• 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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Marigold, Pudding and Pie

Miss Cheerilee had decided that the Hearth's Warming Eve play was a suitable project for her students, so the whole class had turned out.

Sweetie Belle proudly led the children's chorus.

Apple Bloom, also in the chorus, snuck around backstage, looking at the sets. She and Mister Breezy had a grand old time, discussing the details of the stage effects.

Scootaloo had been cast as Private Pansy. She trotted after Derpy Hooves everywhere.

The "cringing Earth Ponies" (Diamond Tiara and Truffle Shuffle, Serfs #1 and #2) had very little to do. ("We offer vegetables. We cringe. That's about it for us.") So Truffle was introducing Diamond to the subtleties of three-card monte and suggesting that Diamond put forward a few bits. Just to keep the game interesting, Truffle explained. Diamond, fascinated, opened her purse.

Snips, Snails and Twist, in their windigo costumes, tore around backstage making woo-OOO-ooo! noises at everypony. Featherweight took pictures and Pipsqueak laughed.

Out front, Madam Mayor Marigold of Ponyville trotted confidently to the center of the stage.

"Um, Madam Mayor... that's not your mark," said Rainbow Dash. "Your place is stage right. Can I get a baby spot for the Mayor? Great. There you go."

Marigold marched back across the stage. She tilted her glasses down towards Rainbow Dash. Rainbow gave her the high sign.

And so the story began.

"The Zoning Committee has reviewed the proposed statute, limiting the height of hedges within the city limits of Ponyville and determined... wait! Are these the right notes?"

There was a pause as Marigold shuffled her stacks of clipboards.

Down in the audience, Spike grumped, "You coulda put me on stage."

"She gave me the Town Hall for a month," whispered Rainbow Dash, beside him. "What was I supposed to do? Stage the play in the Library?"

"Ah, here they are!" announced the Mayor of Ponyville. She cleared her throat.

And so the story began. Again.

"Once upon a time...."

***

The company was rehearsing "the Summit," the tempestuous meeting of the three tribes.

"Daughter of the Unicorn King, Princess Platinum!" announced the steward.

Twilight Sparkle stepped onto the stage, head held high, to the call of trumpets.

Of course I hold my head up! What choice do I have, with this much lace? Twilight thought. All this stiff brocade? And this cape?! I'm not a Princess; I'm a barge! And what's the deal with these little shoes?

Still, Princess Platinum remembered Rarity's lessons and sailed sedately on-stage, a ship of state. From the gallery, her folk applauded her. Her opponents, the ambassadors of Earth and Sky, sullenly gave way.

As every eye turned towards her, Twilight finally understood: I am not just myself anymore. I am Unicornia.

Spike had helped Twilight research her role. And Spike, bless him, had discovered Princess Platinum's Journals in a neglected vault of the Canterlot Library.

The early part of the Journals were, to be honest, tedious. Platinum was small-minded, petty and vindictive, obsessed with the tiny quarrels between the members of her court. She recorded only the little victories of this or that courtier and gloated on the disappointments of everypony around her.

But also, Twilight had noted, in light of Rainbow Dash's play: wasn't there just a hint here or there, of restlessness, of a rivalry between Princess Platinum and Clover the Clever? In her disparaging comments towards Clover, wasn't Platinum actually expressing her desire to be her father's faithful steward and councilor, and not just a decorative addition to his table?

Around the time of Hearth's Warming Eve, after a few complaints about the difficulty of obtaining this excellent fabric or that favored treat, the Journals broke off.

Then, more than a year later, the Journals resumed.

What a difference! Twilight had thought, as she swept through the pages. In contrast to the dull, rambling entries from before, the entries after were tight, concise and business-like. They were filled with decisions made and actions taken. Platinum was entirely devoted to developing Nova Unicornia (as she insisted on calling the new land) into a homeland for her folk. She faithfully recorded her conferences with the Table of Three, from which she, Vice-Chancellor Smart Cookie and Sergeant Major Pansy, would eventually publish the Declaration of Equestria, the foundation for the Nation of Three Tribes.

Hearth's Warming Eve freed her, Twilight had thought. It broke the narrow walls of her old life. She escaped and discovered her true destiny. And herself.

She changed. And she became stronger.

Princess Twilight Sparkle stepped onto the stage, head held high, to the call of trumpets.

I am not just myself anymore. I am Unicornia. I am the pride, power and purpose of my people. I am the vessel of their strength and hope.

I am not yet who I will be, she thought, as she looked haughtily across the stage. Now, I am small. When I am great, you will not know me then. So be it!

She glanced about the stage, at the Earth Ponies and the Pegasi, and favored them with her consideration.

Now, then, about the food. And the storm! she thought as she moved forward with determination. "Clover! Attend me!" she said.

As the rehearsal went on, Twilight couldn't help but grin to herself. Ah ha! I have guessed your secret, Princess Platinum! As much as you tried to hide it, beneath your manners and your fancy dresses: you were a good pony. You are worthy of respect. I will do my best to honor you.

***

"This hat's too big," objected Applejack.

"No, your head's too small," laughed Pinkie Pie.

The rehearsals for Hearth's Warming Eve continued.

On stage were Chancellor Puddinghead (Applejack) and Smart Cookie (Pinkie Pie). They were rehearsing the "Off to New Lands" scene, the "tent post" that would propel the rest of the drama.

The scene began with Smart Cookie, in a lonely peasant hut, blowing pensively into her bubble pipe. Suddenly, there was a disturbance on the hearth!

