• Published 17th Dec 2019
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Hearth's Warming Helper - Team Corona - Talon and Thorn

In order to try and get her court to bond Queen Celestia, also known as Corona, decides to organise a Hearth's Warming Helper. Set in Raindbowdoubledash's Lunaverse.

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Presents for everycreature by Rainbowdoubledash, thatguyvex and Talon and Thorn

Celestia carefully poked a hoof at the small fluffy representation of herself, she couldn’t decide if she liked this part of the modern celebration of Hearth’s Warming or not. Apparently families made woolen representations of themselves and hung them over the fire. She wasn’t sure if the effigy was respectful of herself, or if it could be considered a caricature, certainly the flanks seemed rather volumously padded. Her apprentice had apparently bought the basic models yesterday and then had to rush to finish them overnight. Given the hurry she supposed they had turned out quite well, although Kindle’s doll seemed to have received much more work making it more lifelike than her own. It was larger as well and showed some signs of having undergone significant cuddling in the past.

Turning away from the fireplace she had created next to her throne she looked out over the rest of the room. It was much changed from the previous day in addition to the fireplace a long table had been set at the foot of the steps leading to her throne for her inner circle to sit, well with the exception of Solrathicharnon who was rather too large, he sat in the lava below although his head did reach the edge of the table allowing him to interact with his fellow courtiers. Further away there were several other tables for the various ponies, griffons and salamanders who served her. For a moment she scowled, the whole thing seemed so small compared to the great feasts she remembered during her reign, she was reduced to only a few dozen minions when once a whole nation followed her! She took a deep breath trying to calm her ire, this was only a temporary situation soon enough she would return to her previous glory.

Still it was nice to be holding a feast of any sort, it made her feel rightfully regal. This was the sort of thing that she had been born for, to ensure that her little ponies, no matter how reduced their numbers might be, were happy. Certainly the general staff seemed to be enjoying themselves as they finished off the last of their food and chatted amongst themselves. They were mostly staying in species defined groups, but here and there a pony was talking with a griffin or salamander.

All were dressed up in the finest clothes they processed, which meant they were a rather mixed bunch. Even her closest courtiers were of rather mixed appearance, Solrathicharnon or course wore nothing, clothing largely being an alien concept to dragons. Zecora wore a rather simple robe although it did look good on her, Terror Wing wore armour, a serious social faux pas in her day but she would accept it at this time, he probably didn’t know better. At least Bogucu had put the effort to materialise something with looked like a formal gown over the burning form she was currently maintaining. Only her pony allies had put serious effort into dressing appropriately for the occasion, Kindle wore a smart white suit with her mark embroidered on it showing his allegiance and Smoke wore her official robes, although Celestia had to admit the dress did not compliment her student’s fur colour and body shape.

Despite their formal attire Celestia couldn’t help but think that things were still rather tense amongst her closest allies. The whole aim of the night had been to mold them into a more cohesive group afterall. Still there were some signs of the ice between them melting, if only a little. She was quite pleased with the amount of effort that Bogucu was putting into socializing with the other members of her court. She was currently talking animatedly with her Herald apparently about some sporting event, or maybe a battle, it was sometimes hard to differentiate the two in Griffin culture. Smoke was also chatting pleasantly with Zecora about a Hearth’s Warming related play she and Kindle had once taken part in. Even Solrathicharnon had at least shown the minimum allowable amount of courtesy for his fellow courtiers and seemed to have enjoyed crunching his way through the mound of gems which had made up much of his meal.

Now that they had finished eating it was time for the highlight of the evening, the gifting. Now that the moment was almost upon her she found herself unexpectedly anxious, had she made the right decision? Was the present she had prepared truly suitable? She ran a nervous hoof through her mane and was momentarily surprised to feel the thin paper crown which currently covered it. She had momentarily forgotten about that. Earlier Smoke had produced some devices apparently called ‘Crackers’ which when opened caused a tiny explosion and contained a hat, a small gift and something which was apparently supposed to have been a joke. She had immediately felt a little insulted by the poor quality of the headwear and had considered allowing her mane to consume it, but it was starting to grow on her. Certainly they made her court look rather festive, even Solrathicharnon had one perched on one of his smaller head spikes.

