• Published 25th Dec 2021
  • 684 Views, 35 Comments

Reaping Rainbow: A Very Grim Hearth's Warming - The Hat Man

Rainbow Dash flies home for Hearth's Warming when she has a disastrous crash with Santa Hooves himself. With the big guy out of commission, the holiday spirit can only be saved by her! ...Oh, and Death himself as Santa, of course.

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Dashing Through the Snow

Author's Note:

A story suddenly conceived in a moment of holiday inspiration and a pseudo-sequel to one of my favorite stories I've done on this site? It's a holiday miracle! (And, once again, all apologies to the late, great Terry Pratchett.)

Note that if you have not read Reaping Rainbow, no worries: it's not necessary to enjoy this little holiday jaunt.

Enjoy, and happy Hearth's Warming to all!

It was three days before Hearth’s Warming, and Rainbow Dash had just completed her last day of duty for the Wonderbolts before Hearth’s Warming break. She packed up a few official souvenirs for the ponies back in Ponyville, which ended up being more than she could comfortably fit in her saddlebag, which in turn meant that she had to carry some of them in her forelegs.

This, it should be noted, was exactly the type of behavior that the PFA (Pegasus Flight Association) discouraged, as it could lead to accidents and getting lost and dropping heavy things on ponies for whom gravity was not optional, as well as the sort of occasional wacky situations that bureaucracies frown on.

Also, somepony at the Weather Bureau had apparently made a miscalculation for the previous week’s snowfall, which meant that they’d had to schedule a snowstorm right in Rainbow Dash’s path home. (Such mishaps seemed to occur often around the holidays, by the way. Princess Cadance, when accused of secretly authorizing such things to provide backdrops for sudden holiday romances, has generally responded by laughing nervously and teleporting away after offering excuses about Crystal Empire- or baby-related emergencies.) Between the heavy load, her full hooves, the icy wind and the snow splattering against her flight goggles, she was having trouble just keeping on course.

“Aw, man!” Rainbow Dash grunted, flapping her wings as hard as she could as she veered to the left and right. “Maybe I should’ve just taken the train like everypony else!”

The reason she hadn’t, of course, was that she felt that taking the train from Wonderbolts Headquarters as a Wonderbolt would be seen as a sign of weakness. She could imagine the ponies on the train saying things like:

“What’s the matter, can’t handle a little snow, Rainbow Dash?”

“Those gifts don’t even look that heavy!”

“Ooh, so much for being ‘the best fliers ever!’ Why, when I was a colt, the Wonderbolts were way tougher! Come on, everypony, let’s laugh derisively at her!”

“(Derisive laughter here)”

Pfft. The heck with that! Rainbow Dash thought to herself, shaking her head. And what the hay does ‘derisive’ mean, anyway?

Before she could question her brain’s odd grasp of vocabulary words, a gust of wind blew one of the gift boxes from her hooves.

“Hey!” she cried in the vain hope that verbal commands would shame the box into flying back to her. When that didn’t work, however, she instead flew after the box, which was being carried on a gust of wind so strong and wild that suggested it was training to pick up a farmhouse and drop it on a hapless old lady with fashionably sparkly red shoes. (Silver if the wind was an originalist.)

In any case, Rainbow Dash took off after the box, which was sent twirling and whirling through the clouds. She kept after it, but never seemed to get any closer, despite her best efforts, and the effort wasn’t made any easier by the near-constant snow that she had to clear from her goggles or the numbness in her wings.

Yeesh, maybe I better let this gift go… if I keep this up, I’m gonna get hypothalamus!

(Somewhere, for some reason, Twilight Sparkle felt a shudder and the sudden urge to get Rainbow Dash a word-of-the-day calendar.)

Regardless, Rainbow Dash was flying nearly blind after the gift, which was why she had no time to react when the gift seemed to stop in midair, as if it were caught by someone unseen, and even less time to react when she got closer and saw that someone had indeed caught the gift in his hoof, and that someone was a reindeer in a red suit who was looking very puzzled at the gift and then very shocked as Rainbow Dash rainbow crashed right into him, sending her, the reindeer, the gifts, and the sleigh he had been pulling through the sky tumbling down to the ground.

“Ugh,” Rainbow Dash groaned as she regained consciousness. She got to her hooves, her legs shaky and uncertain, and looked around at the aftermath. The gifts she’d been carrying were strewn all around but they, like her, were mostly intact due the thick layer of snow that had cushioned their fall.

