• Published 26th Dec 2020
  • 596 Views, 16 Comments

Improvise. Adapt. Celebrate. - TheDriderPony

Changelings attempt to draft a holiday from scratch using advertisements and carol lyrics. I'm sure they'll figure it out.

  • ...

For the Sake of Old Land's Eye

Hearth's Warming was not supposed to be hot. This was the first, but far from the last issue that Sunburst would find himself facing.

For a pony raised on the briny coast, educated on top of a mountain, and employed in the arctic tundra, hot was never something he'd been quite comfortable with. Not to say anything against Hot's little cousin Warm, which was a friend to whom he clung dearly. Why else would he have cultivated an image as a wizard, antiquated though the position was? No other station came packaged with the excuse to wear a down comforter around everywhere.

He flapped the hem of his cloak to try and bleed off the heat beneath it, for what little good it did. All the air was hot. No one had thought to install cooling charms on a train that frequented the Frozen North. Then again, no one had thought the same train would ever have a stop in the Badlands.

No, not the Badlands. It was the Southern Changeling Territories now that they had come out as an officially recognized nation.

Still, it didn't help that, thanks to decades of pegasi noninterference, the area maintained a dry, almost summery heat despite it being the dead of winter. It took barely the length of the train for snow drifts to be replaced by dry cracked earth.

By the time the train pulled into New Hive station (which was still so new he could practically smell the paint), he'd finally caved to the oppressive heat and magically shrunk his cape into a bandana which he tied around his neck.

He still had an image to maintain, after all.

The station was effectively abandoned, save for the Ticketmaster, a janitor, and a large moose-like creature if a moose was cosplaying as a praying mantis lost in a tie-dye factory. Which wasn't to say that the creature couldn't pull off such a bold look.

It was also waving. Enthusiastically.

"Sunburst! Over here! Hi!"

The wizard gave him a weak smile and a small nod of acknowledgement before glancing over to the baggage car.

The porter already had his bags. That, or the uniformed changeling was robbing him blind in both broad daylight and plain sight of it's highest authority.

Not only had Thorax not moved in the intervening moments, he was still waving as energetically as if he were determined to make himself seen within a large crowd. The smile that spread on the Changeling King's face as Sunburst approached was bright enough to put his chitin to shame.

"Happy Hearth's Warming," Sunburst said. His greeting was subdued, spoken more out of habit than any genuine depth of meaning for the sentiment.

"Yes! Happy Hearth's Warming!" Thorax, on the other hoof, gushed as eagerly as a volunteer caroler at a retirement home. "I'm so glad you made it! How was the train ride?"

"Good, good. A little hotter than I expected." He tugged at his former-cape-current-neckerchief (which was already feeling like a layer too much).

Thorax nodded. "Ponies always seem surprised by that, but I've never understood why. No pegasi means no weather control, so of course we're out of sync with Equestria. It'll be better once we get to the Hive; it's always nice and cool inside. Come on, the path is this way."

Noting that the porter (or potential baggage thief) was already flying above and ahead of them, Sunburst merely nodded and followed.

Casual small talk—the ephemeral popcorn of conversation—filled the air between the pair with a pleasant atmosphere as they walked. The path to the Hive meandered between the low hills and shrubbery like a drunken riverbed; a holdover, Thorax explained, from it being a retired patrol route. With their society still reeling from a fundamental restructuring, no one had yet found the time to upgrade their infrastructure to account for visitors. Somepony had taken great care to line their path with flowers all bursting in full red blossoms—poinsettias, if he remembered correctly—and though it added a festive flair to the rocky road, the flowers didn't seem to be taking all too well to the unseasonably warm weather.

Over the course of their conversation, Sunburst found himself drawn toward an inexorable, yet paradoxical realization. For a creature whose continued sustenance depended on his closeness to ponies, Thorax actually had surprisingly few friends. Apparently the phrase "it's lonely at the top" applied even to changelings. And ruling out other rulers, dignitaries, creatures burdened with official and ceremonious holiday duties, there were only a handful of ponies he was on a first name basis with.

Which led Sunburst to a slightly uncomfortable realization about his own invitation. It wasn't just that he was the only pony who'd been willing and able to visit the changelings for Hearth's Warming; he might've been the only one even asked.