Feeling a little calmer she stood from her throne, drawing glances from the rest of the court. “HARK! MY PEOPLE!” she bellowed. Next to her Kindle toppled from his chair in surprise causing a guffour of laughter from Terror Wing and a snort of smoke from Solrathicharnon. Celestia tried to avoid a blush, maybe the full royal Canterlot voice wasn’t required for a gathering of this size. “Hark!” she tried again with a somewhat reduced volume. “As you are all aware this festival is in celebration of the founding of Equestria and of the unity of ponykind. It recognises that individuals from different backgrounds and tribes can work together to become part of a greater whole.” She looked around the table meeting each of her courtiers gaze for a moment. “Just as the members of my court are varied but are united in our goal of unseating my sister and returning me to my rightful place. I wish to be able to take this time to offer my thanks to my allies.”

“I would first like to thank My Voice, Sir Kindling Wind. His aid in recruiting support from amongst my sisters subjects has been of great use to me. His loyalty to his true monarch even during my sisters reign has been an example for others to follow.” She looked over at the red stallion, his feathers were puffed up so much it looked like he might explode from pride.

“Thank you, your majesty,” he finally managed, “I only wish that all of Equestria were loyal to you, so that you could celebrate the holiday in your true home.” He raised a cup of wine in a hoof. “Next year, Canterlot!” he declared. The rest of the hall took up the toast.

Celestia nodded her approval. “Well said, Sir Kindle. Next I would like to thank my Vizer, Dame Zecora. I owe a great due to the dame, she was the first amongst you to rally to my banner and she aided my escape when my sister hoped to imprison me. Since then she has been a loyal and trusted advisor to the throne.”

“Thank you my queen,” said the Zebra, “but I am unworthy of your praise. Wishing to aid you comes as naturally to me as the sun’s rays.”

Celestia allowed a small smile at her advisors choice of words. “Next I would like to thank the newest of my council, my aid, my advisor,” she lowered his head a little, “my friend, Dame Bogucu Yangin. After the recent events in Naqah she was betrayed by the current element bearers and cruelly imprisoned. I once considered her to be a powerful ally to our cause but have now come to respect her as more than that, as an advisor, as a close confidant and,” she took a deep breath, “as a personal friend.”

It was often hard to tell but Bogucu seemed a little embarrassed at the praise. “Thank you, Celestia,” she said softly.

The queen nodded and turned to the next creature at the table. “Sir Terror Wing, my Herald, has been a powerful ally to my cause. His strength will be most useful in my fight against my sisters forces and once things are set to rights I promise that I will also stop the great injustices that have been done against him and his family. Let our alliance herald a new era of peace and friendship between Equestria and the Griffin Kingdoms!”

The griffin members of her court let out a roar at this and hammered their tankards against the tables. Their leader followed them his beak opened in a wide smile. “TO VICTORY!” he cried sloshing his drink over Yangin who rolled her eyes at the liquid steaming off her burning form.

“I would also like to thank Dame Smoke, my student. This feast is due to her reminding me of the importance of the season. She has worked hard both in the preparation of this event, and also in the day to day organisation of our company. She is a loyal and diligent student who has shown great potential to become our court magician.”

The small grey unicorn looked like she was about to sink beneath the table in embarrassment. “Tha-thank you, your majesty,” she eventually managed. Kindle gave her a friendly smile and rested a wing over her pulling her back into her seat.

“You should be proud of yourself,” he whispered, “I know I am.” Smoke’s face glowed a frearce red at the compliment, and the physical contact. “I’m sure you’re doing all you can to help her majesty’s cause.”

“Finally I would like to thank my ally Solrathicharnon the red. He and his brood have suffered much at the hooves of my sister and his aid in retaking our lands is appreciated.” She looked up at the great wyrm who either growled in appreciation, or yawned, she chose to believe the former. “Now, on to-” she began.

“Excuse me, your excellency,” interrupted Kindle. “But before we go any further I would like to take this opportunity to speak for all of us.” The queen nodded. “I would like to thank you for accepting us all, despite our disparate backgrounds and allowing us the honour of working with you to return you to the proper place. To allow us to make a better Equestria, neigh, a better world.” He raised a goblet of wine. “A toast, to Queen Celestia! To the Unconquered Sun!”

