• Member Since 18th May, 2012
  • offline last seen Nov 14th, 2020


Lecturer by day, pony word peddler by night.


The business of government never stops, and paperwork never rests, even on Hearthwarming. But this particular Hearthwarming, Cabinet Secretary and tea enthusiast Dotted Line plans to do his level best to see it, at least, take a break. His ponies need to go home to their families, and he, well, he has plans this Hearthwarming.

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 147 )

Author's notes

The story came about from a discussion with Kobalstromo regarding Christmas specials and he helped, too, with some pre-reading and idea-bouncing. Also pre-reading and bouncing ideas pretty damned hard was Bad Horse who not only made me shorten bits of it for the greater good of the story, and convinced me to bin an unpromising starting section, but is also chiefly responsible for the way the story ends. Also casting a benign eye of writerly skill over the story was Varanus, who needs no introduction.

I hope you enjoyed yourself, and thank you for reading!

I :heart: This Story :pinkiehappy:

Another great story! looking forwards to more from Dotted Line and co.

Wonderful. Though you forgot to capitalize Leafy a few times.

Another lovely piece of work. :twilightsmile: Happy Hearth's Warming.


and a nameless horror had taken residence in Dotted’s chimney. Again.
-Something mundane, like creosote perhaps? Or did his brush with the disemvoweled one have long-term consequences for him beyond the temporary brain leech?

and breaking the ice on his inkwell was getting very tiresome.
-Shades of Bob Kratchet from "A Christmas Carol"?

The otherworldly gibbering wasn’t helping any, either.
-Ok, so probably not creosote, but it could be that he had to dispose of something nasty in a hurry by burning it, and ever since then the creosote in that particular chimney does a bit of gibbering from time to time.

“Professor, is there any chance of getting that thing out of here before I freeze?”
-Or maybe the extra-dimensional studies professors (or whatever they are called) feel he owes the a favor? Or maybe they now consider him a comrade in arms and thus tend to involve him in their little adventures?

unaccountably decorated with tiny silver bells
-Original copy of Starswirl the Bearded's work? Or a historically accurate reproduction? Or do they ward off certain things that would be attracted to the brain-waves of anyone reading the book, or the book itself? A crude anti-theft mechanism to keep someone who shouldn't be reading it from making off with it? Some combination of the above?

We are dealing with a class three manifestation drawn by the dimensional instability of the Royal Palace.
-I assume that that is less problematic than the class two manifestation in the last chapter?

We have finally tracked down the last surviving copy of De Rangiferis Mysteriis
-*Googles Rangiferis* Ah... hahaha! I wonder if it can be turned pleasant? Probably not. The bells, the chimney, the stolen socks. I wonder if he should have scheduled to move his quarters to a different office, or if it would have followed him? I also wonder why the surrounding rooms don't keep the temperature above freezing. Perhaps he needs enough space for paperwork that the room it very large? Perhaps in addition to being a corner office with sizable windows? Perhaps with historically significant stained glass that is out of the question to add an outer pane over to increase the insulative value of?

you are supposed to watch out for him, and you are enjoined not to cry out.
-*Snerk* I wonder if the researcher is reading too much into it, or if you are continuing to twist the legends into a pretzel?

We could enlist princess Luna to give us aid in that respect.
-I guess she could use the work, unlike her sister, who tends to be overloaded?

And it is said that he has an eldritch laugh like unto—”


To make matters worse, it was her boss.
-So has he been transformed into a horror, and his name striped away?

And no, I’m fine. Professor Abacus dispatched a handy chimney sweep to help.
-I wonder if the chimney sweep gets hazard pay, or has Sandy Claws departed from the area? Probably no hazard pay given that it took a bit of doing to get that in the last chapter. I suppose that hanging upside down in a warm chimney might be a nice change of pace from freezing while trying to do paperwork. I hope he wasn't badly scorched or suffer too much smoke inhalation on his arrival? Or did the protective aura of Sandy Claus against such things last long enough for the fire to be doused?

Draft an ‘spontaneous and unrehearsed’ apology
-"a" not "an" I believe.