Then again, he hadn't exactly been drowning in holiday invitations himself. Strictly speaking, he as well didn't have many friends outside of his boss's family and Starlight (and, by proxy, Starlight's friends).

Lacking the high ground from which to throw stones, he wisely chose to instead set those thoughts aside and simply enjoy the day for what it was.

"I really am glad you could make it," Thorax said as they rounded yet another corner, breaking the momentary silence that had gathered between them. "It means a lot to me that you came."

"It's really no trouble," Sunburst replied. The side of his mouth quirked up in a small smile. "I was glad to come. Two and a half days with Mother was more than enough for one holiday season."

"If she's anything like mine, I totally get you."

That was not a comparison Sunburst had ever hoped to make. Then again, if he was being honest, there were more similarities than he'd like to admit. Strong-willed, self-entitled, aggressive in establishing themselves as the apex of their social groups. Obsessed with their offspring's ability to find love...

He dropped that line of thinking before he started considering checking her attic for pods and shoved the whole notion to the back corner of his mind to be hopefully forgotten and crowded out by holiday festivities.

"Still, I know everyling will be thrilled to have an actual pony present for our first Hearth's Warming.”

'So long as I'm not part of the holiday feast,' Sunburst very nearly quipped, before deciding at the last moment that it might be in poor taste. Then the latter half of the sentence clicked. "Wait, your first Hearth's Warming?"

Earnest eagerness spread across the changeling king's face like a puppy who just figured out the meaning of 'walkies'. "Yes! We've never done a holiday before, so we're all very excited."

That only raised more questions. "What do you mean ‘you've never had a holiday before’?"

"Nope!" Thorax paused, reflective for a moment. "Well, unless you count Queen's Day. But that was really just an elaborate excuse for Chrysalis to take an extra large share of the Hive's love supply. And demand that we come up with new and original compliments for her. And put on a play of her greatest triumphs. And rub her hooves." His foal-like energy that had started to fade with each resurfaced memory returned just as quickly as it had left. "But this is different! A whole holiday dedicated to good feelings! It's like it was made with changelings in mind."

Like an emotional yo-yo on the rebound back down, he suddenly went pensive. "It... may not be exactly right. Chrysalis didn't like infiltrators being out during Winter, so we may have missed some of the finer details or cultural context."

Sunburst was no stranger to the idea of a peer-reviewed study. It didn't take much for him to connect the dots. "So you wanted a genuine pony to be here to critique your efforts?" he concluded. "Make sure you got the details right?"

Thorax smiled weakly. "If you don't mind? You're still welcome as a guest in any case."

His choice was obvious. Thorax had given him an excuse to step out on Stellar Flare before she started inviting carolers inside with thinly veiled hints about her son's availability and high-status career. If anything, he was in the changeling's debt.

"Alright, I'm game," he agreed, "I see no reason I can't help out. I'm no expert by any means," he pushed his glasses back up his muzzle and gave a small smile, "but I know as much about holiday traditions as any other stallion brought up in middle-class Equestria."

"Great!" Thorax beamed as the path twisted one last time and the foothills gave way to craggy plains. "Cause we're here!"

Sunburst gasped, breath stolen by the sight before him.

The Changeling Hive was, in any circumstance, an unmistakable structure. There was nothing in nature or the realms of pony architecture quite like it. Even with the top quarter of the jagged mountain fortress shorn off during Thorax's impromptu coup, the remaining structure still emanated a menacing aura as it loomed over its surroundings.

Today, though, the imposing offspring of a ziggurat and a chestnut had plastered over its macabrely organic aesthetic with a veneer of festive cheer. The black stone was nearly lost under mountains of decoration in red and green and gold and silver. Ribbons spanned the gap from one lethally sharp spire to the next as wreathes of greenery obscured the gaping orifices that occasionally winked open and shut like massive stony eyes.

Reformed Changelings buzzed to and fro, only those with the most vibrant of colors standing out from the décor, twinkling like living ornaments as they finished last minute adjustments.

It was stunning.

Stunning in the way that encountering a slobbering manticore wearing fetching earrings and a flirty short skirt was stunning. In that Sunburst was stunned and unable to move as the contrast assaulted his senses.