“Sweet!” she cried, clapping her hooves together. “Looks like no harm done! …Wait, what happened to that other guy?”

She heard a groan behind her and turned her head.

“Ooh, never mind,” she muttered.

The reindeer in the red suit was lying face-down in the snow, and while the snow might well have cushioned his fall, that meant that he, in turn, had cushioned the fall of the sleigh he’d been pulling as it landed on top of him. (The sleigh was fine, at least)

“Oh, jeez, uh… you okay, Mister?” Rainbow asked.

“R… rain…” the stranger groaned, raising a shaking hoof. “R-Rainbow Dash…”

Rainbow froze. (Not literally, of course; it wasn’t that cold.) How did this stranger know her name?

“...You… you are going… on the permanent… Naughty List…”

The reindeer groaned again before falling silent.

Rainbow blinked, staring down at the strange reindeer. The strange reindeer wearing a red suit. The strange flying reindeer wearing a red suit and pulling a sleigh. The strange flying reindeer wearing a red suit and pulling a sleigh who somehow knew her name and kept a list of naughty ponies for some strange reas—

“Oh buck me, I killed Santa Hooves,” she breathed, her eyes going wide.

“I’m… not dead,” Santa Hooves groaned.

I would leave that to the experts, thank you very much.

“Hey, who asked you?!” she demanded, whirling to face the pony who’d spoken.

She faced a skull with dim blue lights burning in its eye sockets. The skeletal pony before her was wearing a black cloak and carrying a black, obsidian scythe. Hallo, Rainbow Dash, he said in a voice that one felt more than heard. I wasn’t expecting to see you today… or for at least a few more decades.

“Oh, uh… hey, Death,” she said awkwardly. “It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?”

Indeed so, Death said, trotting past her, curiously leaving precisely zero hoofprints in the snow. As I said, I hadn’t thought to see you again so soon, but life - in a manner of speaking - is full of surprises.

“Sure is,” Rainbow said, settling down. Somehow her memory had more or less blocked out the time she’d nearly died in an accident and had to take over for Death while he went on vacation, but with him standing there, her memory was once again reminded that there were no take-backsies when it came to Reality, at least not when it came with a capital R.

Now then, Death continued. It seems you’ve killed Santa Hooves.

“I’m not dead,” Santa Hooves groaned again, trying to raise his head, the snow clinging to his beard. “I’m… immortal…”

Oh, pish-posh. I’ve often found that ‘immortal’ is applied far more liberally than it ought to be these days, Death said, taking out his pocket watch. Let’s see… hmm, it says that something is dead here… or about to be, at least.

“Wait wait wait!” Rainbow Dash shouted, standing protectively in front of the prone reindeer. “I can fix this! Death, maybe we should get him to a hospital! Do you know the way to one?”

Oh, I know the way to all of them by now.

“No… no hospital…” Santa Hooves groaned, shaking his head as vigorously as he could, which wasn’t that hard, but just hard enough to cause one of his antlers to snap off at the base.

I am inclined to agree, Death said. Not only would that cause a commotion, the very idea of the embodiment of Hearth’s Warming laid up in hospital would utterly destroy everypony’s spirit. Ah, and now I believe I understand why my watch brought me here.

“Why?” Rainbow asked uneasily.

It may not be Santa Hooves who dies this evening, but with him incapacitated and unable to bring his gifts to all the good fillies and colts of Equestria, the very spirit of Hearth’s Warming itself may wither and die.

“Oh no!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, taking Death by the shoulders and shaking him, producing a sound like a garbage bag filled with dice tumbling down a hill. “We can’t let that happen, Death!”

Indeed not. For there may be more at stake than silly celebrations, presents, and holiday treats.

“Hey, don’t knock presents and treats!”

Santa Hooves groaned again loudly.

“Yeah, you tell him, Santa!”

Regardless, as an anthropomorphic personification of a larger concept like myself, normal notions of ‘health’ do not apply to our friend here. Modern medicine will do little to preserve him. What we need to restore him is a sizable dose of joviality.

“Uh, do they sell that at P-Mart?”

I mean jolliness. We must surround him with jolly things and merriness if he is to have any hope of recovery.

“Oh. Um… oh, I could sing a Hearth’s Warming carol!”

