get into the Archives at all hours.”


“It is my favorite place in all of Canterlot,” said Quiz.  “I enjoyed working here even more than at Joe’s.  I found it comforting to be surrounded by ancient texts.  And the courtesy and respect I was shown by the guards was nice.”


“They treated you better than your classmates did?” asked Pansy.


“Very much so,” said Quiz.  “Private Marigold in particular was very good to me.”


In the vision, Quiz closed the book she was reading and began loading her papers and quills into her bag.  “You are right, Miss Marigold.  I have accomplished enough for one night.  But you need not worry about me.  I am a functional insomniac.  I need little rest.”

“Never tell a member of the Guard what they should or should not worry about,” said Marigold.  “We like to decide that for ourselves.  I don’t like to see day ponies out all night, it isn’t natural.  Especially growing little ponies like you.”


Watching this, Quiz shook her head and sighed.  “Miss Marigold is one of many ponies who believe my late night habits stunted my growth.  I reject this hypothesis.  I wish ponies would stop worrying about how small I am.”


    “That ponies worry about you is a good thing, Quiz, said Pansy.

    

    In the Archive, Quiz took her books to a rack for reshelving then turned to leave.  Marigold followed her.  “Miss Marigold, do you mean to walk me back to my dorm again?  It is not actually necessary.”


    “I’ll be the judge of that, Quiz,” said Marigold.  “It is not the policy of the Guard to allow young Equestrian citizens to wander the streets, alone in the dark.  Besides, if I leave you alone you’ll have your notebook out all the way and you’ll never see the lamp post you walk into.”


    “That only happened once,” said Quiz.  “I have since become quite good at walking and writing.”


    Marigold ignored her.  At the exit she spoke to the door guard.  “Sarge, I’m walking the kid home.  Sign me out for a few minutes, will you?”


    “Take your time, Private.  It’s a quiet night,” said the Sergeant.  “Good night, Quiz.”


    “Good night, Sir.”


    They walked along an empty street, Marigold standing close to Quiz.  She was constantly scanning the street ahead, and looking into every shadow.


    “It seems odd to be escorted,” said Quiz.  “This is the safest district in the city.”


    “Well, there’s a catch,” said Marigold.  “It’s safe because we patrol here.  If we weren’t here it wouldn’t be so safe.  So, we have to put up with a little boredom so ponies like you don’t get more excitement than you need.”


    “I notice that you are painting your forehead again,” said Quiz.  “That is a shame.  Your blaze is very pretty.”

    Marigold had the dark coat most common to bat ponies, but she did sport one patch of color.  She had a bright yellow, flower shaped blaze.  “Yeah, I’d like to show it off, especially since it’s why my folks gave me my name.  But I don’t want to stand out.  I still want to get into Princess Luna’s honor guard.  A perfectly dressed line of guards looks sharpest when they all look alike.”


    “But Princess Luna has said she does not discriminate based on coat color,” said Quiz.


    “Yes, but that’s for honored veterans.  A pony like me, who hasn’t won any honors yet, can’t afford to stand out.  We thestrals are traditionalists, we don’t change our attitudes very quickly.  And honor guard commanders are especially old fashioned.  But it probably doesn’t matter.”


    “Is something wrong?” asked Quiz.


    Marigold shrugged.  “I can’t get into the honor guard, I can’t get transferred out of Archive duty at all.  And it isn’t satisfying anymore.  In all the time I’ve been there we haven’t a single intruder.  Some of the scrolls may be priceless, but they’re too well protected to try and steal.  No when anypony could read and copy them just by filling out an application.  The Archives are for the public, after all.”


    “I am sorry that you are unhappy in your work, Miss Marigold,” said Quiz.


    “Don’t be sorry,” said Marigold.  “You’re giving me a welcome break.  I signed up to protect ponies, not scrolls.  This is a more satisfying duty.  Don’t get me wrong, the Archive is a national landmark.  It should be guarded.  I was proud to do that at first.  Just not anymore.  Anyway, I have a cousin who’s starting an orchard.  He’ll take me on as a partner if I want.  I’m thinking of doing that instead of re-enlisting.”


    “Oh,” said Quiz.  “But being a guardian is in your nature.  All the while, as we walked and talked, you have remains constantly alert and scanning everything.  That is a part of what you are.  Would you be happy if you gave that up?”


    “Well… probably not,” admitted Marigold.  “I’ll have to give it more thought.”


    They came to Quiz’s dormitory.  Marigold used the door knocker to summon the night porter, who unlocked the door for Quiz.  


    “Thank you for walking me, Miss Marigold,” said Quiz.  “It is safe, and I am not afraid to be alone in the dark.  Yet it feels good to be escorted.  It is comforting.  I would miss this service.”

    Marigold waited until Quiz was inside and the door was again closed and locked.  Then she spread her wings and flew back to the Archive.


    The world changed.


    #


    “It continues to amaze me that the Archive guards troubled themselves walking me home,” said Quiz.  “Yet every night I worked late one of them would leave their post to escort me.”