They are always starved for material come Hearthwarming and would love to pick up a delicious slice of recreational outrage like this.
-Not focusing on "feel good" stories given the season? I guess even Equestria isn't THAT nice.

I’ve sent everyone I possibly can away already,
-And besides which, his own chimney might not be decontaminated, and he can justify working from her office, since that is where her notes are.

[1] Smile #38a — mocking, yet affectionate, disbelief.
-You COULD try putting these in the newly released "author's note" area, but I think this will work very well actually.

I’ve plans for this Hearthwarming.
-Three cups of tea in a row? Cathartic acts of utterly silliness in the workplace when he is sure nopony will see him who will care*?
*In other words, Celestia the tea-troll who rejoiced when the gala was ruined doesn't count.

With these words, Dotted strode out of the office trailing little wisps of soot behind him.
-I wonder if he is going to clean up before meeting the zebra, or say that, on behalf of Equestria, he "Repents in dust and ashes, and you can see the ashes" or some such.

Canterlot was first a fortress and only later a city,
-The amount of large stained glass windows that invite catapult stones would tend to argue against that, but perhaps military theory is different in Equestria? Or it was ORIGINALLY a fortress, and Celestia had the windows carved out to celebrate X centuries of peace?

-((This is where I ended up taking a long-ish break.))

-It occurs to me to wonder of Sandy Claws is simply trying to get Dotted to take a break. Perhaps his "plans" are simply to shut down the treadmill of work he is on so he can actually have the satisfaction of getting ahead a bit? I still think that three properly appreciated cups of tea in a row (or more?) is more likely, but you never know.

Dotted, brushed clean and fortified with a meticulously prepared cup of tea,
-Well, there goes the "repent in dust and ashes, see provided ashes", as well as a strong hit to the "lots of tea in a row" theory.

and reflected how here it was impossible to keep pretending.
-Pretending what? What illusion is he holding onto for his sanity?

The walls of the palace came in close around the Court, massive hulking shapes, sloped low, almost seeming to crouch in readiness.
-Oh, I see...

He hoped Mkali would see it like that. He could certainly use some goodwill.
-I would think that would already be factored into Mkali's disposition, and thus his reputation if Mkali is a resident of the embassy.

presumably in case he was a devious assassin wearing a remarkably convincing ‘aging bureaucrat’ costume.
-Hey, it hardly takes much strength to slit a throat, still less to slip poison into a drink. And that is letting out the idea of unicorn magic (although I forget if he is a unicorn). The mix of guards is interesting. Is that to show Equestria's protection, or to protect Equestria's interests?

which was a bit of a mystery because according to all accounts they were exceptionally good at both.
-Paperwork and Chemistry? Interesting. I guess the Chinese did invent gunpowder IRL, and they had some pretty efficient bureaucracy.

the true representative of Zebrica
-So there is somezebra who is only nominally the representative of Zebrica, but actually wields very little power?

a Look.
-I wonder what fraction of The Stare said look is equivalent to? Which in turn makes me wonder if Dotted might be able to withstand The Stare, and from thence I am given to wonder if Fluttershy coming to Canterlot by herself (as unlikely as that would be) would be any problem to Dotted, and from thence I am given to wonder how "Sweet and Elite" would look from Dotted's perspective. I also wonder if this is the same Hearth's Warming where the Mane Six starred, but given the absence of "All Hooves On Deck!" I have to assume that either it isn't or that Celestia elected not to inform Dotted, as her personal present to him.

The last time he gave anything that sort of look, half exasperation and half analysis, was way back in his chemist years.
-Ruined delicate, and time and bits intensive experiment? Maybe the ruiner of such an experiment or expensive piece of equipment?

while he was observing a solution of lithium-borohydride in hydrazine that was stubbornly evolving hydrogen.
-I do believe that hydrazine is highly flammable although I could be mistaken... *Uses Wikipedia* Yep, rocket-fuel all by itself (As in it does not require a separate oxidizer) and can hit 800 C in milliseconds. Thus, while hydrogen doesn't burn very hot (compared to carbon), it could prove dangerous as a fuse leading to the hydrazine... which might already be decomposing. Lithium-Borohydride is very high energy density, although for some reason this isn't made much use of (IE nobody uses it for fuel or explosive). In short, said mixture would SEEM to me to be of great concern.