“To the Unconquered Sun!” came a chorus from across the room. Celestia raised her own glass as well taking a mouthful of wine.

“Thank you, my people,” she said. “Now onto the Hearth’s Warming Helper!” She felt a little tremble of trepidation again as she lifted her gift in her aura. “I will go first, my present is for my friend Bogucu Yangin!”

The box was set down before Yangin, who regarded it with interest. “Well, this is…sizable,” the jinn said, holding out a leg to measure the size of the box. She waved a hoof over the box, and it started to unwrap itself. “I know you went into Hope’s Hollow, what could you have found there…that…”

Yangin’s voice trailed off at the sight of the Great Gingerbread Temple of the Prophet, bedecked in frosted and sugary snow, glazed sides shining in the light of the chamber, the box’s opening instantly filling the room with the scent of gingerbread. Celestia was, quite suddenly, aware of every eye in the room either upon her, or upon her present. Judging it. She resisted the urge to shuffle on her hooves, instead standing up straighter.

“Wow,” Yangin said at last, moving around the confection, taking in its details. “This is…how’d you get this made so quickly?”

Celestia allowed herself a small smile, relief finding her at the gratitude in Yangin’s voice. “A pair of truly skilled bakers in Hope’s Hollow,” she said. She left out the energizing spell she’d put on them. “I hope that a reminder of your homeland might make for a suitable gift?”

Yangin reached out a hoof to the Great Gingerbread Temple, retracted it, reached out again, and then snorted. “Mostly I need to figure out if eating it counts as blasphemy or not,” she groused, but finally threw up her hooves. “Oh, whatever, I’m sure the Prophet wouldn’t mind.” She broke off the top of one minaret and put it in her mouth. Her eyes widened at the taste, and she swayed just a little as she savored it. “Oh wow,” Yangin finally said after swallowing.

Celestia’s smile widened knowingly. “I know, right?” she asked, her voice nearly scandalously casual. Yangin nodded, though, and all tension left her. The gift she cared most about had gone over well, and perhaps Yangin might even share.

“My go now?” asked Yangin. Celestia nodded, it made sense for the one who just received a present to give the next one. “Right, so I got Terror Wing. You are not an easy creature to shop for, you know. I originally had a different idea, but well, it didn’t entirely work out. So I ended up getting you this.” She somehow reached into herself and drew out a long sword wreathed in flame. “I did try to wrap it but it kept setting the paper on fire, I’m not sure if it’s got an off switch or not.”

With a little trepidation Terror Wing reached out and took the sword upon finding that it didn’t burn his talons he began to swing it around with more and more enthusiasm. “It’s well balanced!” he commented before slashing the blade down into the table causing Smoke to shy away with a loud ‘eep!’ while Kindle raised a protective wing towards her. Terror Wing examined the deep scorched gouge in the stone of the table. “And sharp!” he exclaimed with a smile.

“So you like it then?” asked Yangin.

“It’s great! It’s even of Griffin make, it has ancient griffin runes on it,” he stared at it for a moment his beak moving as he tried to translate them. “Joyeuse?” he finally managed.

Yangin was a little surprised that Terror Wing could read current Griffin, let alone it’s ancient version. “Yeah, I got it when a griffin tried to kill me with it. Either he didn’t think about the whole using a flaming sword on someone made out of living fire, or over thought it. In either case I grabbed it and ran.”

“Joyeuse?” repeated Celestia thoughtfully. “Was that not the High King’s sword in my day?”

“Don’t know.” said Yangin with a shrug. “The guy who tried to shank me with it certainly looked important, lots of robes and jewelry, I didn’t stop to ask his name.”

“The High Kings sword!” mumbled Terror Wing staring at the blazing blade.

“Oh,” said Yangin whispering in Terrors ear, “there’s also this,” she passed him a small card with an address on it. “There’s somepony there who wouldn’t mind spending some time with you, play your cards right and you never know where things might go! Just treat her right ok, her son’s my friend.”

“Sir Terror Wing,” prompted Celestia, “it is your time to give a gift.”

“Oh right,” said Terror Wing blinking away her surprise and turning away from Yangin. He looked around for something to do with the sword. After a moment Celestia rolled her eyes and lit her horn levitating the sword just off the ground. Terror Wing nodded and reached under his seat to produce, to everyone’s surprise, a large picnic hamper.