“No.” / No.


“No!” / No!

“Tch, fine,” Rainbow Dash grumbled, sitting down in the snow sulkily.

Now then… I admit that this is a bit out of my field of expertise, Rainbow Dash. Any idea where we can find a ready supply of holiday merriment and joy?

“Preferably… with cookies,” Santa mumbled. “And please hurry… I think I am bleeding internally…”

He gave a hacking cough, sputtering up a liquid that appeared to be filled with silver, red, and green glitter.

“Eugh,” Rainbow Dash said with a gag. “Uh, let’s see… merriment, joy, cookies… probably need to keep him hidden while we’re at it…”

Her eyes lit up as a thought, like a firefly caught in an empty milk can, began fluttering in her brain.

“Oh. Em. Jingles, Rainbow!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, sliding down into her party cave with a fresh plate of gingerbread cookies. “I can’t believe you know Santa Hooves! And that, of all ponies, you chose me to take care of him in my secret Party Cave until he recovers! Eeee, what an honor!” She trotted past Rainbow Dash and Death. “Oh, and hey, Death.”


“Yeah, we’ve established all that,” Rainbow said, rolling her eyes and wondering why Pinkie Pie had a hospital bed in her party cave beneath Sugarcube Corner. Or how she’d gotten it down the slide, for that matter. “Anyway, you feeling any better, Santa?”

“A bit,” the bearded reindeer said in his deep baritone voice. He’d been placed in the bed and put into traction, his antler reattached and bandaged with what looked like a bough of holly. “I must say, Pinkie Pie, these cookies are excellent! Ho ho hoOHHH, merciful holiday elder gods, my ribs!”

"What I can't figure out is what you were doing flying around today anyway," Rainbow said. "It's not Hearth's Warming, yet!"

"I needed to do a little test run, make sure the sleigh and I were both up to the task," Santa replied. "Thank you for bringing the sled with us, by the way. I just had it refurbished."

“Sure sure... sooo, uh,” Rainbow began, sidling up alongside Santa’s bed, “you think this might get me back off the naughty list?”

“I don’t know,” Santa said, looking away. “Think maybe you can help Pinkie refill my I.V. bag with more cocoa?”

“Ugh, fine,” she grumbled, taking down the empty bag. “But no marshmallows this time. They keep getting stuck in the tubes!”

Death then cleared his throat. As pleased as I am to see Santa Hooves on the road to recovery, I fear that this may not be enough to avert our holiday crisis. If he has not fully recovered by the time Hearth’s Warming Eve has arrived, then he will not be able to make his deliveries, in which case the result will be the same: the Death of Hearth’s Warming.

Pinkie gasped. “Not the You of Hearth’s Warming!”

Stop that, he said flatly. As I was saying, we must take precautions to keep Hearth’s Warming alive.

“Ooh, what should I do?” Pinkie Pie asked eagerly.

Do as you are doing now. Provide Santa with all he requires. Keep him jolly at all costs.

“Aye aye, Captain Bonybeard!” Pinkie exclaimed with a salute.

Hmm. As for you, Rainbow Dash…

Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh… you’re going to ask me to be Santa, aren’t you?!” She took a deep breath and puffed out her chest. “Don’t you worry, Santa! You can

count on me to—”

Ah, no, Death said, holding up a scythe and literally cutting her off mid-sentence. No mere mortal can truly take on the role of Santa Hooves. Therefore…

He loudly tapped his scythe on the ground, and his black cloak turned red and was suddenly trimmed with a lining of white fur. The scythe itself was wrapped in a pine and was now the color of a candy cane.

...I will be Santa Hooves this year!

The three of them stared on in appropriately deathly silence.

“Pinkie, please hurry with those cookies,” Santa whispered urgently.

“Right, right,” Pinkie said, nodding vigorously as she hurried away.

“I’ll help!” Rainbow Dash said, trotting after her before Death suddenly hooked her back with his peppermint scythe.

And where do you think you are going, Santa’s Little Helper?

Rainbow Dash looked down and saw she was now wearing a bright green suit with jingle-bell buttons and a curvy, conical hat. She was also wearing equally curly boots with even more jingle bells on the tips.

“...Oh, crap.”

Ah ah ah, remember, Rainbow… we have to keep jolly, he said, staring deep into her soul with his burning blue eyes. Ho ho ho.

To be continued...