Just dumping it down the sink wouldn’t do
-Missing period. Also, I would think that he should have used a containment vessel if possible, but he may have been in a hurry. He probably learned to have the disposal method in place before performing such experiments in the future.

-Sorry, but I am going to have to take another break here. Hopefully it won't be as long as my first one.

Glory be. This story is going on the short list (with A Cat Town Christmas): one of those works of graceful laughter and subtle profundity that have the genuine capacity to draw my cynical pagan heart into the Christmas Hearthwarming spirit. A thoughtful infliction of joy, indeed. :twilightsmile:

I was also going to make some comment on the declension of reindeer ... but, you know, on further reflection, it just seems inadequate. Thank you for a deep-winter smile, and I wish you the same in return!

Aw. Thanks.

But, really, what is the declension of 'reindeer?'

To be honest I didn't look it up, because the joke was that the name looks very much like 'De Vermis Mysteriis' a noted tome from Lovecraft's mythos, but now I'm quite curious.

I love the Civil Service OC's, and fully approve this second story featuring them. I did a little inner squeal when Leafy finally showed up. It's not like he's a scene-stealer or anything, I just really enjoy the mincing little guy. Dotted, of course, remains the star; he's got such a lovely no-nonsense nose-to-the-grindstone approach to everything from otherworldly horrors to the Secret Equestrian Government to basic low-level paperwork. Plus, he really knows how to gift. Well done!

Well! As long as you're asking ... :raritywink:

> the joke was that the name looks very much like 'De Vermis Mysteriis' ...

And that's exactly why I thought better of my comment; because we're writing for English speakers, and you did have the parallel going on, and a little bit of dog latin that helps the joke is actually more valuable than getting it correct and mangling it into some huge mouthful that breaks the flow of the line.

In other words, don't change it in the story; your version isn't an error. Literally the only reason to discuss the topic is to geek out over language a little bit. (Which isn't itself a bad thing, and with a nom de plume like yours it seems like the sort of thing you might appreciate -- which is the only reason I mentioned it at all.)

That having been said, "vermis" is singular (the worm), and I suspect we're going for "on the mysteries of reindeer" plural. Looking up vermis, as best I can tell we're in the genitive case (they are mysteries belonging to the worm). I'm not sure that rangifer was ever an actual word used by Romans, so I don't know what declension the word is, but I'd lay odds that it's the same as lucifer, with which it seems to share a root. Which would make the "proper" Latin the plural genitive second-declension: rangiferorum.

(edit: Or we could just look it up directly! Why couldn't I find that earlier?)

Disclaimer: This is all armchair scholarship. :twilightsmile:

Thanks! I just may write something someday that follows Leafy, you know. There's a lot of fun to be had with a pony who is silly with determination and tenacity. Maybe have him flex those lawyerly muscles. :twilightsmile:

Just...mincing? My foreign may be showing, but I don't actually know what that means.

To "mince" is "to walk with an affected fastidiousness, typically with short quick steps." It's how I see him move in my head, whether he's "walking" or not. Your internal picture may vary.

This! This is so much yes.

Do I like geeking out over language? Hah! There little I like more. And have a follow just for writing an entire post about the declension of an obscure word in Latin. :twilightsmile:

But yes. Our template phrase[1] can be De Rerum Natura -- On the Nature of Things. Rerum is indeed the genitive plural of res while natura is, indeed, the singular of the ablative. Just so, we use the genitive plural of Rangifer, and the ablative plural of mysterium [because it is mysteries of the reindeer, not mystery of the reindeer] and we get the correct phrase:

De Rangiferōrum Mystēriīs.

But you are, again, correct. It'd ruin the joke a bit. And Classical Equestrian isn't quite Latin. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

[1] I'm leery of De Vermis Mysteriis because Lovecraftian terms are rarely linguistically reasonable. Unaussprechlichen Kulten lacks a "Von" in the front and means something closer to "Unpronounceable Cults" which, actually, fits real well with the man that gave us Cthulhu. And Abdul Alhazred isn't a proper Arabic name at all, though I've seen one spirited theory that it is in fact a corruption of Abd-al-Azd which means "Servant of the Approacher." Fitting.