“So, um, I GOT ZECORA,” he bellowed, “and well I,” he continued somewhat quieter, “I made her some snacks,” he shoved the hamper towards the Zebra.

“I thank you for this gift of food,” said Zecora bowing formally. Then she sniffed the air. “Wait... is that Mabuyu?” She tore open the container and stared at the contents for a moment before grabbing one of the treats and shoving it into her mouth. She chewed and gave an extremely pleased moan. “Oh, I could kiss you!” she exclaimed shoving another into her mouth.

“It looks like she’s having what I meant to get him,” whispered Yagin to Celestia, before realising that the queen was staring at the goodies and almost drooling.

“They’re pretty easy once you know the recipe,” said Terror Wing, “try the pink ones they’re strawberry flavoured.”

“Oh, I thought that once I left to roam I’d never again know the taste of home.” She shoveled another of the sweets into her mouth and gave another decident groan. Then her stripes reddened as she noticed the rest of the crowd staring at her. “Er... I am sure I will enjoy the rest of the bags content, it really is the best present,” she managed somewhat more gracefully.

“Thanks, there’s a few other things in there as well,” said Terror Wing. “There’s some other recipes I’d like to try when I have time.”

“I certainly would not have guessed that cooking was a skill that you possessed.”

The giant griffin looked a little embarrassed. “Yeah, well I picked up a few things here and there. Not that it makes me soft or anything, I CAN STILL FIGHT!” He reached for his new flaming sword.

“I have no doubt that you are very strong,” said Zecora soothingly, “but we should move on to my gift before this ceremony goes on for too long. Your Highness,” she turned towards the queen, “it was your tag that I drew from the bag.” She carefully nosed a large box out from under the table she had been sitting at. Celestia took the present in her aura.

“It is heavy,” she commented feeling unexpectedly excited, it had been a while since she had received a present. She gave it a quick shake and then stopped once she noticed Zecora wince. It might be breakable. She carefully teleported the paper covering away to reveal a wooden case with several metal legs sticking out with images of her sun and the moon on them. “Is it some sort of orrery?” she asked. Although she was aware of such crude devices before her banishment, this was so small, all clicking and whirring with the sound of concealed gears. To one side, a golden key turned ever so slowly while the metal sun slid along its slot, in such precise, measured motions that she could not see how it was done. A truly miraculous little device that she itched to open up and poke at to see how it worked.

“In a way, although it is hard to explain in rhyme, that device is used to tell the time,” explained the zebra. “It shows when the sun should rise to help you with your enterprise.”

Celestia stared at her Vizer awash with conflicting emotions. She felt slighted at the implication that she needed help knowing when to raise the sun. Still it was nice of somecreature else to think of her duties and she did like that somepony had created a device which measured her sun’s progress. Her hooves pressed hard against her throne for a moment and she noticed the trepidation on her Vizer’s face. After a moment Celestia decided to take the gift in the spirit it was intended and smiled. “I thank you for your kind gift,” she said with practiced sincerity.

“It was just a simple task to provide you with a present as you asked,” said Zecora.

“As I have already given a gift,” exclaimed Celestia, “I proclaim that Sir Kindle have his turn next. I am eager to see what he has procured.”

“Thank you my queen,” he bowed to his monarch and then turned to his present. In his usual, grandiose fashion, he’d wheeled it out into the chamber under a dramatically decorated, festive curtain surrounding a small, concealed platform. This was actually part of a stage podium he’d often used in the past, and occasionally set up for sermons to secluded groups of the faithful, but today it served a different purpose. “I withdrew Solrathicarnon’s token from the bag!” he announced.

The dragon had been wearing a bored expression for most of the proceedings, and upon hearing the wheels of the hidden podium stage being dragged out, he furrowed his spinney brow and turned his snout towards Kindle, sniffing.

“Now I wonder what minor offering you’ve managed to scrounge up, o’ Voice of the Sun? Baubles to toss upon my hoard?”

“No mere baubles, ever potent and valued ally of our noble and radiant Queen!” Kindle declared, with a fair bit more politeness and pomp than he generally showed the dragon, causing Solrath’s head to tilt in minor, quizzical curiosity.