It didn't help that there was still a trace of anti-magic aura in the air—mingling with a pervasive smell of peppermint—that left him unbalanced and feeling like one of his senses had been cut off.

"Isn't it simply fantastic?" Thorax gushed. "It took a lot of work; we had to make most of the decorations ourselves. It helped that there's so many examples just out in the open that anyling can go and study for ideas."

Sunburst swallowed hard. "You've... certainly got the spirit of it down. And the color scheme." It wasn't their fault the Hive was so fundamentally upsetting (It was probably Chrysalis's. No doubt she'd designed it like that on purpose.) They'd clearly tried hard, but no matter how much lipstick one put on a timberwolf it wasn't going to beat Princess Celestia for the Miss Equestria title.

Still, that was no reason to berate them for trying.

Thorax nudged him from behind. "Come on then! There's so much more to show you!"

Sunburst was beginning to wonder just what in the world he'd gotten himself into.

"Welcome to our little winter wonderland!"

It had taken time for Sunburst to get over the Hive's decorations. Coming close enough to realize that most, if not all, of the livery was made from various changeling resins and fluids had not helped things. But he controlled himself and successfully kept his composure until they passed the newly installed double doors.

The interior was better. Less ‘Holiday Fortress of Doom’ and more ‘Tastefully Decorated Cave Network’. Even the irising orifices seemed to instinctively close off against the perceived intruder as he approached (though the wreath placement never let him forget where any of them lurked).

It helped as well that there was something new to distract him. A patchy white substance liberally powdered the corridor, building up in small drifts where it met walls and fixtures.

"Is this... snow?" he asked, "Indoors?" He poked it. It was gritty and not at all cold.

"Well, not quite, but close enough." Thorax rubbed the back of his head with a sheepish grin. "We wanted to hire some pegasi to bring us some actual snow, but it turns out there's still a few shards of Chrysalis' throne lodged in a hole somewhere."

That explained the uneasy pressure on the base of his horn. "Their weather magic didn't work?"

"Worse. They couldn't even fly. They left in a huff and said we'd be hearing from their Union, whatever that means."

Given that Hearth's Warming Day was probably not an ideal time to break the news to Thorax of how he'd probably never be able to hire any blue-collar pegasus ever again, Sunburst made the executive decision to ignore it and move on.

"So if it's not snow then this is...?"

Thorax leaned down and lightly raked his tongue across the surface. Once it gathered a white coating, the footlong appendage snapped back into his mouth like a whip. He smacked his lips a few times. "Sugar."

Sunburst raised an eyebrow. "You carpeted your home with sugar?"

"Whole Hive, actually,” said a changeling Sunburst hadn’t previously noticed, which was fair seeing as he was standing on the ceiling. A satchel tied to his barrel spilled a fine mist of powder whenever he moved. “And at least this hallway is sugar, anyway. There was a lot of ground to cover so we had to cut a few corners." He grinned at his own joke. "Some of it’s flour, some salt-"


"-but most of the main rooms use this powder Elytra picked up in Manehattan. Not sure what it is, but the nice alley griffin insisted it was very pure.”

“Pricey too,” Thorax added, “But still cheaper than salt when buying bulk and much better for snow changelings. That's another holiday tradition, right Sunburst? Sunburst?"

In. Out.

In. Out.

In. Out.

The stallion in question was too focused on his breathing exercises to reply. Like many academically-minded ponies, he too was afflicted with a distaste for disorganization. While he wasn't nearly as hampered by his compulsion as certain bookish princesses, he still preferred his knickknacks shelved alphabetically and his food kept segregated on his plate.

Suddenly encountering several hundred pounds (if not more) of irregularly mixed baking powders—unsortable even by magic—was like getting struck in the hindbrain with a holiday nine iron.

"It's... it's..." he clamped down on his knee-jerk reaction with the training borne from surviving six years of messy college roommates. "It's certainly a very creative solution. Not something I would have come up with." More like he was incapable of considering it as an option. He'd have settled for a green Hearth's Warming. "Aren't you concerned about how… difficult it's going to be cleaning up after?

