• Published 9th Mar 2013
  • 2,866 Views, 170 Comments

Hearth's Warming Eve: A Princess Promenade - Cloud Wander



Ponyville Playhouse presents a bold, new interpretation of Hearth's Warming Eve. Music! Adventure! Intrigue! And a few surprises!

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Winter Roll-Out

On a frosty winter morning in the hesitation before sunrise, Twilight Sparkle slipped out of the Golden Oaks Library and eased the door shut so as not to disturb Owlowisious and Spike. She paused to tighten her scarf, her breath puffing in clouds around her. The gravel path crunched under her boots as she trotted across the darkened market square, towards the light of the House on Sugar Cube Corner.

Another all-nighter, Twilight thought. Twilight, girl, you need to stop this. Yes, Princess Luna's recommended reading list is utterly fascinating, but you've got to slow down. If Ponyville has taught you anything, it's that the world doesn't revolve around old books. Slow down!

Tiny clumps of snow clung to the corners of the buildings and to the edges of the path, a reminder that Winter Roll-Out had come and gone and that the cold was deepening.

Twilight looked to her right and saw that a brightly-colored notice had been posted under a street lamp:

THE PONYVILLE PLAYHOUSE
presents
A BOLD AND AWE-INSPIRING NEW INTERPRETATION
of the immortal classic:

HEARTH'S WARMING EVE

A Moving and Educational Epic!
Music! Adventure! Intrigue!
(And a few SURPRISES!)
*F*U*N* for the whole *F*A*M*I*L*Y*

All Cast Members Drawn from the Proud Ponyville Community!
All volunteers for cast and crew are welcome!
See the sign-up sheet at Ponyville Town Hall!

"HEARTH'S WARMING EVE"
Written and directed by
Rainbow Dash

Twilight Sparkle halted, rattled her head and rubbed her eyes. Whoa! I must be tired. That couldn't have said what I thought it said!

Twilight looked at the poster again. It still read:

"HEARTH'S WARMING EVE"
Written and directed by
Rainbow Dash

No matter how long Twilight stared at it, the words just did not make sense.

This calls for research! she thought.

Then she shivered and her stomach rumbled. Maybe after breakfast. She trotted on towards Sugar Cube Corner.

Twilight had been so wrapped up in her studies, she had forgotten that Hearth's Warming Eve was only a few weeks away. She considered it. Maybe that's just what I need! Something to get me out of the Library for a while, away from the temptations of Luna's musty tomes!

The year before, Twilight had really enjoyed playing Clover the Clever, the famed apprentice to the illustrious Star Swirl the Bearded. It had been so exciting to be part of the company! The rehearsals, the laughter with the other players, the fretting of the hour upon the stage, the glow of the applause afterwards!

Yes! she decided. I will volunteer for the play. And maybe, I'll just look into what Rainbow thinks she's doing and offer her a little extra organization!

Twilight smiled to herself and trotted ahead, remembering her little time treading the boards in Canterlot.

Thump! Twilight was shaken out of her reverie by a collision with another pony. Twilight had been so lost in memory that she had stepped right into her.

"Oh! I'm sorry! Sorry!" Twilight exclaimed, dancing back.

"Ha ha! That's all right, Miss Sparkle," said Derpy Hooves. "I bump into folks all the time! Whoops! Ha ha!" The little gray pegasus pony checked that her mailbags were secure, then smiled warmly at Twilight, her golden eyes glowing in the dim light. "The bakery's not open yet."

"I know I'm a little early," said Twilight. She looked at Derpy. "Aren't you cold? You aren't even wearing a scarf."

"Naw, I'm fine," said Derpy. She offered Twilight a sly grin. "On cold mornings, I cheat a little. Look!"

Derpy held up one of her mailbags and showed Twilight the side of the pouch that she kept close to her. "This was my own idea!" Derpy said. "I made up these little comforters out of my old feathers that I cleaned up from around the house. When it's cold, I clip these comforters to the inner side of my bags and they warm me up! It's a big help on mornings like this."

"That's very clever," said Twilight.

Derpy smiled at her. "Thanks, Miss Sparkle." Derpy scuffed her hoof at the ground. "You know," Derpy said, "I really like your new wings. But you aren't using them right."