    “Well, Quiz,” said Pansy.  “What a soldier wants very badly is a sense of purpose.  Protecting a quiet, unchallenged building does not provide that.  Protecting one little pony does.”


    “I… believe I understand that.  I must make… darn it, where is my notebook?  I have been trying to summon it all night and it does not come to me.”  Quiz began hunting through her bag.


    “I took it from you,” said Clover.  “And I’ve been blocking your teleport object spell.  We wanted this to be a notebook free evening.”


    “Bother,” grumbled Quiz.


    “But back on topic,” said Pansy.  “Marigold decided not to muster out.  Do you know where she is now, Quiz?”


    “Yes.  I have heard that she was transferred to the guard unit at Big Butte.  She is part of the night patrol at the aerospace center…” Quiz went pale.  “Oh, dear…”


    “Oh, now don’t you worry,” said Pansy.  “Military personnel are never close to any accident, not the way the civilian experimenters are.  It’s the opposite, in fact.  If there’s an accident, guards are there to act as first responders.  Many ponies might be saved.  Marigold might have an opportunity to demonstrate her bravery and valiantly come to the rescue. She might even win a commendation, and be awarded a medal…”


    “Pansy!” snapped Clover.


    “It’s not a spoiler, Clover.  I said it might happen, not that it would.”


    Clover snorted with disgust.  “I suppose you think you’re being clever.”


    “A little bit,” said Pansy.  “Anyway, we have to make one more stop.  Quiz must see what happens if nopony tries to talk Marigold out of leaving the service.”


    The world changed.


    #


    Marigold flew over the fence line of her orchard, the setting sun reflecting orange-red off her wings.  She stopped and hovered at a tree she picked at random, and inspected the leaves for insect infestation.  


    “Hay, cousin!” called Flying Fox.  “You’re up before sunset, as usual.  And still patrolling the perimeter?”


    “Yeah,” said Marigold, settling to the ground beside him.  “But these days all I’m guarding against is caterpillars and chinch bugs.”


    “Maybe.  So you don’t have much to guard against, look at all you have the guard!”  Flying Fox swept the acres of fruit trees with a wing.  He picked a ripe pear and bit into it.  The fruit deflated like a balloon, and Fox discarded the rind.  “It’s a good life, Marigold.”


    “I guess you’re right,” said Marigold.


    The world changed.


    #


    “And it is a good life,” said Pansy.  “Marigold isn’t satisfied, but she has hard work keep her mind off that.  Eventually, she’ll start a family.  She’ll have many little foals to protect.  As alternate realities go, it isn’t bad at all.  But this is not Marigold’s best destiny.”


    “I see,” said Quiz.  “I have a question.  But I am afraid it will anger Miss Clover if I ask.”


    Clover grimached.  “Oh, fine, go ahead.  Pansy’s already put the idea in your head, so I guess it can’t hurt any more.”


    “Thank you, Miss Clover,”  said Quiz.  “You say Marigold might someday rescue ponies from an accident.  If she never goes to Big Butte what becomes of them?”


    “Oh, dear,” said Pansy.  “Well, Quiz, if there rescuer is not there then these ponies… um… er… will not be rescued.”


    Quiz shuddered.


    “Oh, and you should remember that Marigold has a long career ahead of her,” said Pansy.  “This is just the first of many acts of valor she might someday perform.”


    “Pansy!”


“I said might, Clover.”
Wonderful: Part 5
Chapter 6 here <da:thumb id="501850750">
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Part Four: Weaver Bird

        “There, there, Quiz,” soothed Pansy.  “It didn’t happen.  It was in another reality that never existed.  Sunflower is fine.”

        Quiz did not stir.

        “Besides, you don’t believe in us,” Cookie pointed out.  “It was an illusion created by illusions.  That puts your friend two steps removed from real danger.”

        “I don’t think that’s helping, Cookie,” said Pansy.

        “Oh, surely Quizzical doesn’t actually believe the vision came from her subconscious,” said Clover.  “You do trust your subconscious, don’t you, Quizzical?”

        Quiz sat up and shook her head.  “No, Miss Clover.  Oh, no.  Not at all.”

        “Well, Clover likes to lead with strength,” said Cookie.  “Which I’ve been told is not the same as showing off…”

        “No, they’re actually very different,” said Clover.

        

        “So you tell me,” said Cookie.  “Anyhow, that was probably the most drama you can expect from this evening, Quiz.  And I have a bonus for you.  You don’t star in the next vision.”

        “Oh, how are you going to do that?” asked Clover.  “You can’t show the girl her life without her!”

        “Quiz has a cameo,” said Cookie.  “We can begin any time you feel steady enough, Quiz.”

        “Apparently, this evening will never end until you feel you are done with me,” said Quiz.  “So, I am ready to continue.”

        Cookie held out a leg to Quiz.  “Take my hoof.”

        The world changed.

#

        Quiz stood next to Cookie in Pony Joe’s Doughnut Shop.  In the corner furthest from door, Quizzes younger self sat alone.  Books, papers, and drafting tools were spread over her table, leaving just barely enough room for a mug of cocoa.

