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A Ponies and Dragons omake: Hearth's Warming (Check OCC thread!)

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'Ah, the bleakness of winter', was the bitter thought rattling through Curtain Call's head as an equally bitter cold crept through open windows and flimsy blankets. The slate gray stallion shivered against not just them, but the thick cold weather travel cloak that lie atop it. Which was warm to be sure, but it was beginning to show wear and tear from overuse. Not to mention the occasional gash caused by fighting crooks and monsters. Such disrepair was only good for letting in drafts. Incidentally, that was the problem with the windows just above his bed. There would be no more sleep tonight. Just as well, he supposed. The mattress felt like a bag of rocks against his aching back and the noise from downstairs was blasting sounds that were somewhere in between a bar brawl and an insane asylum. Convenient, as that describes a halfway house run by the Church of Discord pretty accurately.

But why is Curtain Call sleeping in such squalor to begin with? While he is no stranger to an urban area's seedy underbelly, this is Canterlot! Royal capital of Equestria! There are, in fact, some streets that are very literally paved with gold! On the other side of this glorious city is a bed that may as well have his name on it. He could be there, in the house owned by the family of good friend and adventuring buddy Bramble Rose. It is in excellent condition. It is certainly not falling apart at the seams and sits in a clean upscale neighborhood filled with ponies unafraid to leave their front doors unlocked at night. Right now, the actor and thief could be resting his head and breaking his bread in all the comforts of home. But he isn't. Because Curtain Call hates being in debt.

Owing another pony money has, in short, ruined his life and forced him down a less than legal career path. The stallion has no tabs open and accepts no favors. Even those couple weeks where he took up lodging at 'Casa De Rosa', the pragmatic pony rationalized it as payment for saving the purple runt's life during particularly hairy escapades. But now, the winter months have officially rolled in and with them comes his worst nightmare: Hearth's Warming. He has nothing personal against the holiday, truthfully. It's instead the exchange of gifts that really rubs his rhubarb wrong. As previously stated, Curtain Call hates baggage, which in his twisted little mind, also pertains to the voluntarily giving of items for no reason other than the gesture of giving itself. It is a debt that must be repaid.

So for the past twenty days, here he was, not sleeping among the chattering rats, currently not racking up interest on a fee that doesn't exist. While not sleeping, he tried to occupy his mind on business. The winter vacation bestowed to him and his party was a nice perk to working under royal order. The weight of his purse was nice and hefty, being fed by both those royal orders and some 'under the table' transactions he has not mentioned to Bramble and Ironmane and Tornado Ali. This kind of double dealing, and the question of whether or not he would be caught, was a thought he chose not to entertain at this time. Instead, he went back to his stash of gold and how to properly budget it. The majority of it would go towards his primary debt. It's source was also something he chose not to think about at this time, inspiring only the brief extra tight hugging of his pillow. Maintenance of his equipment was the next highest priority and last month was a surprising drain on the coat dyes in his disguise kit. Next came food and lodging, which were not a huge investment. Potentially no investment, but that lead to the next problem: Hearth's Warming. Just how much gold did the holiday need? If his gifts were to be small, he could breath easier. If non existent, even better! If extravagant, then... Then more thoughts he would rather put off.

As the night rolled on (the height of the moon suggested a time close to midnight), it became more and more difficult to keep his thoughts together. The party downstairs was getting rowdier. The wind grew colder. The planning of a holiday merely twelve days away was causing a lot of unneeded stress. Lastly, there was the growing desire to humble himself in exchange for sleeping in a bed that did not smell like shame. He ignored it. He would continue to ignore it until the sun rose and he could get on with a new day. He would resist the promise of a twenty day overdue good night's sleep. Of hot chocolate the next morning. Of not needing to keep a knife out of sheath as he slept, just in case. Then a half full flagon of cider flew from the darkness and cracked him in the back of the skull. Clearly the party had found its way into the sleeping chambers.

THAT TEARS IT!

Choking down fury and squeezing excess fluids from his now soaked violent mane, he stormed out of the place. As two more flagons, a bar stool and a bowl of pretzels were thrown in his general direction by unruly patrons, he made a personal vow to never rent here again.

One humiliating walk in the hock high snow later, Curtain Call arrived at the home of Bramble Rose. Though, at first, he didn't recognize the place. First, his eyes had to adjust to the dazzling lights dancing from magic candles to twinkling snowflakes. Only then could he make out the house number among the holly and the pine and the crystal ornamentation. This was the most elaborate set-up in the neighborhood. Maybe Bramble was having a little too much fun with this.

Curtain Call knocked thrice. Hopefully, somepony was still awake.

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This was truly Bramble Rose's favorite time of the year - the petite unicorn loved the season. The good will to one's fellow ponies, the chance to give gifts, and most importantly - dad was always home! Mom was happier, Dad was happier, Bramble was happier... who couldn't love EVERYPONY at this time of year?!

