• Published 16th Aug 2019
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Silent Night - Sixes_And_Sevens



Rumble hates winter. It reminds him of everything he's lost. So when the Doctor takes him back to visit a Frost Faire, he's less than happy. Things only get worse when murder enters into the matter. Will this Hearth's Warming be Rumble's last?

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WHICH INTRODUCES a Mystery, an Ally, and a Funfair

The Doctor paused at the edge of the frozen lake. “Ah. I’d forgotten about this.”

Rumble stared. Tents and stalls and shacks covered the ice, looking for all the world like… “A circus?”

“Fair, technically, but basically, yeah. Sort of like a great big midway. Games, clowns, sideshow exhibits, maybe a couple rides… It's fun!”

Rumble regarded the high, fluttering flags and balloons of the fair with mild curiosity. “Alright. Let's go.”

“Really? Molto bene! Oh, you are going to love this.”

Rumble followed behind the Doctor. He regretted this already.

***

“Where is that stallion?” the ringmaster growled. “I need to find him so I can throw him out on his ear!”

“Mr. de Raptor, I ask you to reconsider,” the pegasus standing by him said. “Dr. Climber has been—”

“A nuisance, a pain, and a drain on our cash box for too long,” the griffon snapped. “He constantly asks for more money for his precious experiments, which makes the others demand more money as well.”

“He’s also been one of our largest draws,” the pegasus noted, leafing through a journal. “His tent was responsible for almost half of our income last month.”

“Fine, then we’ll keep the tent,” the ringmaster retorted. “But Climber has to go. When I let him show his freaks here, out of the goodness of my heart—”

“I seem to recall lots of begging and pleading. Not on his part, either,” the pegasus said drily.

The griffon eyeballed her. “Out of the GOODNESS of my heart, I expected him to bring in some sort of shaved monkey, like the Fiji Human. A fake seapony or changeling, perhaps. Maybe bring in some statues, call them… what’s that new thing called?”

“Fossils?”

“Hm, yes, that. Utter nonsense, of course, but John Q. Public doesn’t know that.”

“John who?”

“Oh, you know, that government stallion, the inspector that comes to approve our show,” the griffon replied. “Dumb as a box of rocks. But that’s not the point! Those are all proper sideshow exhibits! Those,” he waved a talon in the general direction of the tent, “are not.”

The pegasus opened her mouth to reply, but snapped it shut quickly. “Visitors,” she hissed.

The ringmaster hesitated. “Look for Dr. Climber,” he muttered. “Bring him to me so I can have the pleasure of bouncing his plot onto the cobblestones once and for all.”

The mare sighed. “Yes, sir.”

Bien. You’re an assistant in a million, Maple.”

The cream-colored pegasus smiled slightly and trotted away.

***

“Well?” the Doctor asked, trotting down the midway. “What d’ya think, eh? Pretty nice carnival?”

“It’s awfully quiet,” Rumble said, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, it’s only just opened for the day,” the Time Lord replied with a shrug. “Means we’ve got the run of the place, hey? Where do you want to start?”

Rumble stopped and glanced around. Most of the booth workers regarded them with idle interest. “Why don’t we talk to him?” the colt suggested, nodding at a large griffon in a top hat. “He looks like he’s in charge.”

“Alright,” the Doctor agreed. “Ah, the powers of a good hat. I used to be obsessed with them. Wound up with an ugly little stovepipe, though.”

The griffon smiled broadly at their approach. “Bonjour, gentlemen,” he said with an accent so thick and cheesy it might as well have been melted mascarpone. “‘Ow may Ai aidez vous?”

“Well,” said the Doctor, “We’re quite new around these parts.What would you suggest?”

“Ah, monsieur, vous are in la place correct,” the griffon exclaimed, raising an eyebrow in what was probably meant to be a flamboyant manner. “Pour vous see, Ai am la ringmaster. I run this carnival and know all of its attractions.” He leaned in, dropping his voice dramatically. “And all of its secrets, n’est pas?”

Rumble leaned back from the griffon. He was too dramatic to be real, and his breath stank of fish. “So, uh, what would you suggest?” he asked.

The griffon sprang upright, tapping his beak with a claw. “Eh bien, there are many games to be played on the midway, of course… many fine foods for the pony to enjoy, yes… perhaps you would like to see the strong mare bend a bar of iron in half? Or, or, there are the shadow puppets! So lifelike, you would think them real.”

“And what about this tent? What’s in there?” the Doctor asked, nodding to the structure directly behind the ringmaster.

The griffon flinched for a second. “That? That is… the freak show.”

“Is it really?” the Doctor asked, trying to peer around the larger male. “Always liked looking at that. Meet some of my best friends there. The Lizard Woman, the Shapeshifter Robot, the— Rumble? Are you alright?”

***

The word cut him to the bone like an icy wind. Freak.

It had chased him for years. He was constantly dodging it, swooping away from any suspicion. He hadn’t told his friends. He still didn’t know why he’d told Granny Smith. Maybe it was just easier to face her than ponies he was actually close to.

He would not let anypony hurt him again.

He would not give them the chance.

***

“Rumble?”

The colt blinked. “Yeah?”

“You alright? You looked like you were a million miles away.”

Rumble stared at the tent. “Yeah. Fine. I’m hungry, let’s get something to eat.”

“Alright. But let’s take a peek in here, first. You’d be amazed, the things you see in these places.”

“NO!” Rumble and the ringmaster shouted at once.

“It’s, uh. It is closed for repairs,” the griffon said, regaining control of himself quickly.. “Yes. Closed today, no ponies to go in there right now.”

The Doctor frowned. “Oh, what a pity. Might I ask how long it’ll be closed?”

A hard glint entered the ringmaster’s eyes. “Indefinitely.” As soon as the air of menace had come, it was gone once more. “Pardonnez, messieurs, pardonnez,” he said, pushing by them. “Enjoy your day.”

“So,” said Rumble, trotting off toward the food carts. “What do you want to eat? The roast chestnuts look nice.”

The Doctor stared. “Rumble.”

“Yeah?”

“We’re going into the tent.”

“No.”

The Doctor leaned back, shocked. “What?”

“No. We are going to have some nice roast chestnuts. Maybe some popcorn. Then we can go skating, or build a snowpony. And then we will go home.”

“But— but, he was lying!” the Doctor said. “That was the face of someone spinning a tale off the top of their head.”

“So? It’s not our business,” Rumble said stubbornly. “Anyway, I thought you were here to teach me the ‘wonders of winter’ or whatever.”

“I, well, yes, I suppose,” the Doctor stuttered.

“Well, then.”

The Doctor sighed. “Fine. We’ll have some food.”

“Glad you agree.”

“After lunch,” the Doctor murmured. “That’s another matter.”

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