        “I like this place,” said Cookie.  “I wish we’d had something like this back in my day.”

        “I am also very fond of Pony Joe’s,” said Quiz.  “I would often come to work here, particularly when my dorm mates were enjoying themselves a bit loudly.  It is somehow more comfortable than the library.”

        A mare in an apron and a waitress’ cap crept quietly up Quiz's table and replaced the mug of cocoa with a fresh one.

    “I knew it,” said Quiz.

    “Knew what?” asked Cookie.  The way she was smirking indicated that she knew the answer.

    “The waitress is Mrs. Weaver Bird,” said Quiz.  “I would often concentrate so deeply on my work that I would forget all about my cocoa.  Yet it was almost always warm.  I knew Mrs. Bird was sneaking me a fresh mug all along.”

    “That’s right nice of her,” said Cookie.  “Oh, look, you have an audience.”

    A little peach colored filly, not yet school aged, was watching Quiz work.  She seemed utterly fascinated.

    “Oh, dear,” said Quiz.  “Is there any way we can nudge me?  Otherwise it will be a long time before she can get my attention.”

    “Sorry, Quiz,” said Cookie.  “You’re just going to have to wait for you.”

    Eventually, younger Quiz did look up long enough to see that she was being watched.  She set her marking pen and her t-square down and said, “Hello.”

    “Hi,” said the filly.  “I’m Persimmon.  Whatcha doing?”

    “My name is Quiz.  I am making a graph for a term paper,” said Quiz.  Quiz floated her work over to where the filly could see it better.  “The colored bars show how large the five most important crops in Equestria are.  The ones with the purple borders are today, the ones with the black borders are how large they were one hundred years ago.”

    Persimmon regarded the graph critically.  “It’s pretty.  But you should have put the green one in between the red and orange ones, they look too much alike.  And you didn’t use any blue.  Blue’s my favorite.  Everything looks better with blue.”

    “Clearly, I did not give color enough thought,” said Quiz.  “Are you Mrs. Bird’s daughter?  She is a very good waitress.”

    “My Mommy isn’t a waitress!” exclaimed Persimmon.  “She says that’s just her day job.  My Mommy is a fabric designer.”

    “I see,” said Quiz.  “That must be how you know so much about colors.”

    “Sure,” said Persimmon.  She turned her head and opened her bulging saddle bag with her mouth.  It was so full of colored markers that several spilled out.  “Do you need any more colors? I’ve got lots.  I have sixteen shades of blue!”

    Quiz used her magic to pick up the dropped markers for Persimmon.  “I have enough, thank you.  But I will seek your advice on my next project, I think.  So, your mother designs fabric?”

    “Yeah.  Sometimes she prints it, and sometimes she weaves it right into the fabric with colored thread.”  Persimmon frowned.  “But mostly she just draws.  Weaving takes a lot of time, and Mommy doesn’t have a lot of time.”

    “Persimmon!”  Weaver Bird had returned from the kitchen.  “Don’t bother Miss Quizzical, she’s a very busy girl.”

    “It is alright, Mrs. Bird,” said Quiz.  “She has been advising me on color selection.  Persimmon has been very helpful.”

            The world changed.

    

#

            They were back on the train.

    “This sparked an idea for you, didn’t it, Quiz?” asked Cookie.

    “It occurred to me that I was in a position to do something for Mrs. Bird,” said Quiz.  “I admit, I felt a little guilty.  I had seen Mrs. Bird drawing in her notebook, though only when business was very slow.  I never asked about the designs she was creating.  I did not want to pry, really.  But it must have seemed as if I did not care.”

    “Then you dove into the project whole hog,” said Cookie.  “The way you tend to do.”

    “You went out of your way to visit Joe’s when business was slowest,” said Pansy.  “You chatted with Weaver Bird every chance you had.  She thought you just wanted someone to talk to.  What you were really doing was gathering information.”

    “You hit the books, of course,” said Clover.  “You read everything your school had on textiles, and all the trade journals.  Then you went to the library at the little trade school where Weaver got her degree.  You actually talked to their career councilor.”

    “You put in a lot of hoof work,” said Cookie.  “You talked to the managers of fabric stores.  You interviewed dressmakers and tailors.  You spoke with weavers…”

    “Please,” said Quiz, holding up a leg to get their attention.  “You make it sound as if I have done something extraordinary.  I put little more effort into this than any other research project.  It was quite interesting work, actually.”

    The three mares collectively heaved a heavy sigh.

    “Quiz, you should stop being casually dismissive about everything you do,” said Pansy.  “Everypony you know would be relieved if you did.”

    “I… um… think I might have been told that,” muttered Quiz.

    “Anyway, three months later your ‘research project’ was complete,” said Cookie.  “Let’s see how it turned out.”

    The world changed.

    

#

    Quiz and Cookie had returned to Pony Joe’s.  The bells over the door rang, and Quiz turned to see herself leaving.

    Weaver Bird went to clean Quiz's table.  There, held down by a few bits for a tip, was a folder filled with documents.  A note stuck to the folder read “Mrs. Bird, please consider this.  Quizzical.”  She began paging through it.