Not to mention that he absolutely loved decorating for the holiday. Even when he was little, he wanted to make sure to do the holiday proud ... but as he grew older and his particular magical talents developed, he had truly found his enthusiastic joy in the holiday. Making sure the evergreens were greener, collecting rare fireblossoms to light up the frozen gardens, along with all the coldfire bugs that always came with the fireblossoms - can't pollinate a fireblossom without a critter that's immune to the extremes of both heat and cold! But not to focus solely on fire, he also had managed to get his hooves on some rare crystal vines, which set everything off in the most lovely way!

So while Hearth's Warming was about the warmth of love that kept the ice and snow away, so too was the manorhouse a source of light in the darkest times of winter. coldfire bugs perched in all the evergreens, their flickering lights multiplied in the reflection of the clear, prismatic blossoms of the crystal vines. Fireblossoms of reds and greens and blues lining the walkway, keeping it clear of snow and ice. And another set of crystal vines laid their lovely pale blue leaves and crystaline blossoms around the door proper.

Bramble had been out very late enjoying others' decorations, and touching up the manor's own homes, and then they'd had dinner and afterdinner and late drinks at another manor's place, as his mom worked her never-stopping social campaign. And he was very, very happy to be curled up and going to sleep, as all ponies were at this time.

There was a knock at the door that briefly kept him from slumber, but that's all right, the servants would get it ... except, no - there were no night servants at this time of year... full pay, half time, that was his mother's gift to them. He groaned and rolled over, pulling a pillow over his head. Fine, if it was important, they'd knock again ...

They knocked again.

Nono. If it was important, they'd use the bell. Not knocking. No one knocked if they actually wanted your attention - knocking was that polite 'if you're up, come get the door, otherwise, I'll just wander on my way again and come back tomorrow.'

They knocked a third time.


"BRAMBLE!" his father's voice came, "Y'ALL GET YER LAZY TAIL OUTTA BED AN' SEE WHAT VARMINT'S COME KNOCKIN' AT THIS TIME!" Then his mother's amused giggle, as she always seemed to be whenever his father was brash and obviously unsuited to the high-class neighborhood...


Horse apples.

He stumbled out of bed, keeping the white sheet drawn around him against the chill as he stumbled down the stairs, dragging the long length of it behind him, muttering imprecations as to what unpleasant individual would disrupt someone's sleep during this season... He pulled the door open, the white sheet slipping a bit down one shoulder, glaring out through the unkempt mess of a silver mane that half-hid his eyes ... and then his face lightened. "Curtain!" he cried happily! "Oh my goodness, did you just get into town? What are you doing traveling at this time of night? Come in! Come in! Oh, I'm so glad to see you!"

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Curtain Call immediately regretted knock number one. Just what did he think he was doing trying to weasel his way into another pony's home? At this time of year? At this time of night? Had the stallion no shame? It's not like this was a matter of survival. He's camped out in far worse spots than this! This was about comfort and nothing more, he chastised, suddenly hating himself for being such a selfish little prat. So why did he knock a second time?

Of course there was no answer, he assumed while continuing to chew on metaphorical sour grapes. The family was out gallivanting. Or enjoying a much deserved rest from being out gallivanting. Either way, they were too busy to answer anyway. Briefly, he considered heading back to the halfway house and checking to see if he could break into the owner's quarters or something similar. Regardless, he planned to wander off this very instance and find a more constructive use of his time. So why did he knock a third time?

It's not like he minded being alone for the holiday. Far from it. And it's a stupid holiday anyway. It's not like a handsome rogue such as he needs the company anyway. Bramble can keep his Ma and Pa and his roaring fire. It's not like he needs any of those things. So, off he would go, ready to spout one more "...Idiot" at his misfortune before-

"Curtain!", he heard, just before storming off in a huff.

Wait. What?

"Come in! Come in! Oh, I'm so glad to see you!"

"Really?" His eyes lit up, genuine shock was in his voice. But he faked a cough to pretend the upper inflection was instead something in his throat. "Ahem. Anyway. Thank you. I hope this isn't too much trouble." He wiped his hooves on the welcome mat as manners dictated before stepping inside, shaking the access snow off his cloak which looked beyond repair at this point. Once Bramble shut the door behind them both and the cold air was locked safely away, one massive wave of warm air struck him. Heaven. His body had a sudden urge to relax, his eyes to shut and just pass out on the floor for eight peaceful hours. He resisted, instead finding the hat rack. Let fire and ice claim his cloak. But no nightmare imaginable could claim his lid.

"Just got back from a job. Small time, small pay. But every bit helps." He lied. He was good at it. "Are you sure I'm not imposing?"