Twilight startled. She looked at her back. Her wings were clenched tightly to her sides, out of the way. "What's not right?" she asked.

"On cold mornings," Derpy Hooves explained, "you need to fluff them up! Like this, see? Feathers are warm! They keep the cold air away and hug the warm air in! Try it!"

Twilight spread her wings over her back and sides. Why! Derpy was right! The wings were like a blanket, holding in her body heat.

"Derpy! You're a genius!" said Twilight Sparkle.

"Naw, I'm a pegasus, silly," laughed Derpy Hooves. "Oh! Look! There's Mister Cake!"

Carrot Cake appeared in the window of Sugar Cube Corner. He waved at Derpy and Twilight, then went to the door.

"Come on, girls. Get in here, out of the cold!" he said.

Derpy and Twilight ran inside. The bakery was always warm.

Twilight paused at the threshold to breathe. "Ah, the bakery smells so good this morning! Are the cinnamon buns ready? I would love a hot chocolate and a cinnamon bun!"

Carrot Cake said, "I apologize, Your Hi– Twi– Miss Sparkle, but the cinnamon buns will take a little more time. But I could prepare a cup of hot chocolate for you right away! Please, take a seat and I will be with you directly."

"May I have a hot chocolate, too?" asked Derpy.

For a moment, Carrot Cake almost glared at Derpy. Then he remembered himself. "Of course. Of course. Two hot chocolates, coming right up."

"And an apple muffin?" asked Derpy.

Carrot Cake glanced towards Twilight Sparkle, then looked into the amber eyes of Derpy Hooves, his most reliable customer, and surrendered.

"Fifteen minutes, okay?" he said. "I'm sorry. I'm just a little distracted this morning."

"Yay!" exclaimed Derpy.

Twilight and Derpy went back to sit at the little booths that Sugar Cube Corner kept for morning customers. Derpy set her bags down. Carrot Cake returned shortly with two steaming stoneware mugs of chocolate with big dollops of whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Twilight accepted her cup, warming her hooves around it.

In the darkness before dawn, Twilight Sparkle scrubbed the mist from the window of Sugar Cube Corner and saw the market ponies silently setting up their booths and stalls. Not so many, so late in the season, she thought. When the first big snow hits, the market will be empty.

Look, there's Big Macintosh, putting his apple stand together as he does every morning, she observed. Oh Celestia and Luna, I admire him so much! He is so like my brother! Strong and diligent. And gentle, as only the strong can be gentle.

In the sky above her, a light flashed, and she wondered if even Rainbow Dash was getting an early start on a busy day.

Twilight heard bright bubbles of Pinkie Pie's laughter floating from the kitchens. Twilight smiled. You were my first friend in Ponyville. Have a great day, Pinkie.

I am stupid. I have always been stupid, thought Twilight Sparkle, as she sipped her hot chocolate and looked out at the morning. Treasures have been arrayed before me, but I was always blind to them. Bless you, Celestia, for guiding me to Ponyville.

"You know what's really great about wings?" asked Derpy.

Twilight Sparkle looked up.

"Hugs. Wing hugs," said Derpy. There was a tiny bit of whipped cream on her nose. "When I'm at home with my family, I can spread my wings over them and keep them all warm and safe. You should try it. Wing hugs are the best!"

Twilight Sparkle regarded Derpy Hooves. The little gray pegasus was absorbed in her chocolate, anticipating muffins.

You should be the Princess, not me, Twilight thought. I swear to you, Derpy, that your wisdom will guide me, today and from now on.

***

Finally, Carrot Cake arrived with a tray of fresh apple muffins and cinnamon buns. Derpy eagerly collected two of the former while Twilight satisfied herself with one of the latter.

Carrot Cake stood fussing with the tray for a bit, hovering over Twilight. Then there was a loud crash and louder laughter from the kitchen. Carrot Cake apologized to Twilight and retreated to his domain.

Twilight looked after him sadly. I'm still Twilight Sparkle, Mister Cake. You once asked me to foalsit your babies, remember?

She turned back to her cinnamon bun. After they had nibbled a bit, Derpy Hooves spoke up. "Oh, Miss Sparkle, are you looking forward to this year's Hearth's Warming Eve play? I know I am!"