“What I have for you,” continued Kindle, “is something rare, perhaps even unique. I doubt any dragon in all the world will possess this. You, Solrath, will be the first and only to own this particular treasure… Ahem. Smoke, if you please?”

Smoke, who helped wheel out the curtained podium stand, gave a nervous if still happy smile and nod, and with a bit of her own dramatic flourish, pulled the line to the festive holiday curtain. As the stand was revealed, it was clear to see upon it an ornate phonograph, with a record already placed on the turntable. Kindle turned the device on and with a minor dramatic pause, set the needle on the spinning record.

What followed was the beginning of what could only be described as the highly intense and powerful notes of Metal Heart’s and Jodir’s heartfelt performance. The rapid, pulse pounding metallic beats of both magically charged electric guitar combined with Elkheim drums reverberated through the chamber, causing all present a moment of shocked silence.

Terrorwing blinked, then started bobbing his head to the beat, sporting a surprised grin. Yangin scratched her head for a moment before slowly closing her eyes and tapping a limb as Metal Heart’s screaming, yet somehow lyrical voice began to sing of breaking one’s chains and living free. Zecora remained a mysterious as ever, only slightly raising an eyebrow at the music before popping another sweet into her mouth. Celestia herself felt surprised and a little unsure, because she had absolutely no idea of what to think about the... music she was hearing.

Normally Kindle would be desperate for his Queen’s approval, but in this particular case it was Solrath’s reaction he watched for.

The dragon’s expression was difficult to read, his head remaining tilted, and tilting ever so slightly more with one ear craned towards the record player. The dragon remained silent until the song was finished, and Kindle removed the needle, bowing low to the dragon.

“There are several more such songs recorded here, the unique works of a pair of talented musicians named Metal Mare and Jodir. Pioneers of a new music form not yet heard in any realm outside Equestria, and even here, only in a few places.”

“That was pretty hardcore stuff,” Terrorwing said, flourshing his new sword. “Really gets into your blood and makes you want to KICK SOME TEETH IN!”

“I enjoyed it,” said Yangin, “I can get behind the message. Mare could stand to learn some melody, but she’s got passion, I’ll give her that.”

“Music certainly has... changed since I last took the time to listen,” said Celestia, trying her best to determine if that was good or something that needed searched out across the world and destroyed with fire.

Kindle bowed even lower to her, but then raised his head and gave Solrath a questioning look, waiting for the dragon to respond in some way. At long last, Solrathicaron shook, his chest rumbling with a deep noise akin to an earthquake. It took Kindle a moment to realize it was laughter. The ancient red dragon trembled with a fit of powerful laughter that nearly shook the entire chamber. Kindle’s face blazed red with embarrassment, but Solrath, once he had his laughing under control, gave the pegasus a predatory grin of gleaming fangs.

“Oh, I can smell your consternation, pony, and it’s unfounded. I laugh not at you, but at the fine irony of what I’m hearing. Hahahah, this is a better gift than you know, and not for the reason you thought.”

“Ahem, well, do please explain,” said Kindle, a tad pouty, “for those of us who actually put quite a bit of effort into obtaining this musical gift.”

“It’s simple,” said Solrath, “This music, this style, some of it is indeed new as you say, but the elk’s addition, the nature of the beat… it’s draconic in origin.”

“It is?” Kindle gave Smoke a confused glance, and she just shrugged at him. Solrath went on, chuckling like a settling avalanche.

“Quite so. We dragons are not without our appreciation for the arts. We sing, when it pleases us. And it rarely pleases us more than when we are soaring into battle, to take what we will! Elkheim has long been our ancestral foes, their realm a trove of gems and treasures any dragon would salivate to obtain. So generations have been spent in dragonflights pillaging the Elkheim realm, and yes, often facing defeat. Hah, yet for all our long history of failing to make that realm our own, I never imagined they’d absorb something as simple as our music. That, Voice, is the true gift you’ve just given me. Satisfaction. The elk, deer, moose, all their cloven kin, they may have fought us dragons off, but we’ve left our mark on them. Their songs are now dragon song. Hah! This puts me in such a good mood...”

Solrath reached down with a giant talon and picked up the record player with a surprising amount of care, “This is acceptable tribute. I shall enjoy listening to this for some time to come.”