    “What the hay is this?”

    “That...,” said Pony Joe, who had come up behind Weaver and was reading over her shoulder.  “...appears to be an application for a microloan from the Greystone Foundation.”

    “Is this a joke?  The kid thinks I need charity?!”

    Watching this, Quiz cringed.  “I never meant to upset her so,”

    “Shhh!  Watch what happens,” said Cookie.

    “It’s not charity,” said Joe.  “It’s a low interest small business loan with no collateral and no time limit.  It’s an investment in the future.  It says so right there in their pamphlet.”

    “It’s a bunch of swells giving hand outs so they can feel good about themselves!”  Weaver waved her legs about in agitation.  “I am not going to become some worthless little socialite’s pet!”

    “Excuse me!”  Joe glared at her.  “Are we talking about the same filly here?  Quiet, polite, always over tips?  Lugging a big ol stack of books around, papers spread all over the table, working all the time?  Usually so deep in her work she doesn’t notice anything around her?  Yeah, she’s definitely ‘worthless little socialite’ material.”

    Weaver looked away.  “Okay, I’m sorry.  That was unfair.  She is a good kid.  And Persimmon loves her.  She asks all the time, ‘Mommy, did you see the filly who talks funny today?’”

    “Hay, don’t let her hear you say that,” said Joe.

    “Ooops!”  Cookie blushed.

    “It is alright, Miss Cookie,” said Quiz.  “I am aware of Persimmon’s nickname for me.  She also calls me ‘Miss Fancy Graphs.’  I find it cute.”

    “This is overwhelming!”  Weaver was spinning about in a complete dither.  “What am I supposed to do with this?”

    “Well, since she filled out the whole form for you I think you just sign it and send it in,” said Joe.  “Quiz even included a self addressed, stamped envelope.”

    “That’s not what I meant!”

    Joe snickered.  “What you do is you get the money, you take a couple weeks to make a bunch of samples, and peddle them around town.”

    “I can’t just drop everything and start a business!  I don’t have a business plan!”

    “Yeah, you do,” said Joe, holding up a document.  “Quiz wrote you one.”

    “I am not comfortable with this.”  Weaver began pacing in a circle.

    Joe scanned the business plan.  “Estimated expenses, potential markets, ...she even calculated the wear and tear on your loom.  Oh, cool, Quiz included graphs.  I should have expected that.”

    “I’m not ready for this!”  Weaver fluttered her hooves in front of her face.  “I am so not ready for this!”

    “Well, just when were you going to start that business you’ve been dreaming about?” asked Joe.

    “When I’ve saved a little more…”

    “You can’t keep putting it off,” said Joe.  “Or eventually you are going to change it from ‘your business savings’ to ‘Persimmon’s college fund.’”

    “What if I’m turned down?  Why should I get my hopes up?”

    “See this letter of recommendation?  Quiz wrote it directly to the Foundation Director.  Her mother.  I think you’re preapproved.  Oh, and it says you qualify for matching funds from the Royal Department of Commerce.  When you apply, remember to include this letter Quiz got you from Princess Luna.”

    Weaver grabbed Joe by the shoulders.  “I can’t do this, Joe.  How can I take this money?”

    “Come with me.”  Joe half led, half dragged Weaver back to his office.  He pointed to a dusty, framed certificate.  It was easy to overlook it among the clutter of mementos tacked to the wall.  “There!  Greystone Foundation Microloan number eight.  I was an early adopter.”

    “You?”

    “Me.” Joe nodded.  “Back then I didn’t have the shop, just a cart.  Once a week I use to ride the rail spur up into the mountains.  What I didn’t sell on the train I’d take out to the Greystone quarry.  Quizzes’ dad would call a break and buy it all for his workers.  I always like him; Chisel Greystone worked as hard as anyone on his payroll.  I owe my business to getting that loan.  Ponies like the Greystones are why I can stand the so called elite.”

    “If I do this. how are you going to get through breakfast rush all alone?”  It sounded like a weak excuse even to Weaver.

    Joe wave it off, then pointed to a stack of papers on his desk.  “I get a ton of job applications from poor students every semester.  I might have to hire a couple of them to replace you.  Maybe three.”

    “Wow,” gasped Weaver.  “I’m really going to do this, aren’t I?”

    “If you don’t, you are going to break the poor kid’s heart,” said Joe.  “And then you’ll have to deal with me, because I will be very mad at you.”

    The world changed.

    

#

    “I think that went quite well, don’t you, Quiz?” asked Cookie.  She leaned back in her train seat and stretched.

    “It went as I anticipated,” said Quiz.  “Mrs. Bird’s fabrics are popular with the clothiers of Canterlot.  And I have been able to recommend them to Miss Rarity.  She has become a very good customer.”

    “Don’t you try to dismiss this as no big deal,” said Cookie.  “I could show you what life is like for Weaver Bird without you, but there’s no point.  You’ve already seen it.  For her it’s just more of the same. Each year she dreams she’ll start her business ‘next year.’  Next year never comes.  The dream fades to little more than a daydream.  Weaver will still fill notebooks with designs, she can’t help herself.  But she never shows them to anypony.  Eventually, she’ll spend the money she set aside on Persimmon’s college fund.”