Twilight Sparkle laughed. "I was thinking about that on the way over here. Derpy, I've decided to volunteer for the play."

"Oh, yay!" Derpy applauded. "Me, too! Guess what? I'm in the cast! I'm actually going to be on stage!"

"Really? Wow! Good for you, Derpy! What role do you play?" Twilight took a big sip of her hot chocolate.

"Commander Hurricane," said Derpy.

There must be a spell for this! Twilight thought. This hot chocolate is either going up my nose or out over the table. Think, girl!

In the end, she managed to choke down the hot liquid (ow!) and did her best to smile at Derpy.

"Really?" Twilight said.

"Yes!" exclaimed Derpy, bouncing with excitement. "Director Dash told me I was the most authentic actor for the role!"

Director Dash? "Authentic?" asked Twilight.

Derpy tossed her blonde mane. "Director Dash said that the real Commander Hurricane was a blonde, like me!"

Twilight plucked at her cinnamon bun and considered that. "It's true that Clover the Clever, in her Commentaries, described Hurricane as 'Sun-blessed,' and that may mean she was blonde. But the ancient biographers often depicted great generals as 'flame-tressed' or 'shining-haired.' Some even described them as having fires or stars burning upon their brows. You see, Derpy, in their formulation of the Heroic archetype, the writers sought to demonstrate illumination, in the sense that...."

Twilight glanced up to see Derpy looking cross-eyed at her.

Twilight nodded. "Blonde. Blonde is good. Authentic."

Derpy shivered with excitement. "I've been studying up! I usually don't read that much, but my family has been helping me. I want to understand Hurricane and her world. Her life. Try to think like she did. Woo! It's challenging! But I'm going to do my best for Director Dash. And for Ponyville!"

Twilight smiled. "It's interesting, isn't it? Once you try to really understand another pony, there's so much you need to learn. It's hard to step out of your shoes and into another's. But if you can, the world just seems so much larger and richer."

"I know," said Derpy, nibbling her muffin. "Before, I only knew Commander Hurricane from the play. She seemed kind of mean. Grrr! But after reading about the real Commander Hurricane, she seems more complicated than I thought. You're really smart, Twilight. What do you think about Commander Hurricane?"

Twilight tapped the table in thought. "Her world and her biographers were not kind to her, I'm afraid. I think she was a great general, not because she won battles, but because she achieved victory without fighting, through bluff, intimidation or negotiation. Her Council of the Clouds, bringing the pegasus tribe into détente with the griffons, was a triumph. She always fought to conserve her troops and protect her folk. She was fiercely proud and always bore the Spear of Bellerophon, her grand-sire, the greatest champion of the pegasus tribe.

"In my interpretation, Derpy, Hurricane was driven by the needs of her tribe and her fear of not living up to the legacy of her family. And when she was at last driven to the edge by the Fimbulwinter, certain that the pegasus tribe was doomed, then and only then did she become a tyrant, in her despair.

"Hurricane never expected to survive the Fimbulwinter, you see. She went to Equestria to die for her tribe. It is almost cruel that she lived after Hearth's Warming Eve. In her Apologia, she acknowledges her part in the conflict that empowered the windigos. After Hearth's Warming Eve, she never carried the Spear of Bellerophon again. She eventually resigned her command and lived a quiet life in obscurity until her death. Her entire fortune went to the One-Winged Pegasus Society, that cared for injured veterans. She wasn't a bad pony. She just made some bad decisions."

Derpy sat back, eyes shining. "She was a mare of great valor," said Derpy quietly. "I will honor her with my performance. Hurricane will live again, in me. This, I vow."

Uh-oh, thought Twilight.

"Yeah, verily, now shall I go forth," declared Derpy Hooves, standing. She seized her mailbags and strapped them on. "To deliver these missives, so vital to the life and welfare of my people. This is my mission! May I never taste another muffin if I fail!"

She looked to the east, where the Sun would rise and the day begin. She stamped her hooves in determination and announced, "I go!"

Derpy Hooves marched out of Sugar Cube Corner. She launched herself into the winter sky, shouting, "Forward Equestria! Huzzah!"

Oh, dear, thought Twilight. Nothing good will come of that.

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