1864332 Yay! I don't generally get into such hardcore linguistic geeking in my stories, but I can't resist getting the little details right, which is part of the reason why my output's so slow. (Someday I'll start getting Haylander: Origins posted, and then there can be a pony story which has characters occasionally talk in Anglo-Saxon. Someday ...)

I hadn't personally analyzed Lovecraft to that extent, but that footnote was awesome to read. :pinkiehappy:

> Classical Equestrian isn't quite Latin. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
For what it's worth, Princess Luna agrees with you [1]. :ajsmug:

[1] Context: I was running a perfectly lovely little all-OC-pony online RPG when suddenly Luna herself hacked into the board, created herself an account, and threw the narrative into a screaming left turn by adding her own recollections of the historical events. It got awkward but glorious when she realized that her collaborators weren't ponies. The whole thing was an Experience, and there was an amazing amount of great writing sunk into that game by all parties. One of my favorite moments was, and remains, learning how Daylight Savings Time nearly restarted the Celestial War.

Wonderful! :moustache:

1863455 Nice, but I was really hoping to hear more about the trade relations between Zebrica and Equestria.
1864513 That is some high-quality roleplaying there.
1864266 Or are you just mincing words?

I analyzed how the scenes of this story work together to convey its theme.

Awesome, I love these little guys. :pinkiehappy:
Seriously Dotted line has to be one of my top 3 favorite OCs. :yay:
Also I love how you portray the world of Equestrian bureaucracy. :rainbowlaugh::trollestia:

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and letting us read about these great characters again. :scootangel:

The description of this story would greatly benefit from a note indicating its status as a sequel to Whom the Princesses Would Destroy, and a link thereto.

That said, this was wonderful.

Heh. Love these stories. :twilightsmile: Anyone but me hoping that DL has better plans than just work for Hearth's Warming?

"1138/T reports" Yay for old Lucas movie references!

Dotted is still Best Bureaucrat! :heart:
and the scene with Celestia? Awesome! and dignified! but mostly Awesome! :rainbowlaugh:

I promised meself I'd try to write more comments an' communicate me views more clearly, which'll explain me rambling and disconnected writing here.
Dotted's raison d'etre can be summed up as "Because someone has to". He's a joy to read (on account of you bein' such a fabulous writer and all). Also the embassy bit was great, on account of Mkali being a joy to behold and all the little treasures givin' hints about the bigger picture.
Applause. Great reams of applause.

I think I say this everytime, but you have a serious gift with how you can so perfectly convey the story with your words. I will not stop saying this until it stops impressing me. :ajsmug: (I am also more than a little jealous, I have no where NEAR this degree of linguistic skill.)
Dotted is in the running for my favorite OC, and I think is angling for best pony status. (Good luck, your gonna have to dislodge Twilight for that.) //dl.dropbox.com/u/31471793/FiMFiction/Twilight_Sparkle_lolface.png
Though, Quizzical is doing very well herself. :pinkiehappy:
The final part though. A father to his men, full stop. That nearly brought on tears. Not to mention him giving Celly a blanket. It was very nice (read: so heartwarming my heart has actually melted and fused with my ribs as it cooled.) seeing someone taking care of her, instead of the other way around. I really like the dynamic we are seeing between the civil services and the sun princess. Though, I can't help but notice there has been virtually no interaction with the OTHER princess so far.

*Hint hint* :scootangel:

Oh, Twilight Sparkle is indubitably Best Pony. Beyond dispute. But I am pleased you like my little group of bureaucratic OCs. See, paperwork IS magic!

I kept wanting to write a scene with Dotted and Luna, but I still haven't found the right context. It's coming, though. Just so you know, my Luna is a socially awkward genius, and a millennium of temporal displacement helped none. Her and Dotted ought to get along like a house on fire. You know, flames, screaming, ponies running for cover, that sort of thing. :twilightsmile:

Ah yes. One of these days, I'll have to make my extras, deleted scenes, and alternate endings story. I even have a name I rather like: Obiter Dicta. Pretentious enough?