"Thought of that," the ceiling changeling preened, "Kevin made a contract with that Pinkie Pie mare to buy it all up after we're done. She even offered to collect it herself."

Much to Sunburst's relief, that assurance was enough to make his screaming instincts pipe down about the chaos. If anypony could someone manage to sort out baking powders it'd be that pain in the logic cortex.

Walking through the pseudo-snow was a novel experience. It was like sand in a way, but the flour made it thicker, more cloying. It was honestly a decent analogue, sans the cold and moisture.

The hallways (or would it be tunnels?) were decorated surprisingly modestly, with tastefully placed ribbons and garlands to hide what features of architecture couldn't be changed. There were more changelings there as well, mostly chatting in small pairs and trios as they meandered towards wherever they were going. Most were wearing hats. Not seasonal stocking caps or Dicoltsian top hats, but seemingly any sort of hat they could get their hooves on.

"This area's very nice," Sunburst commented, "If it wasn't for the stone walls I'd think we were in an upper class house in Canterlot."

"Decorations are easy," Thorax replied, "They're just like disguises, but for walls."

"I was a wall once," said a changeling wearing a sombrero. "Easiest infiltration ever. It was-"

"Noling wants to hear your story about the comedy club again, Morpho," her beret-topped companion groaned. "Ancestors below if we all haven't heard it a hundred times already."

"Hey! I haven't-"

"Ah ah ah!" Beret changeling waggled a hoof in front of her face. "No justifications."

Morpho's face fell. "Right. That." She frowned. "Mothra. I don't like you cutting me off in the middle of setting up a joke."

Mothra shrugged. "Fair."

Sunburst watched the pair as they slipped down a side passage. He turned back to Thorax. "What was that about?"

"Just some airing of grievances," Thrax said easily, as if this were a common thing.

"Airing of Grievances?"

"Yes. The tradition of letting everyling know exactly what you think of them and how they’ve disappointed you in the past year, free from repercussions."

Sunburst’s jaw worked soundlessly for a moment before his brain caught up with it. "I... don't think that's a pony tradition," he admitted, "At least, not one my family ever did." Then again, that was basically how his mother handled interactions year-round. "It sounds more like a Yak thing."

"Hm. Could be," Thorax admitted with a shrug, "that would explain the Feats of Strength as well. That didn't feel very pony."

"Sure was fun though!" chimed in a changeling wrapped in several large swathes of bandages. He offered Sunburst a fedora from a cart he was pushing. "Holiday hat?"

"I'm fine, thanks." If it had been any other hat, he might have accepted, but he'd vowed after highschool to never again touch that type of cursed headgear.

"Suit yourself."

"Come on then," Thorax urged, "We're almost to the atrium. That's where we've got everything set up."

When they at last arrived, the atrium managed to live up to both Thorax's hype and Sunburst's growing concerns simultaneously.

The huge space was decorated in full festive cheer. Not as overbearing as the outside, nor as minimalist as the hallways, but a pleasing balance of fancy and function. Multiple fireplaces dotted the walls, their free-standing chimneys stretching impossibly high before disappearing into the ceiling.

Colorful changelings wandered about in high spirits, sharing mugs of hot cocoa and chatting amicably as nymphs ran about underhoof. Somewhere a record player was piping out a tinny version of a classic song. The scene seemed just a photographer short of a best-selling holiday card.

So long as one didn't look too closely, that is. The devil's in the details and Sunburst had never felt that expression to be more apt. The longer he looked at the scene the more off it seemed. Like how the one song playing never seemed to end, or how the garlands weren't the traditional holly and ivy. Like how the fireplaces gave off no heat and the logs looked almost pony-shaped.

But the biggest offender of all, that which drew the lion's share of his attention, sat smack in the center of the changeling equivalent of a town square like a fat cat with feathers stuck in its whiskers. The showstopper. The centerpiece.

The Tree.

The horrible, horrible Tree.

It was massive. A wizened, gnarled old thing with dry branches that twisted towards the sky like the grasping claws of a griffin in its death throes. Cracks ran across its surface in a reflection of the land outside, held together by patches of viridian changeling goo and long strands of some kind of ivy with tiny red leaves. Shards of broken crystals dangled from each branch tip, gaudily catching the light like rings on the fingers of an old Minoan crone.

