• 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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CONTAINING an Exhibition, an Escape, and an Enigmatic Enemy

Maple was already a good way through the exhibit. “Where did you two go?” she asked, glancing up from the seapony corpse she was examining.

“Thought we saw a chip stand,” the Doctor replied. “I love chips.”

Maple stared for a moment, then shrugged. “Well, you’re here now, I suppose. I haven’t found hide nor hair of him yet, but there’s a lot of stuff in here. Feel free to look at the other exhibits, by the way. I think they’re really well-made, but they aren’t going to be around much longer.” Her eyes fell and her smile dropped. “Too bad, really.”

Rumble frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Maple looked up from what appeared to be a mouse with tiny antlers attached to it. “Hm? Oh, it’s nothing, really.”

Rumble stared at her. “No, it isn’t.”

“Perceptive colt, aren’t you?” she said, half laughing. Then she sighed, her face falling again. “Ever since I was a little filly, I always wanted to be an adventuress. I read, oh, so many adventure stories. Tales about the Mares from Mars, the great zebra explorer Zippering, the gentle bull detective How-Now Brown…” Her expression was distant, her smile dreamy.

“I wanted to be like them. Travelling the world, solving mysteries, learning about other places and cultures. But instead…” she gestured around the room. “Well, this is as close as I can get.”

The Doctor looked up from a suit of armor that was apparently meant for a being easily four times as large as a pony. “Looks like it got you pretty close,” he commented. “I mean, look at some of this! A cameleopard, a changeling, a…” he paused. “That’s a centaur,” he said.

“Yeah?” Rumble asked. “Mythical being, just like everything else here. What’s your point?”

The Doctor leaned in close to Rumble. “Centaurs aren’t myths. I’ve fought them before.”

Rumble glanced up from the ammonite he was studying. “Oh… kay? I’ll take your word for it. So, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” the Doctor hissed, “that THAT is a real centaur! And that’s a real changeling as well! Looking around, I can’t see a single thing that’s been forged or made up! P.T. Barnum would sell his granny for just one of the things in here!”

“P.T. who?”

“Not important,” the Doctor whispered. “Point is, everything in here is real. Question: where did he get these exhibits?”

“You’re not saying he collected all of these himself?” Maple gasped.

“It looks that— GAH!” The Doctor stumbled backwards. “How long were you standing there?”

The mare cocked her head in thought. “Um, you were talking about how you’d fought centaurs before.”

“So you heard…”

“That all of this is real?” Maple nodded, eyes wide. “Yeah. Can’t exactly say I’m surprised, honestly. Well. Yes, I am, actually. Very surprised. But he’s an odd fellow, you know?”

The Doctor looked at Rumble. Rumble looked at the Doctor. “No,” said the colt. “We don’t know.”

“Why don’t you tell us a little more about this Dr. Climber of yours?” the Doctor asked, stepping a little closer to the mare.

“Well, there’s not much to tell,” she said, shying back. “He’s not very open about his work. Most of us just put it down to, you know, not wanting to reveal his secrets. I guess those secrets went a little deeper than we expected.”

The Doctor nodded thoughtfully. “There’s an empty cage over there,” he said thoughtfully. “I wonder what was meant to go in it?”

Maple frowned. “An… empty… cage?” She turned and followed the Doctor’s line of sight to an iron cage which indeed appeared to be devoid of anything to display. She pointed at it in surprise, mouth fallen slightly open. “That’s the Yeti’s cage. His only ‘live’ exhibit.”

Rumble was already trotting over to the exhibit. “Is there a hole in this tent or something? ‘Cause it just got a lot colder over here.”

Maple frowned. “There shouldn’t be any holes,” she said. “There was an inspection just the other day.”

“An inspection?” the Doctor asked.

“Health and safety stuff. You know.”

Rumble had, by this point, gotten close enough to the cabinet to look into the cage. His eyes went wide. “Um. If there was a Yeti in here, it’s escaped.” A gaping, jagged hole had been made— apparently punched through— in the back of the cage.

“It WHAT?” the Doctor gasped.

“The Yeti?” Maple laughed. “It’s not really a Yeti, just an illusion. It’s just an old fairy tale.”

“Like centaurs and changelings?” the Doctor asked, eyebrows raised.

The pegasus paused. “Good point,” she said quietly.