But yes, this story does have a coda. A What Happened Afterwards, if you will. It was never written in the main body of the story because it would dilute the story structure.

Ha! Someone did spot it! Far from the only reference, mind. There's a significance to 0451, too. Especially in conjunction with the letters 'D' and 'X'.

You're lucky it's still Christmas.

Huzzah! (This site needs more Luna emotes)

I am filled with holiday spirit and it's not even Christmas anymore - love Dotted Line, he's a well fleshed out and endearing character.

“He insulted the ambassador of the United Cities and Heartland of Zebrica. Something about grass huts."

And somewhere, the Duke of Ridinburgh wipes a proud tear from his eyes

Draft an ‘spontaneous and unrehearsed. Tsk tsk, how'd you miss that?

is an reminder.” Again?

“An reminder? Another?

here eyebrow her

The word of Equestria’s government, well,” Mkali said, rocking a hoof back and forth, “not particularly solid.
I think you are missing an is in there.

It's always nice to have more Dotted Line and this outing was quite enjoyable. I quite liked the slow build-up to the entity's reveal and the conversation with Mkali.


That was quick. If I may ask, what's your word processor? The fact that the an's got through a grammar check astounds me.

I use Scrivener for writing. It doesn't have a grammar check. It makes up for this with a host of other lovely features.

And that's how Dotted Line saved Hearthwarming. With paperwork. And tea.

dinc #37 · Dec 28th, 2012 · · 1 ·

That was ludicrously beautiful and heartwarming. Thanks! More?

I love this story please do more with dotted line. My favorite scence have always been him when he meets/ talks to the princess

I've been hoping for more Dotted Line, so I may have squealed with joy (in a very manly way, of course) when I saw this story.

Oh Blueblood, you silly little pony. Good thing the zebra Ambassador has a great understanding of who has useful things to say and who doesn't. Interesting little aside about The Sent, I'm guessing that's a reference to Zecora?

Wonderful ending with Celestia.

That was wonderful! Absolutely so! Although, there is one error I caught.
"She ought to be resting. Moving with stealth that bellied his bulky frame, he crept closer and peered at the top page. In Celestia’s calligraphic script it was titled “Zebrica Treaty—Draft Proposal & Legality Report.”"
Shouldn't it be "belied" instead of "bellied"?

Sharp eye!

That was an embarrassing error to make, sure enough.


Well that answers that question. I'm too used to Word and it's grammar Nazi-ness.

You know, I wonder. I've just seen an advert for the new series of "Yes, Prime Minister", and now I see this beautiful work of art. I can't help but believe the two must be connected, somehow. You wouldn't happen to discuss your story ideas with a man in the BBC, would you?

This really is quite fabulous; superb diction, metaphors, and a hook to keep everyone wondering about the next chapter. Do write more, right now.

If a horror is "unspeakable," how do you discuss it?

This is why I feel the urge to call in air strikes on mimes.

Right, finally got round to this!

I have to say my favourite bit was the beginning. I love how you manage to very subtly imply that Santa Claus is getting lost in Dotted's chimney each year (without doing anything that would require [Human]) and that the ponies consider him some kind of extradimensional invader. I also love the resonance between the first and second scene.

‘Twas the day before Hearthwarming, and a nameless horror had taken residence in Spinning Top’s chimney. To make matters worse, it was her boss.

Yeah, that. :rainbowlaugh:

I'm very intrigued about Dotted's history with the Princess now. That's a very exclusive club he's in. I wonder how he ended up where he is?


What are your other two favorite OCs? I'll probably want to read whatever stories they're in. Dotted Line is one of my favorite characters as well, along with Sepia Tock.

Santa Clause as Eldritch Abomination? I like this headcanon.

Can I, like, just, um, can I like, stealborrow that or something? Please?
I'd give you credit, of course. I have no idea what I'd use it for, but that's a great idea and if I ever have a use for such a thing I'd love to.

The Counting Goddess... I'm scribbling that down in my 'deities headcanon' file. No idea what use I'll find for it, but it's a good note to have.

I do believe I like this new footnote style of yours. Unobtrusive, but easy to read.
I think there's a misplaced dash (long dash? em dash?) in the paragraph with the second one, though.