    “Speaking of Persimmon,” said Pansy, “She enjoys the birthday gifts you’ve sent her very much.”

    Quiz almost smiled.  “I enjoy sending them.  And every time I believe I have run out of shades of blue marker, the art supply companies invent more.”

Wonderful: Part4
Chapter 5 here <da:thumb id="501850301">
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Wonderful


Part Three: Sunflower



Quiz and Clover were in a corridor, watching a small green colt and a skinny, gray filly.

    “You are forcing your spells,” said the filly.  “Concentrate not on gathering magic to power the spell.  Instead, focus on the result you desire. Your spell work will actually be better, with less effort.”

    “Thank you, Miss,” said the grateful little colt being coached.

    “Not ‘Miss.’  I am only a student, just like you.  My name is Quiz.”

    “My word,” said Quiz, as she watched herself.  “I have not grown at all, have I?”

    “Don’t worry about it, Quizzical,” said Clover.  “Your slight frame is much sturdier than most ponies suspect.  Now, do you recognize this place?”

    Quiz nodded.  “This is Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.  It is near the end of my freshman year, on entrance exam day.  The colt is Leafy Glade.  He is about to try out for next year’s class of incoming freshman.”

    “And how does he do?” asked Clover.

    “Quite well,” said Quiz.  “And he was still doing well when last I saw him.  Leafy and I did not speak very often, though.  He makes friends easily and has many of them.  He did not need me.  I find this vision odd.  Why would my subconscious bring me to this memory?”


I brought you here, Quizzical, I believe we have been over this,”  said Clover.  “As for Leafy not needing you because of his many other friends, I believe he would dispute this with you.  If you chanced to meet on the street right now I think you’ll find him delighted to see you again.  But Leafy Glade is not the pony I have brought you here to see.  Ah, here she comes.”

“Why are you helping these losers, Quiz-ik-al?!”  A bright yellow unicorn,  older and much larger than Quiz, stomped up to her.  “What did you expect to gain, anyway?”

       “Actually, I only saw that I could be of help, so I offered my assistance.  That is all, Sunflower.”

“Do you remember her?” asked Clover.

“Of course,” said Quiz.  “It would be impossible to forget Sunflower.”

       “Oh, just let them fail, Drone!”said Sunflower.  “We already have enough dweebs around here as it is.  What did you think, they would be grateful, and make you Queen of the dweebs?!  Try again, Quiz-ik-al!”

       Seeing that the bully’s attention was focused on Quiz instead of himself, the colt took advantage of the moment and scurried away.  This left his benefactor alone to face Sunflower.

       “I thought no such thing,” said Quiz.  “I only meant to be helpful, actually. It seemed the right thing to do.”

       “Sure you did, Drone,” sneered Sunflower.  “Well, if you think this is going to make you any friends, you can forget it!  As soon as these foals find out what a lonesome loser you are they are going to forget all about you.  Oh, they might try to take advantage of you around midterms and finals, but they won’t ever really be your friends.  Stone the Drone doesn’t get to have any friends!”

       “That was never my motive,” said Quiz.  “Actually, I have noticed, Sunflower, that you also have a tendency to force your spells as well.  I could…”

       Actually you better learn not to correct your betters, Drone!”


    “Well, I’ve heard quite enough of her,” said Clover.  “Let’s go someplace where she has less to say.”


    The world changed.


    #


    “That really is quite extraordinary,” said Quiz.  “Normally, if there is a transition this drastic in a dream the nausea it induces is enough to wake me.”


    “This is not a dream,” said Clover.  “Pay attention, Quizzical.”


    They were in one of the magic laboratories the school allowed students to sign out for private practice sessions.  The only occupant was Sunflower.  She stood with her back to a bookshelf.  Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut, her face was scrunched up with effort.  She held her breath.  Sunflower’s horn glowed, and the intensity of the light grew and grew.


    Nothing happened.


    Sunflower turned to the bookcase and screamed, “Stupid book!


    She telekinetically grabbed a book off the shelf and hurled it at a wall.


    “I hate this spell!  I hate it, I hate it!”  Sunflower sobbed tears of frustration.  A moment later she was just sobbing.


    A soft voice came from the room’s door.  “Sunflower?”


    “Go away, Quiz-ik-al!” snapped Sunflower.  She turned to hide her face.  “I’ve reserved this room for the next hour!”


    “It is about the Teleport Object spell, is it not?” asked Quiz.  “I could help you with it, if you let me.”


    “What?”


    “You are forcing the spell, and that is counter productive,” said Quiz.  “It actually requires relatively little power.  Less power and more control actually makes the spell easier.”


    “That’s easy for you to say.  You’re better than anypony at teleporting objects.  You’re three years younger than me and you’re better than…”  Sunflower trailed off, finishing the sentence in a whisper.  “...I’ll ever be.”


    “Yes, I am very good at this spell,” said Quiz.  “That is actually a good reason to accept my help.”


    “You… why would you help me?”