For the umpteenth time, Chancellor Puddinghead landed in the fireplace with a dusty phlumph. "Whelp! Here Ah am!" she announced unnecessarily, shaking her head.

"Ah! Puddinghead! Excellent!" observed Smart Cookie. Smart Cookie swept towards the fireplace. She paused to blow a few bubbles from her pipe. "My dear Chancellor, you have always had a flair for the dramatic entrance!"

"A flare?! Whut! Am Ah on fire?! Put me out!" Puddinghead jumped up, banging her head against the mantlepiece. She staggered dizzily across the floor, slipped on an imaginary banana peel and face-planted into the stage.

"Oh, well done, Puddinghead," applauded Smart Cookie. "Good show! So droll!"

Two rows back from the stage, Rainbow Dash sighed.

"What's wrong, Rainbow?" asked Twilight Sparkle, who sat beside her. "They're much better this time. Better than the last twelve times at least."

Up on the stage, Puddinghead wobbled to her hooves. She looked at Smart Cookie.

"Knock knock," said Puddinghead.

"Oh, come on," hissed Rainbow Dash.

"If I may be so bold as to ask, who is there?" replied Smart Cookie, cocking an eyebrow.

"Madam," said Puddinghead.

"Madam who?" inquired Smart Cookie.

"Muhdam' hoof is stuck in th' fireplace!" declared Puddinghead. She grinned expectantly at the imaginary audience.

Rainbow Dash thumped her head with her clipboard. "She is such a block of wood."

"Rainbow Belle Dash, be kind," cautioned Twilight Sparkle.

"Sure, sure, I'll– wait! Who told you my middle name?"

Twilight smiled. "I'm a princess. Princesses just know these things. Also, I talked to your Mom and Dad after the coronation," grinned Twilight Sparkle. "They had so many funny stories to tell me about their dear little Rainbow Belle!"

Rainbow Dash grimaced. "Dad! Mom! You traitors! No!"

"Oh, your secret's safe with me," said Twilight, batting her eyes. "As long as you obey!"

"C'mon, Twilight, I– oh, what is this, now?" exasperated Rainbow Dash, turning back to the stage.

"He-he. Y'know whut time it is when an elephant sits on yore fence?" asked Puddinghead.

"Can't imagine. Pray, enlighten me, dear Puddinghead," replied Smart Cookie, drily, examining her bubble pipe.

"Time t' build a new fence," laughed Puddinghead, grinning towards the empty theater.

"All right, that's it," said Rainbow Dash, tossing down her clipboard.

"Elephant jokes? Are you bucking kidding me?" shouted Rainbow Dash, charging across the stage. "Suppose there are elephants in the audience! When are you going to apologize to them?!"

"Ah got another joke," said Puddinghead.

"Okay, let's hear it," said Rainbow Dash, waving impatiently.

Puddinghead looked down and muttered something.

"What was that?" asked Rainbow Dash. "I didn't catch that."

Puddinghead cleared her throat. "Oh, sorry," the pony said in a raspy voice. "Ah'm a little hoarse."

"Ba dum," observed Smart Cookie, idly. "Tish."

Rainbow Dash sighed. "Applejack. Pinkie. C'mere," she waved to them.

The three ponies huddled.

"You know," Rainbow Dash said quietly. "I love both of you guys."

"Ah knows that," said Applejack, looking a little embarrassed.

"I love both of you more than a bubblegum quesadilla!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie.

"So let me be blunt: you guys stink," said Rainbow Dash.

"AJ, let's face it: you can come out here and tell corny jokes all night long, but nopony will ever think you are stupid or clumsy. You are amazingly competent at everything you do, from farming to building to baking to caring for your family and friends. And you can run a quarter-mile at a speed that impresses even me! So you are just not a very convincing Puddinghead.

"Pinks, I know you like to act the clown, but you are wicked smart and super-friendly! Twilight could learn a thing or two from you. Nopony who knows you will believe that you would just stand around detached, aloof, tut-tutting like some poncey Canterlot swell. Everypony knows you love being in the thick of things. You love to laugh. Watching you struggle to hold yourself in gives me a bellyache.

"Girls, I appreciate that you wanted to swap your roles and mix things up. But for the sake of the show, I have to ask you to go back to the characters you played last year in Canterlot."

Applejack took off her Puddinghead hat. "Wull, t'be honest, it's a lot harder t'be funny than Ah thought. Don't rightly know how that one manages it," nodding to Pinkie.

Pinkie Pie hiccuped a spray of colorful bubbles. "It's a gift," she admitted. "And you're right, Rainbow Dash. The play would be a lot more fun for me if I could run around the stage and be more like myself. Two questions, though."

"Okay," said Rainbow Dash, with a wary look.

"Can I keep the bubble pipe?" asked Pinkie. "I really like it as a prop! I can point and gesture dramatically with it."

"All right," said Rainbow Dash. "Just don't blow into it when another actor is speaking. It'll distract the audience. Second question?"

Pinkie turned away briefly and turned back. She now sported a neat little black mustache. She gave Rainbow a questioning look.

"No," said Rainbow Dash. "Why don't you two take a break, swap your hats, study your lines and come back in an hour? We'll pick it up then."

"Okay!" said Pinkie.

"Thanks, Rainbow," said Applejack. "That's a big strain off muh withers. See you in an hour."

"Great. Thanks for understanding, guys."

Rainbow Dash trotted back to Twilight and slumped down, relieved.

"You did very well, Rainbow Belle," said Twilight. "You were beautiful."

"Oh, shut up," said Rainbow Belle Dash, embarrassed. "You'd better be ready to up your game! The show must go on!"

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