It was just a few prop skeletons short of a magnificent Nightmare Night display.

"Isn't it beautiful?" he heard Thorax ask breathlessly, his voice brimming with such pride that you didn't need to be a changeling to feel it radiating off of him. The changeling had genuine tears in his eyes. "It took half the Hive to get it indoors, but I think it was totally worth it!"

It wasn't. It really wasn't.

It offended every sensibility Sunburst had as a red-blooded harmony-loving Equestrian pony. But... could he really bring himself to criticize and tear down Thorax's efforts? Even with how badly a job he'd done mangling the centerpiece of holiday traditions?

His conscience said no.

A dark compulsion borne from his base urges said yes.

He opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again. Closed it and bit down on his tongue. Seizing his will, he beat down that urge with a metaphorical stick labeled 'holiday goodwill' until it whimpered and sank back into its corner of his subconscious. That much he could do. He could hold in his distaste for the sake of his friend's happiness. A few inaccuracies in décor weren't hurting anyone, right?

He grimaced as firelight caught a patch of resin, making the tree look unsettlingly wet and slick.

Well, maybe just a small correction. A constructive criticism. That's what he'd been asked to do, right?

"Yes, it's... lovely." He choked back the avalanche of criticism, letting only the lightest of comments escape. "Though it is a bit unusual."

"See? I told you you did it wrong!" Sunburst jerked slightly as a new voice from behind caught him off guard. "Evergreen is a species, not just a state of being."

Two changelings entered his field of view. One looked decidedly frustrated while the other radiated an air of smug satisfaction. Both were pale red, though one tended towards orange. It was the testy one that spoke next. "They should have been clearer then. It's a tree. It's green. For ever. Unless someling scrapes the resin off. We even decorated it with stringy bits and sparkly things. I'm not seeing the problem here."

"The problem is that we were actually given the wrong kind of tree," the first insisted. "You can't just grab any old oak. You should have asked a pony like I said."

"I did ask! I went all the way to a tree lot in Whinnyapolis. The stallion there said-" With a flash of green fire he shifted into a barrel-chested earth pony with a thick beard -"’Don' matta what kinda tree y'get s'long as it's biggenuff t'put the presents unda an' gatha t'family 'round.’" With a second flash he transformed back. "So I got the biggest tree we could fit through the skylight."

"Alright, alright, that's enough." Thorax finally stepped in, parting the two with his considerably larger frame. "Tarsus, stop bullying your brother. He did his best, as we all did. And Trochanter, there's no need to get so defensive. None of us knows with absolute certainty what types of tree do and don't qualify for being traditional." He smiled at Sunburst, who felt his stomach sink. "That's why we brought in an outside appraiser."

The unicorn pushed his glasses up and cleared his throat, stalling a few seconds to get his thoughts in order. He already regretted agreeing to advise; critique did not come easy to him. "Well, I mean, a species of evergreen is usually more traditional—pines, spruce, or fir that is—but it's not necessarily required. Ponies make do with what they have. I know in Las Pegasus they decorate palm trees. Plus, I can see how it'd be hard to acquire one of those around here. The usually grow in wetter climates."

His word seemed to carry enough weight to satisfy the pair and they left in higher spirits than they'd arrived, though both continued to argue over which one he'd proven right.

"Don't mind them," Thorax said, "Those two are always looking for something to argue about. If it wasn't the tree it'd have been the decorations, or the food, or the weather even. One time they spent a whole afternoon arguing whether it was partly cloudy or partly sunny."

"I see. What was that you said about food?"

The changeling king's smile widened. "According to our research, it wouldn't be Hearth's Warming without..."

"...A Hearth's Warming holiday feast!"

The serpentine table filled the banquet hall, curving and bending back on itself to fit all the changelings in one room. It was practically a maze to reach any given seat. Silver domed platters ran down it like a metallic spine, letting tiny wisps of steam and heat make wavy distortions in the air.

Sunburst found himself practically at the head of the table, situated in between Thorax (who himself was at the head) and a small, fragile-looking changeling who bore a striking resemblance to one of Starlight's students as she'd described in her letters.