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Ali was staring at the ceiling of her childhood bedroom. The house was completely quiet and very chilly since she hadn't bothered to build a fire lately, being that it's just her. She could faintly hear laughter and merriment somewhere off in the distance. Why was she awake? Because Commander Hurricane was NOT happy about her vacation from adventuring; he was getting restless after so much progress had been made in his protege. And if Hurricane ain't happy, Ali ain't happy. Talk about the world's worst headache.

Hearth's Warming was almost upon them, and Ali was more depressed than she had been in years, even at the monastery. She was home for the holidays for the first time since she was a young child. The monastery believed it would interfere with her training if she were to visit home, so her parents would come visit her and they would give her what gifts she could have while living there, but it wasn't the same. The monastery was silent, full of prayer and meditation during this season.

She was home. Her own bed, that she slept in less than the hard cot she had at the monastery. However, she was still alone, and the house was plain, no sign of celebration or decor. The Wonderbolts were doing a special holiday tour this year which required her mother to go with and continually repair and improve the flashy costumes, and her father was also hired for the occasion - part of their big performance required snow on demand. Ali wasn't invited.

Ali rolled onto her side, tucking her wings behind her. Bramble Rose had invited her to stay with his family during their time off, but she didn't know her parents wouldn't be home. They left a note on the table in case she happened to stop by, and by then, she didn't want to go crawling back after being so excited to be home for the holidays.

But...Bramble didn't live TOO far away. Maybe 20 minutes if she flew straight. Ali sighed and closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep. Eyes shot open again. She was miserable. Well...since she couldn't sleep anyway, why not go out for a stroll anyway? If Bramble happens to be awake...well, we'll see.

Ali put on a nice fleece cloak, a pretty shimmery silver to complement her own colors, and set off. The cool air felt nice on her skin, hot with frustration. Twenty-two minutes later, she landed on the street across from Bramble's family home.

Wait, what? Is that...why is Curtain Call here? She watched the two ponies enter the house as she stared, slack-jawed. She saw a candle light up Bramble's bedroom window, so she flew over to it, tapping lightly with her hoof.

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Bramble Rose smiled and led Curtain inside. "You did a show here? Oh, you should have let me know! I'd have bought a ticket!" The manor was much the same as when Curtain had last been there - simple, modest, but with each modest furnishing being of the utmost quality - a design philosophy of 'do more with less'. Bramble headed on up the stairs with Curtain. "You must be exhausted, it's the wee hours! Must have been some afterparty! I'll get you a guest room."

"WHO IS IT, BRAMBLE?!" cried his father.

Bramble rolled his eyes. "JUST A FRIEND COME TO SPEND THE NIGHT, DA!"

"IS IT IRONMANE? Y'ALL FINALLY HOOK UP?"

Bramble's face pinkened. "NO, IT'S NOT IRONMANE!"

"Y'FOUND YERSELF A DIFFERENT FILLY? GREAT WORK, SON! COME SAY HI PROPER-LIKE!"

Bramble's face reddened further. "IT'S NOT A FILLY, DA!"

There was a brief silence. Thank goodness, maybe he'd stop yelling across the -. "Y'ALL 'R PARTIAL T' COLTS NOW?"

"NO DA!" Bramble cried, his face absolutely flaming with embarassment. "JES' A FRIEND, GET YER TAIL BACK T'BED AN' AH'LL FIND A BUNK FER 'IM!"

There was the more quiet murmuring of his dam's voice, and the deep rumble of his sire's voice, but thankfully the two of them went quiet and let Bramble continue onwards. "Sorry bout that," Bramble muttered, still in his father's twang. The western drawl wasn't one they were used to from Bramble, but it seemed to come quite naturally to him. "Reckon Ah'll just get me a light from mah room an' ah'll bunk ya up elsewhere." Yes, and then Curtain could go to sleep, and then Bramble could find blessed sleep, and in the morning they could -

He'd just turned up his lantern when the knock at the window came. Bramble blinked and hurried to the window, glancing outside, then threw it open. "Ali!" he cried happily, still all bed-rumpled and flushed. "Howdy! Well, this is a concidence! Curtain an' I were jes' headin' t'bunk down. Separately! Not together! but com'in! Unless y'all want some hot cocoa t'warm up afore bed?" He grinned awkwardly, keeping a secret badly in his exhausted state - say no, say no, say no, you just want a bed, you don't want cocoa, say no ...

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Curtain Call isn't one to forget about all the absolutely untrue things that spew from his mouth. He can't, actually. Mainly, because he can't keep up a facade if he can't remember said facade. Secondly, and much more rarely, he feels a twisting pain in his gut when what he's been telling ponies comes up in conversation. It's a feeling he wishes wasn't there, spawned from the fact that he's lead around some pretty unsavory individuals over the years, his friends are not among them. He knows full well that he should not be lying to them. And yet, here he goes again.