Ah, flaming metaphor. (Sorry, I've got a textfile open and commenting while I read :twilightsheepish:)

Oh, now I'm curious about these "Sent". Do you expect that's likely to express itself elsewhere if given the time?
I also like Mkali's ...interesting dismissal of Blueblood.

1866706 Hmm, now... I'm sure I've heard of Scrivener before, but I honestly don't remember anything about it... I take it it's good?


Santa Clause as Eldritch Abomination? I like this headcanon.

Can I, like, just, um, can I like, stealborrow that or something? Please?

I'd give you credit, of course. I have no idea what I'd use it for, but that's a great idea and if I ever have a use for such a thing I'd love to.

By all means. It was inspired by "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" where some of the lines sound...creepy as all hell, really. So, yes, take the idea. I'm not the first one to have it, either. Charlie Stross used it once, I believe.

The Counting Goddess... I'm scribbling that down in my 'deities headcanon' file. No idea what use I'll find for it, but it's a good note to have.

I wrote some backstory on that in a comment here, should you care to read it.

I do believe I like this new footnote style of yours. Unobtrusive, but easy to read.

It's not really a footnote, and not an endnote either. I've decided to call them ghostnotes. :rainbowlaugh:

I think there's a misplaced dash (long dash? em dash?) in the paragraph with the second one, though.

Will fix.

Ah, flaming metaphor. (Sorry, I've got a textfile open and commenting while I read :twilightsheepish:)

Flaming? To what are you referring, precisely?

Oh, now I'm curious about these "Sent". Do you expect that's likely to express itself elsewhere if given the time?

Do you believe my very next story?

I also like Mkali's ...interesting dismissal of Blueblood.

Mkali's one cool old lady, no doubt about that.

Hmm, now... I'm sure I've heard of Scrivener before, but I honestly don't remember anything about it... I take it it's good?

It's like a development environment for writing. It has basic formatting options and all sorts of ways to split things into scenes, rearrange them painlessly, track progress, organize research, character sketches, and the like. I like it quite a bit. If you are curious, there's a free demo here. I wrote Whom The Princesses Would Destroy on the demo version and liked it so much I bought the full thing. It may be overkill for use with fanfic only, but I used for my work, too.


Well, I was specifically referring to the "eldritch abomination" portion. I'm aware of the creepyness factor associated with Santa Claus, although that's mostly a recent development (and mostly the same song, too...). But thanks muchly, anyways! (I mean, the dude's a stalker who hands out stuff, and we perpetuate it by lying to our kids and then sneaking around behind their backs. Mixed messages much?)

That's a fascinating comment. (I need to google "hippomorphic" now though, I can see what the relation is but I need the specific etymology) I suspect you, PrettyPartyPony, and myself share similar approaches to headcanon/backstory. I feel like I'm in a similar situation to PPP, though...
On a tangentially-related note, let me ask you this: Do you consider Celestia and Luna to be outright immortal (and eternal)?

In any other context, with a name like 'ghostnotes', I'd have expected them to look more like this. I think yours are easier to read, however.

In this case, the flaming metaphor is Dotted's cheerfully burning bridges. In your last story, you had another excellent spot where Spinning Top pictured her burning career.
I dunno, it's like a theme or something. (Probably the "or something".)

You know, I actually got smart and decided to google* Scrivener. It looks quite good, and I'm inclined to try it, maybe even buy it.
The complication is that use Linux. Not quite to the point of exclusivity, but for all practical purposes that might as well be the case. And Scrivener isn't really available for Linux -- there's a 'beta', but I still don't rightly know what's involved in all that.**
I suspect what it will come down to is that I'll try the beta/demo, and attempt to re-create most of it's features with other software. I'll be missing several bits, of course, but I'll try.

* Well, not technically, but seeing as the words' developed into a verb by this point...
** Add to that, I'm really spoiled rotten by pretty much Linux's entire approach to software -- I'm so used to not paying anything for software that ~$30-40 bucks looks borderline outlandish. Based on the screenshots I'm sure it's worth that much, don't get me wrong, but I don't know if it's worth that much per platform.

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