“Wait, Yeti are real? I thought they were just robots, like in the TARDIS that one time.” Rumble asked, turning to face the Doctor, who merely shook his head.

“Who knows?” he replied. “Equestria is a land of truly incredible biodiversity. I mean, there are still things on Earth I never knew about, and I’ve spent much more time there than I have done here.”

Maple looked from one to the other. “Sorry, you’ve lost me,” she said. “What’s the Earth?”

The Doctor, grinning, simply continued. “I mean, there might be actual Yeti around. How brilliant would that be, eh?”

“Or,” Rumble countered, “they might be more robots.”

The Doctor’s grin fell. “Yes. Well. I hope not. You know who made them, after all.”

“Um, no I don’t.”

The Doctor furrowed his brow. “Did I never tell you? It was the Intelligence.”

“And… what’s the Intelligence?” Maple asked

Rumble ignored her. “I thought we already dealt with that,” he said. “Button bucked it into smithereens!”

“Yes, from our perspective,” the Doctor agreed. “But this is the past. That hasn’t happened yet, not from its point of view. Or, well, it might not have. Or something.”

Rumble stared, then facehoofed. “Time travel,” he grumbled.

“Yes, it is a bit annoying,” the Doctor agreed. “Also, the Intelligence can’t really be killed, only discorporated or contained, so there’s that aspect of it as well.”

Maple glanced between one pony and the other. “I have no idea what you’re on about, but it certainly sounds interesting.”

“‘Interesting’?” Rumble repeated flatly. “Maybe. Try ‘terrifying’, ‘impossible’, and ‘near-fatal’.”

“Oh, come off it,” the Doctor scoffed. “It wasn’t that bad!”

“You nearly fell to your death.”

“Happens all the time.”

“So did your daughter.”

The Doctor paused. “There, you have me,” he admitted.

Maple rolled her eyes. “Right. As interesting as this conversation is, I would like to know what’s really going on here. So, either you two start talking, or I scream for help.”

The Doctor looked at her. “In a word, Miss Leaf? Adventure.”

Maple regarded him for a long moment, then nodded. “Alright. I’m in. How can I help?”

The Doctor grinned. “Of course. Tell me, do you know where Dr. Climber lives? We’ll explain all we can on the way.”

***

Maple Leaf stared up at the sky as the three hurried down the icy streets. “So,” she said calmly. “You two are from the future.”

“Yep,” the Doctor replied with a sharp nod, popping the ‘p’.

Maple shook her head. “I don’t believe you.”

The Doctor shrugged. “I’d be surprised if you did.”

Rumble cocked his head, frowning. “If you don’t believe us, why are you helping us?”

Maple shrugged. “I want to find Dr. Climber as well, so our goals are, for now, aligned. Besides, on the off chance that you are telling the truth… Well, I want in.”

Rumble stopped walking. “By ‘want in’, you mean…”

Maple turned to look at him. “Time and space. A world full of adventures! Aliens, apparently, exist. So does time travel. It sounds like something out of Wells! The grandest adventure of all time!” She blinked, suddenly realizing that she had been yelling the last couple of sentences. She blushed. “Um. So, I want to do that.”

The Doctor regarded her for a long moment. “I can’t just take anypony,” he warned. “I can be very particular about…” he paused. “Eh, why not,” he grinned. “Enthusiasm, that’s the important thing. An important thing. There’s others. But enthusiasm is a good place to start.”

Rumble frowned. “Wait, then why am I here? I’m not enthusiastic. At all. Especially in winter.”

The Doctor paused. “Er,” he said. “Like I said, there’s other things. Like… determination. Yes, that’s a good one, determination. Anyway, are we almost there, Maple?”

The mare glanced around. “Almost. It’s just a few more blocks,” she replied, setting off at a brisk trot once more.

The Doctor quickly followed, but Rumble lagged behind, a faint scowl on his face. Determination? Really? Was that the best he could come up with? He had just finished telling Rumble how much he thought of him, and now the best he could do was 'determination'? To Rumble’s mind, determination was just another way of saying ‘stubborn’. Rocks were stubborn, but you didn’t see Tom travelling in the TARDIS. A chilly breeze ruffled through Rumble’s mane. He shuddered, then moved on quickly.

A thousand thousand tiny fragments of a mind watched him go. In the distance, the wind howled, a long, low note that sounded more like a hunting horn.

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