    Quiz ignored the question.  “It is a required spell, Sunflower.  You must learn it to remain at the school.  Let me help you.”


    Sunflower stared at her.  Eventually she nodded. “Yes, please.”


    Quiz walked over to Sunflower.  “Begin by calming yourself.  I know this will be difficult, as you find me so very, very annoying.  But you must be centered.  When you are ready to begin, close your eyes and form a mental picture of the book…”


    Quiz watched herself and cringed.  “Must we watch the entire lesson, Miss Clover?  My voice is unbearable.  I must thank Sweetie Belle once again for her vocal lessons.  And I say ‘actually’ every other sentence.  I am very glad to be cured of that habit.”


    “Firstly, you should be heartened to see how much you have grown and improved,” said Clover.  “Secondly, notice how you convey information simply and clearly.  For all your faults, you are quite good at this.  Now watch and learn.”


    It went on for almost two hours, through Sunflower’s reserved time in the room,. and then through Quiz’s.  Quiz gently coached Sunflower through every step, and Sunflower fought her most of the way.  As Quiz explained, “This spellwork teaches you patience, as improvement is in very small increments.  Without patience it can be very discouraging.”  Sunflower had very little patience to begin.  Luckily, Quiz had more than enough for both of them.


    Eventually, Sunflower said, “I think I feel it.  Yes, I don’t just see the book, I feel it!”


    “Good,” said Quiz.  “You are ready to teleport it.”


    “I can’t!”


    “You can.  I have seen you teleport objects you can see.  Do the same with the book.”


    “It’s not the same!”


    “It is the same.  You see the book in your mind’s eye.  Teleport it.”


    Sunflower took a deep breath.  Her horn brightened.  There was a soft ‘pop,’ then the book was floating in front of Sunflower.


    “I did it!” cried Sunflower.  She began to bounce up and down.  The book, forgotten, fell to the floor.  “Quiz, I did it!  I did it, I did it!”


    “Of course,” said Quiz.  “I think I said you would, actually.”


    “And there you go, Quizzical,” said Clover.  “You have just taught your first student.  It’s a shame you don’t wish to pursue a career in education.  It looks promising to me.”


    The world changed.


    #


    It was another study room, another bookshelf, on another day.  Quiz and Sunflower were alone.


    “I can’t feel the book,” said Sunflower.  “You moved it!”


    “Yes I did,” said Quiz.  


    “That’s a dirty trick!”


    “I do not do this to tease you,” said Quiz.  “You will be tested on this.  Reach out and find the book.”


    Sunflower closed her eyes, but gave up and opened them almost immediately.  “Why is this stupid spell required, anyway?”


    Quiz in the vision and Quiz watching her answered together, “It is meant to humble a young unicorn.”


    Clover chuckled.  “Just watch the vision, Quizzical.  Don’t try to join in.”


    “Humble?” asked Sunflower.


    Quiz nodded.  “Many unicorns are attracted to magic study because of power.  They learn they can gather elemental forces and use them to alter reality.  The more powerful and flashy the magic the more intoxicating they find it.  Then, they are faced with this simple little spell that requires little power, but tremendous patience and control.  Some learn from this, and train themselves to cast spells with more discipline and finesse.  Some do not.  These unicorns do not go far in their studies.”


    Sunflower looked hurt.  “Do you think I need to be humbled, Quiz?”


    “I think it is not my place to say,” said Quiz.  “Find the book, Sunflower.”


    She tried again and swiftly gave up again.  “This is the least fun I’ve had since I go to this school.  How did you get so good at this, anyway?”


    “I am no fun,” said Quiz.  “Also, it plays to my strengths.  Patience, attention to detail, control, focus, discipline.  You know, all the boring things most ponies dislike.”


    Clover snorted.  “Just like you, to list all your strengths, then dismiss them as boring.  It’s a shame you still do that, Quizzical.”


    “There’s more to it than that, isn’t there?” asked Sunflower.


    Quiz sighed.  “Yes.  You and your friends pick on me by stealing my things.  I was forced to master this spell to get my possessions back.”


    “Oh.”  There was a long, uncomfortable silence.


    “Find the book, Sunflower,” Quiz finally said.


    Sunflower closed her eyes and concentrated.  After a moment her eyes went wide with amazement.  “Found it!  You only moved it one shelf down?”


“I did not want it to be too much of a challenge your first time,” said Quiz.  “To hide the book more thoroughly would be just mean.”


The world changed.


#


Quiz watched herself open the door to her dorm room.  She was immediately swept off her hooves by Sunflower.  “Quiz, I passed!  I passed! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!!”


“Um… that is… good…”  Quiz sounded unbearably uncomfortable.  “Congratulations… Sunflower...”


“When a pony hugs you, you should hug them back,” said Sunflower.


“Really?” said Quiz, remaining stiff as a statue.  “I shall take your word for it.”


Watching this, Quiz shook her head.  “It has taken me much too long to learn to appreciate hugs.  Even now, there are fewer than a dozen ponies I will accept one from.”