Kindle coughed, “Well, I’m glad you like it...”

As Solrath silently set the record player aside and went back to setting down, Celestia cleared her own throat loudly at the dragon. “Solrath, traditionally at this juncture one thanks the gift giver.”

Solrath made a sour face, but then with a sighing grumble muttered, “...Thank you for your adequacy in recognizing my glorious worth, Voice.”

Celestia rolled her eyes briefly. That was about as close to actual gratitude as Solrath was capable of, after all, so there was little point arguing further. Kindle gave her a grateful smile, bowing to her once more. As long as the dragon was appeased, and his Queen happy, that was all Kindle needed.

“And now, Solrathicharnon-Charir-Uskirlymzolthurkear,” Celestia said, using the dragon’s complete name to hopefully keep his good mood going into what would perhaps be the most trying of all the gifts – she remembered Yangin’s warning keenly. “It is your turn to present your gift.”

Either Kindle’s gift had truly put Solrathicharnon in a good mood, or else the use of his full name had assuaged him well; in either case the dragon wasted little time. His nostrils flared as he breathed in deeply, then turned his blind eyes exactly in the direction of Smoke. “I got you, little pony,” he said. Smoke wilted under the gaze and the dragon’s words.

“Oh, um,” she murmured, “it’s, uh – I’m sure whatever you got is more than adequooooh my Stars!”

Even Celestia’s eyes grew wide as Solrathicharnon drew up a statue from behind his tail, where he had kept it hidden. The statue was a pedestal, into which was carved, of all things, a stylized heart. The whole thing was hewn from a single piece of quartz, and was taller than the diminutive Smoke. Solrathicharnon placed it before the pony with perhaps more roughness than he’d intended, the thud reverberating through the chamber. The surface had been polished to a fine reflective sheen, a multitude of facets across its surface reflecting back the stunned onlookers.

Celestia looked to Solrathicharnon. “Where did you get that?” she asked, keeping her voice neutral as she could. But such a huge piece of crystal, a great treasure…where had it been plundered from?”

The dragon grinned a toothy grin. “Peace, Queen Celestia. This came from no vault or treasure horde. I retrieved the crystal myself perhaps a mile below us in magma, and then carved it.” He reached to his tail again and held forth his hand, letting carvings of quartz fall to the ground before Celestia.

She looked over the shards, then the statue. They were of similar hue, and she could see from some of the larger pieces that indeed a heart had been carved from them. “Very well,” she said. “I apologize for my doubt, Solrathicharnon.”

Solrathicharnon’s rumbling laugh came again. “You think I would give up any of my horde?” He asked, then turned once more to Smoke, leaning down and breathing in. “Still. I hope you are satisfied, small one?”

Smoke nodded, but then remembered the dragon’s blindness. “Y-yes!” She exclaimed, looking to Solrathicharnon. “It’s…it’s beautiful. You’re…you carved this yourself? It’s amazing.”

Solrathicharnon paused. “Amazing?”

“Really!” Smoke said, somehow finding confidence, while also still remembering that the dragon had not actually seen the gift he was giving. “I’ve never seen a quartz that shines so brightly. They’re normally kind of foggy, but the surface almost looks like glass it’s so clear! And it’s catching the light so well…”

There was a rumble from the dragon. “Does it…?” he asked, muzzle scrunching slightly.

Celestia saw where this was going even if Smoke didn’t. “There will be ample time to admire your gift later, my apprentice,” she said.

“Huh?” Smoke asked, finally looking away from the quartz heart – and realizing that Solrathicharnon’s head had slowly drifted closer to her and her new statue, the dragon’s blind eyes seeming to focus on the latter, nostrils flaring. “Oh! Oh, um…right. Thank you, Solrathicharnon-Charir- Uskirlymzolthurkear.”

“Um, I guess it’s me now,” said Smoke breaking her gaze away from the great dragon and her huge present. “It’s obvious that I got Kindle. I guess I’m just lucky that way.” She gave a nervous giggle, turned to the pegasus, and brought out a flat package. “I sort of gave it away when I told you it was a recording.” She passed the present while her ears fell flat.