Still, he was thankful for the food. The trolley on the train had offered little of substance for lunch, and he doubted that—even after all their misconstruances so far—the changelings could possibly mess up food. As one of the most prevailing parts of the holiday, and with the sheer number of recipes in circulation, it should have been easy for them to get it right.

His antlers humming with a spell, Thorax lifted the lids off the platters to reveal... something decidedly different from the cranberry jelly or buttered rolls Sunburst had been expecting.

"What is this?" he asked, poking tentatively at his slab of breaded something.

"It's exactly what Mare's Fashion Monthly: Special Holiday Edition suggests," Thorax replied with a smile that made the wizard's heart sink. "’A feast of foods you don't normally eat the rest of the year.’"

"Which in this case would be..."

"Five dozen family buckets of Colonel Grander's Claw-breaded Fish Fillet!"

"With fourteen discrete herbs and spices!" added the young blue changeling with glimmering pink eyes on his other side. She was also the only one wearing a genuine Hearth's Warming hat. "I've managed to catalogue six of them, but the deep frying process has made the rest harder to identify though I think I can-"

"Ahem." Thorax cleared his throat and the young changeling blushed and fell silent. "None of us have ever been to Griffonia-"

"-not much love there-" someone from down the table cut in.

"-so we thought their traditional cuisine would be perfect!"

All in all, it could have been worse. Weird for the holiday, but Sunburst knew a few pegasi that swore by Colonel Grander's. He lifted his fork, genuinely curious to finally try it for himself.

"But first, let us say grace."

Reflexively, Sunburst set down his utensils before bowing his head and putting his hooves together, muscle memory from his foalhood kicking like it hadn't been almost two decades since his last supper at Grandma's. He wasn't particularly religious, but he remembered her stories of Faust and paid his respects those who took them-

"GRACE!" Every changeling called out at once before setting on the food like starving hyenas.

After a moment he shrugged and joined them.

The meal continued from there in similarly odd fashion. The 'hoof-lickin' fish'—which turned out to be merely the first course—was surprisingly tasty. There was also a platter of veggies, most of which he recognized, but the rest of the meal was less of a traditional holiday feast and more of a culinary trot around the world. Spaghetti boloneighse. Mexicoltan Burroitos (packed with peppers). Dense cornbread muffins. And lastly, a genuine changeling dessert called gogol-mogol which he found to be rather a lot like eggnog.

Strange combination though it was, everything had been cooked to perfection and was as delicious as it looked. Sunburst couldn't help but enjoy himself.

"Peppermint?" the changeling to his left asked after all was said and done. She was passing a platter down the line.

"Thank you." Sunburst took one of the proffered candies, popped it into his mouth, and handed the tray down the line. "Do you know who came up with tonight's menu?"

"That'd be me." A yellow changeling just across the table raised a hoof. Sunburst had become so casually accepting of their myriad headgear that he hadn't even acknowledged this one's chef hat. "I didn't cook it all, that was mostly Curdle, but I did help decide what to make."

Curiosity drove him to press deeper. "And what led you to choose these dishes?"

"A picture, actually. I found it when we were doing holiday research. Here," he took off his hat and removed a slip of paper from within. "See for yourself."

The paper was glossy and Sunburst immediately pinned it as torn from a magazine. A full page photo of a pair of unicorns and a little filly in a kitchen, all wearing classic 'ugly' holiday sweaters. The counter between them and the camera was loaded with desserts, several of which stood out for being circled in red ink. Elkish delight, cannolis, mini alicorn-food cakes, and eggnog.

If the half-ripped-through text on the bottom was any clue, it was an ad for the brand of eggs used in the baking.

"Isn't it sweet?" the chef-ling asked. "You can practically taste the love just looking at it. The minute I saw it I just knew we had to have those foods for our feast." His eyes wandered back to the piles of plates before muttering. "Though we could only puzzle out a few of them."

Sunbust nodded and handed the picture back. Once again he decided that the moment was wrong for delivering any constructive criticism.

Evening progressed to night with more attempts by the changelings to imitate pony culture with mixed success.