“You keep getting better, Dear,” said Clover.  She put a leg over Quizzes shoulders, and drew her in for a hug.  Quiz flinched and went stiff, which Clover seemed to think was funny.


Sunflower let Quiz go.  “You saved my life, Quiz.  You really did.”


“You should not exaggerate, Sunflower,” said Quiz.


“Well, whatever,” said Sunflower.  “Look, I want you to know, we won’t pick on you anymore.  I’ll talk to the other girls, they’ll listen to me.  I’m kinda the queen bee.  And we won’t ever steal your stuff ever again.”


“Thank you,” said Quiz.  “I can display the drawings my little sister sends me by my bed, and they will not be taken down?”


“You bet.”


“I would appreciate that very much.”


The world changed.


#


Clover and Quiz were back on the train.


“Do I have to star in all of these visions?” asked Quiz.  “I do not enjoy it.  I am not entertaining.”


The three mares looked at each other, then looked away and tried not to laugh.  “We are going to have to agree to disagree on that,” said Cookie.


“I have a question,” said Pansy.  “Sunflower asked this, and you never answered, Quiz.  Why did you help her?  She was your bully, your tormentor.  Why help her?”


“She was crying.”  This explanation seemed to suffice for Quiz.


“We need to make one more stop,” said Clover.  “We haven’t actually come to the part where you change her life.”


“Really?”


“Really.”


The world changed.


#


Quiz and Sunflower were alone in Sunflower’s room.  Quiz was grading a practice exam.  “You have aced this.  You are ready for the mid-term.”


“Yeah!” cried Sunflower, tossing a pillow into the air in celebration.  “What I’m really ready for is a break.”


Quiz nodded.  “Rest is part of preparation.”  Sunflower reclined on her bed, going limp as the stress of cramming left her.


Watching the vision, Quiz noted, “I remember this moment.  I had studied with Sunflower many times…”


“As well as many other ponies,” interrupted Clover.  “You would study with any pony who asked you nicely.”


“Yes, yes,” said Quiz.  “I do actually get this.  I helped many of my schoolmates study for exams.  But this is the first time I spoke with Sunflower about anything besides school work.”


Clover beamed at Quiz.  “I am encouraged that you noticed this.”


In the vision, Quiz pointed to a flower in a bell jar by the window.  “I have actually been admiring this, Sunflower.  It is quite beautiful.”


The flower was glossy black, and roughly triangular.  At the bloom’s center there were deep red markings that formed a diamond.


“Yes, she is beautiful,” said Sunflower.  “She’s my alicorn orchid.”


“Was it a gift?” asked Quiz.


Sunflower sat up abruptly.  “Oh, no!  I grew her!  They’re very rare, and they’re tough to cultivate.  You have to pass a certification test with the Royal Botanical Society just to get a cutting, and even then only one in ten survives.  I’ve been growing her since I was eight.  I don’t know if any other filly has ever been given an alicorn orchid cutting to care for.”


In the vision, Quiz looked confused.  Watching this, Quiz understood why.  “As I knew her, I had seen Sunflower haughty, boastful, arrogant, and absolutely pompous. I had never seen her proud.  Here she is brimming with pride.”


“I do not understand,” said Quiz, in the vision.  “You have taken no courses in horticulture, botany, or even biology.  Do you not wish to pursue this?”


“It’s just a hobby.  Mom and Dad don’t approve, they call it ‘playing in the dirt.’”  If you were at all sensitive, you would have sensed her disappointment.  It would crush you.  “Growing plants is something earth ponies do.  Mom and Dad are kinda snobs.  So am I, I guess.”


“That is wrong,” said Quiz.  “If you love this, and you excel at it, then if you follow this as a career path your parents will come to accept it.  In time I would think they should become proud or you.”


“Maybe.”  Despite this noncommittal answer,  Sunflower was clearly thinking about this.


The world changed.


#


They were all back on the train.  Sitting across from her, Clover grinned smugly at Quiz.


“So, how is Sunflower doing these days?” Clover asked.


“We have lost touch,” admitted Quiz.  “And our parents detest each other.  But my parents are good friends of Professor Tender Seedling’s.  Sunflower has an internship at Professor Seedling’s greenhouse.  When she enters the university she will probably get a research assistantship.  As she continues to advance in her field Sunflower’s parents will be forced to be more and more supportive and accepting.  Her future is bright, and for this reason I understand she has bought shades.”


“Good, because I must now show you the alternate reality you wondered about,” said Clover.  “You must now see what happens to Sunflower without you.”


Quiz shrank into her seat.  “Must you?”


“Yes, Dear,” said Clover.  “It’s actually the whole point.”


The world changed.


#


“This will be the third time you have tested for this spell, Miss Sunflower,” said the board  unicorn monitoring the test.  “You only get three tries.  Make this a good one.”


Sunflower’s face was scrunched up with effort and her eyes were squeezed tightly shut.  Her horn glowed, and the glow continued to increase in intensity.


Watching the vision, Quiz crossed her forelegs in front of her for luck.


There was a loud ‘pop’ and then a book floated in front of Sunflower.