“I’m sure I’ll love it,” said Kindle carefully peeling the paper off the record. “An evening with Kindling Wind,” he read and smiled, “I remember this, I didn’t think I’d see another copy after I left mine back in Manehatten. Thank you, I appreciate it..” He reached over with a wing and hugged his smaller companion who melted into the embrace. “I remember when I recorded this, you fell asleep in the rigging, didn’t you.” He laughed gently. “What was the name of the mare who did the recording again?”

“I really don’t remember,” mumbled Smoke with her eyes closed.

"Gadget something wasn't it? We dated for a bit, but then she just disappeared, I never did find out what happened to her."

"I wouldn't know anything about that," said Smoke tightening her hug possessively.

“Well, thank you again. I’ll enjoy listening to it--” he glanced over to his record player now position near Solrathicharnon with the dragon’s gift on it “--when I have some time.” He gently pushed the small unicorn away and turned towards the queen. “I thank you for coming up with such an enjoyable way for us to spend the evening, Your Majesty,” he bowed to Celestia. “Your generosity truly knows no end.”

“Thank you, My Voice,” said Celestia imperiously. “I have enjoyed myself tonight, this ‘Hearth’s Warming Helper’ is an interesting tradition. I feel that it has brought you together--” she paused “--has brought all of us together.” She looked over all of the creatures which made up her court, even the lesser members seemed to have become more friendly. “I have one more gift for you all on this special evening.” Her horn burst into light and several large barrels of ale appeared around the hall. “I bid you all enjoy yourselves.”

Celestia looked down from her throne at the banqueting hall with a smile enjoying the sound of her new clock as it counted off the seconds and the small model of her sun slowly circled towards the horizon. With the end of the Hearth’s Warming helper and the introduction of some stronger alcohol the event had become less formal and the usual cliques had broken down a little. Off to one side Zecora was apparently telling a story to the small number of foals which made her lair their home as well as the somewhat larger group of their parents. Judging by how wide the eyes of both the children and adults were it was quite interesting. The Zebra was using some magic to enhance the performance judging by the greenish spirits dancing around her.

Elsewhere Kindle, Smoke and Terror Wing along with a number of other creatures were playing a guessing game. The red pegasus was apparently trying to mime some sort of scene for the audience who appeared to have no idea what he was doing, much to his frustration. After a few moments gave up and slumped back towards the nearby seating where Smoke gave him a conciliatory hug.

Below the throne room, Solrathicharnon was somewhat playfully sparring with a number of Salamanders, swiping at them with his talons as they danced around him. She could tell he was pulling his blows as none of the other creatures had been seriously injured yet.

“You can join in you know,” said Yangin, the fire spirit hovering alongside her.

“Hum?” grunted Celestia, turning her attention to her friend. “Pardon?”

“You could join in with the games if you wanted.”

“No, I am the queen. It would not be seemly to take part in such frivolities.” She pulled herself up to full height. “It is enough for me that my people are happy.”

“You don’t have to be the queen all the time, you can have a good party now and then. Let some steam off, it might do you some good.” The djinn cocked her head towards a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling and the pony and griffin couple kissing beneigh it.

Celestia’s face glowed brightly as she turned away from the scene. “That would be totally unsuitable!” she exclaimed. She had always kept a very tight reign on the carnal side of her nature. It was her sister who indulged in such things, not her!

“Ok, maybe not quite that extreme, although I know a few stallions and mares who wouldn’t mind spending some time with the queen. You can have some fun if you want. It won’t kill you. You could tell stories, just talk if you want. I believe this holiday is supposed to be about spending time with family and friends.”

“I thank you, but no.” She looked down over the throng below her, just relaxing sounded good. Friends and family sounded even better. She was just so tired sometimes, but no, she had responsibilities. Responsibilities that others wouldn’t understand, although maybe she could bend just a little, on this night at least. Surely there was one other who might understand, somepony she ached to talk to again. She stood and spread her wings “You should enjoy yourself, I have to go.”

“Go?” asked Yangin, looking surprised. “Go where?”

“I have a previous engagement,” said Celestia.

Author's Note:

Thanks to Georg for his editing of this chapter.

So if everything goes to plan today should be Christmas Day, so Merry Christmas.

This chapter combines work from myself, RDD and Vex so I hope you enjoy it all.

Next is the final epilogue.

Comments are always welcome.

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