There were carolers who sang songs and though none of the tunes were familiar, Sunburst found them catchy. Though a few lyrical slips left him wondering if they weren't in fact old war hymns shifted to a major key and reworded. One vocalist definitely sang 'feasting on an enemy' when the rest had sang feasting with them.

Then came the exchange of presents. The boxes produced from beneath the tree were green, rigid, and semi-transparent. Like hardened gelatin.

They were also not only empty, but completely solid and sealed. The changelings had understood the concept of 'exchanging colorful boxes' but not grasped the notion that there was supposed to be something inside.

As the evening's festivities began to wind down, more and more nymphs began to yawn and drift off. Caretakers ushered them away while older lings settled in where they were. Some curled up into the plush (if mismatched) furniture around the fireplaces. Others transformed into some kind of scaled pony before curling up inside the fireplaces and self-immolating.

Sunburst found himself yawning as well. One activity after another, combined with the heavy meal, had left him exhausted.

He startled from his half-sleep when a weight pressed down on the couch next to him. In the low, flickering light it took him a moment to recognize Thorax.

"So," he whispered, as a few nearby changelings were already asleep, "How'd we do?"

Sunburst considered the metaphorical bomb unceremoniously dropped in his lap. How could anyone possibly answer it truthfully? They’d all been so eager, so enthusiastic even in their misguided actions. The truth risked ruining the holiday for them forever. The least he could do was sandwich his critique between compliments to lessen the blow.

“It’s a very promising start. You did an especially great job with-”

“Sunburst,” Thorax quietly interrupted. He smiled, but it was strained and awkward. "It's something of a testament to how far we've come that you're already beginning to forget that we're changelings. Emotion sense, remember?"

"Ah. Yes." The fact had slipped his mind.

Sunburst sighed and sat up. What was the point in lying or even just sugarcoating when they’d probably been cold-reading his flashes of discomfort and shock all night long? "To be brutally honest, there's a lot you did that was wildly wrong. Gift boxes are supposed to have presents inside them, the food was random and bizarre, and only two of the hats I saw were actually seasonally appropriate. You light the fireplaces and drink hot cocoa even though it’s practically beach weather. The tree’s not an evergreen and is quite frankly; incredibly scary. You’ve got all the broad strokes, but missed or at least misinterpreted all the details, like a builder who’s just painted on windows and doors.”

Having drained his remaining energy, Sunburst slumped back into his seat. Thorax leaned back next to him, saying nothing. Quiet and contemplative.

In the moment of calm, Sunburst reflected back on his memories of the day. The good cheer during dinner as everyone gathered around the table. The quiet solemnity of the hymns. The laughter of the nymphs as they stacked their present boxes into towers and arches and make-believe castles. Even the good-natured arguments between family. Despite the inconsistencies, if he squinted a little, it all still looked like Hearth’s Warming.

"But I think maybe that's okay. It's not pony traditions, but you're not ponies. You need to figure out your own way to celebrate. Maybe next year you change some things, or maybe these can become new traditions. I think… I think that so long as you spend the day with family and friends, everything else is really up to personal interpretation.” He dredged up enough energy to turn and grin. “All in all, I think you lot have the Hearth’s Warming spirit nailed down.”

Thorax turned and smiled back, the grin coming naturally this time. He opened his mouth to reply and-

"Does that mean we're keeping the Feats of Strength?" a voice whispered from the next couch over.

Thorax chuckled. "We'll put it to a vote tomorrow."

In the peaceful quiet of the night, both changeling and pony drifted off to sleep, dreaming of holidays past, present, and future. Of traditions both new and old. Of friends and family. Of laughter and joy.

And all was well.

Comments ( 16 )

A pleasant little story! I think your description style fits characters like Sunburst well. Varied verbiage. :twilightsmile:

Well this was cute. :twilightsmile:

Would love to see a follow up for the other holidays. :pinkiehappy:

I see they combined Hearth's Warming with Festivus. At least they attempted a tree instead of the pole.

Great story, but I have to wonder how Pinkie will react when she comes to clean up the "snow" from that nice griffon in Manehatten?

I bet she'll recycle it into some VERY :pinkiecrazy: interesting :pinkiecrazy: cupcakes :pinkiecrazy:

What I wanna know is where Pharynx was during all this. He didn't even try to chase off intruders? Getting lazy there, soldier... :trixieshiftleft:

"GRACE!" Every changeling called out at once before setting on the food like starving hyenas.