“Well,” said the monitor.  “That was pretty sloppy.  Your spellcraft is abysmal, Sunflower.  But I’m going to pass you.”


Clover turned to Quiz.  “And so it goes.  She never learns finesse, or any of the other things you managed to teach her.  But through brute force, tenacity, and some talent she gets by.  This will characterize the rest of Sunflower’s career.”


“Is this done then?” asked Quiz.  She did not sound optimistic.


“I’m afraid not,” said Clover.


The world changed.


#


They were in the banquet hall of a fine Canterlot manor, and dinner had been served.  Only three ponies sat at the long table.


“We have spoken to the university administration,” said Hyacinth, Sunflower’s mother.  “They will be happy to receive you, Darling.”


“Thank you, Mother,” said Sunflower.


“Your registration is all sorted out,” said Withering Gaze, Sunflower’s father.  “You will be majoring in Experimental Magic.  You may be free to concentrate in theory or mechanics, whichever suits you best.  But this is the study that is most likely to get you noticed.  Also, we should be able to sell laboratory equipment to your supervisors.”


“Yes, Father,” said Sunflower.  “But I thought… I have a knack for… a passion…”


“Yes, Sunflower?”  Each parent raised an eyebrow.


“For Experimental Magic.  I will do as you say.”


#


“What is this place?”  Quiz and Clover were in a room filled with brand new equipment, much of which Quiz could not identify.  They watched a somewhat older Sunflower, clothed in a white lab coat, slump about the room.  Indicators flashed green or red, and Sunflower made check marks on her clipboard.  


“This is the Royal Aerospace Research Center, atop Big Butte, in Eutaw County,” said Clover.  “Some of the finest minds in all of Equestria are here.  Unfortunately, so is Sunflower.  In her field she’s something of a hack.  She’s just good enough that her family is able to use their influence and wealth to secure her position.  She’s impatient,  sloppy, and she doesn’t want to be here.  Her job calls for attention to detail, she responds with indifference.  Her parents bought her this job.  That’s bad, because this is the most dangerous research work there is, as this center specializes in things that blow up, then fall from great heights.  She has no business being here.”


“Miss Clover, she just checked something off without actually checking on anything,” said Quiz.


“I know.”


Quiz strained to read the clipboard,  “Pressure vessel levels?”  Quiz ran to what looked like pressure tanks, and read the gauges.  “Miss Clover, these gauges indicate high levels, and they are rising!”


    “I know.”


    “We must do something!”


    “We can’t.  We’re just witnesses.”


    Quiz ran to a fire alarm and tried to trigger it.  She couldn’t touch it.  Clover called to her.  “Please stop, Quizzical.  We can not effect what is happening here.”


    “Please, Miss Clover!  We have to do something!”


    The world changed.


    #


    They were back on the train.  Clover spoke to Quiz.  “No need to continue.  It’s bad enough in your imagination, there’s no reason to show you the actual accident.”


    “Why?  Why did you show me this?  Why?” cried Quiz.  Pansy reached out to comfort Quiz.  Quiz was so upset she did nothing to resist.


“I showed you this because it’s important that you know this,” said Clover.  “Sunflower wasn’t exaggerating after all.  You actually did save her life.”
Wonderful: Part3
Chapter 4 here <da:thumb id="501849855">
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I just finished a holiday story, staring my OC Quizzical.  Find it here.  Any similarity to the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" is entirely intentional.  Enjoy.

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earwig888
Jim "J Mac" MacDougal
United States
Hello, Friend,

I'm a middle aged man, with an advanced degree, a wife of many years, and my own business. I am also a Brony, and I write stories about Crayola colored ponies. If you don't think that's cool we probably won't get along.
We aren't so very different, you and I. We both probably like Star Trek. I just saw it first on a black and white TV with an antenna and a numbered dial.
We both may like Star Wars. I just saw it in a theater during its first run.
Maybe we both like D & D. I started with Edition One back in 1982.
I may be older than you, but I'm not going to yell at you to get off my lawn. Honest.
I hope you'll check out my fiction. I really hope you'll like it.

Oh, and my 3 pug dogs think I'm pretty cool, and they're pretty good judges of character.

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tyronexjoseph Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015
donate me?
¡¡please!!♥
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:iconkidapult:
Kidapult Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the fave!
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:iconearwig888:
earwig888 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014
You're welcome.  Thank you for drawing my OC.
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:iconbeetdabrat:
beetdabrat Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2014
Ty for the watch.
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:iconremareshadows:
RemareShadows Featured By Owner May 5, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Happy B day.
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:iconmooniestarsky:
MoonieStarSky Featured By Owner May 4, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
happy b-day! :D :cake:
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:iconmalintra-shadowmoon:
Malintra-Shadowmoon Featured By Owner May 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday and all my best wishes to you :)
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:iconspongepersa:
SpongePersa Featured By Owner May 4, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy Birthday :D :party:
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:iconrocxann123:
Rocxann123 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Student Writer
Thanks for the llama!! Llama...an important part of life 
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:iconcharlottejks:
Charlottejks Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thank you so much for watching me. I hope you have a wonderful new year! :3
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