:rainbowlaugh: Okay, I love that moment.

Better than my holiday went, at least. Also very funny.

Hah! This was a very nice mix of funny and heart(hs)warming. The changelings doing every aspect of the feast wrong, expect for the the spirit of it, felt right. And Sunburst works very well as the outside Hearth's Warming expert, or the straight man as it may be. :twilightsmile:

...and a large moose-like creature if a moose was cosplaying as a praying mantis lost in a tie-dye factory.

Probably my new favorite description of reformed Thorax. Because while I love Thorax, and come to love the reformed changelings too, there's still no denying the...peculiarities...about their designs. :rainbowlaugh:

If it had been any other hat, he might have accepted, but he'd vowed after highschool to never again touch that type of cursed headgear

As someone who owns and wears a fedora himself, I actually want to feel offended by that. :applejackunsure:

All in all, a fun little fic, and I agree with Sunburst--it's the spirit behind the activities that matters more than how accurate they are in comparison to how others are doing it. Though the changelings certainly made it...extra interesting. :rainbowlaugh:

I also like the inherent Thorax and Sunburst friendly interactions, as that's something that's a little under-explored in the fandom, considering the two are almost certainly friends just as much as Thorax's other friends too. I've myself wanted to do something similar, but couldn't ever settle on a good topic to do so, so on that point kudos for succeeding where I have not. :twilightsmile:


considering the two are almost certainly friends just as much as Thorax's other friends too.

Interesting trivia on that note. After I received the request to use the pair of them, I checked to see if they had anything establish in canon I could use.
There's nothing.
Outside of being in the throne room during Spike's "I should have stood up for my friend" song and the show finale battle, Thorax and Sunburst have no shared screen time whatsoever. So consider it a slight AU is you want.

That's what I mean, though. The show showed absolutely no interaction between the two, but considering the time Thorax spend staying at the Crystal Empire until he became changeling king, the two surely interacted and got to know each other in the meantime, even if entirely off screen. And I've long thought to myself there's probably good fanfic material to that, and this fic here only reaffirms that in my mind. So consider it a compliment on my part. :twilightsmile:

An actual fedora, or the trilby people generally mean when they complain about fedoras?

In looking up the formal definitions of the two so to double check I'm getting this right, I suppose its overall shape makes it a trilby...but despite that, it's brim is slightly wider than most trilbys I've seen, and most everybody I meet--if they know enough about hats at all to know what to call it anything other than "the hat"--refer to it as a fedora...so naturally I often think of it as such, even if that's not strictly correct.

None of them have ever shown a negative response to it, and I get more praise for the hat than anything else. So I guess I don't understand any of the negativity behind the two at all anyway. Personally, I love the look of either style of hat.

If it has anything to do with an association with hipsters, then let me be proof of that being mere overhyped stereotype, as I am no hipster--I just like the look of the hat. :raritystarry: Most other people I've met who have similar hats of their own are the same. In fact, come to think of it, I don't think I've ever met an actual hipster...hmm.

"Five dozen family buckets of Colonel Grander's Claw-breaded Fish Fillet!"

Drider, you're a mad genius! Changelings having a Japanese Christmas is perfect, then also decorating the halls with what is most likely cocaine, and just generally your expertise at describing Things instantly puts this in my Favorites shelf. I couldn't have ever hoped for a better Jinglemas fic. I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud while reading this. I wanna say more, but I'm honestly just speechless. Fantastic job, and sorry for taking so long to read it. :)


Thorax and Sunburst are so similar in so many ways and we know they know each other (to some extent), it's honestly a wonder there aren't more fics with them. Thus, I just had to request it. I actually wanted to request a ship fic with them at first, but considering it's pretty much the first with them interacting, I decided to leave it more open. And, for the record, I absolutely love how this ended up.

I like the title. I spotted the reference to Auld Lang Syne. Very clever.

Well, this was fun. The moral was exactly what I was hoping for, too - don't just take the pony traditions. Make your own, because it's the changelings' holiday as much as the ponies'. :twilightsmile:

Login or register to comment