"It was more of an in-house thing, actually. We decided that Pa's Hearth's Warming present should be him getting a Guild Roast. You should have seen his face when Ma took the stage! Priceless!" He snickered. The world he was pulling out from his imagination sounded like loads of fun. "The cider started flowing pretty early and I'm not really the rip-roaring type. I wandered out once the impromptu food fight started. And then here we a-"

A shouting match between Bramble and his father cut him off. Not that he minded. To see the Unicorn so removed from that air of dignity he works so hard to maintain put him in stitches! The accent! The accusations! The look on Bramble's face! The only thing that kept Curtains from choking to death on laughter was a rapping at the window. And even then, he had to shove a hoof in his mouth to even start to calm down.

"Good evenin', B-b-oh, Celestia I can't breath..." He gave himself one good slap to the cheek. Much better. "Good evening, Bluebird. Oh, what you just missed". He stifled a snicker. His friend, who was simply an awful liar, had suffered enough. "Nevermind. Ahem. Bramble, let's get that bunk set up. It's beyond late and I've kept you long enough as it is."

Besides, he was also passed the point of exhaustion. Thinking clearly was out of the question. So that little nibble in the back of his mind saying 'Bramble Rose's father sounds familiar' would have to wait until morning.

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Ali raised a brow between the two stallions as Bramble specified sleeping separately...what did she just miss? She shook her head and tried to focus. "I'm so sorry to come so late, but I saw lights on...I thought I'd take you up on the offer to spend the holidays here, if it still stands." She fluttered her wings a bit, looking down at the ground, suddenly feeling terrible for imposing.

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Snowfall! Cold, crisp air! Homefires, bonfires, candles, magical colored flames! Decorations both natural and ponymade! Ironmane was truly in heaven. The powerfully built, rust-colored paladin trotted happily down one of Canterlot's main streets, drinking in all in with wide purple eyes. Her iron-grey mane and tail were done up elaborately, accented with festive ribbons and silver bells that chimed pleasently as she walked.

Her broad back was laden with bulging saddlebags, a burden she bore proudly. This was her first year as the Emmisary of Generosity, and she intended to live up to the honor bestowed on her by Canterlot's High Priestess of Platinum.

Knock knock knock. Ironmane tapped one metal-shod hoof delicately on the large front door of an even larger mansion, decorated with exquisite attention to detail as a gingerbread house. "How delightful," she breathed. The door opened, and a liveried servant presented himself.

"Mmmyeeesss?"

The big paladin bowed low, slipping momentarily on the ice and scrabbling to regain her purchase, an act that rather ruined her air of elegant dignity and causes a discordant jingling in her numerous bells. "Hearth's Warming greetings on behalf of Princess Platinum," she said with an embarassed grin. The servant did not seem amused. "Mistress Lemon Hearts has graciously put herself on our list of donors to the less fortunate foals of Equestria, and I have come to collect her generous offer."

"Mmmyeeesss...the mistress did say something about that." The servant closed the door without excusing himself, causing Ironmane to snort a puff of steam. She reminded herself of the season, collecting herself just as the door opened. The servant had been joined by another, both Earth ponies, and between them they carried a stack of small, beautifully wrapped packages. Ironmane took these with her magic and added them carefully to enormous bags she carried.

"On behalf of the Temple of..." but the door had already closed. "Well! How uncouth. Still, perhaps it is simply colder than I realize, and they were thinking only of saving on firewood. And the hour is quite a bit later than customary for this affair. Upsetting that applecart did put me rather behind schedule." Using her magic, the unicorn brought forth a long list, unscrolling it. "Now, who is our last paragon of...oh! Bramble Rose's dam!"

Humming a song that went with her jingling bells, the unicorn trotted up to the enormous, blazing-with-light mansion that was the home of Bramble Rose's family. Mindless of the tremendous weight on her back, the big paladin fairly hopped up to the door and rapped on it rather louder than she had intended.

BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!

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Bramble Rose gave a small glare aside to Curtain as the other stallion snickered at him unrepentently, but let it slide. Ali had shaken her head 'no' to the offer of a drink, which meant sleep was coming soon! Ah, blessed sleep. "But a'course, Ali! Ah'm all too glad t' have y'all here! Now, if'n only Ironmane coulda showed up also, Ah'd say it were-"

The loud thudding at the front door made Bramble's teeth grit. How on earth was the manor THIS busy at THIS time of the morning?! And who rapped?! Why did no one use the bell, like civilized ponies!


"BRAMBLE!" cried the deep voice, "GO-"


"YEAH, PA, AH KNOW!" Bramble yelled back, and went grumping and stomping up towards the front door, mumbling about the consarn sleep rustlers don't they know what time it is and this better be good and not some sorta varmint lookin' t'snag money fer some made-up charity and stomp stomp stomp.

The door creaked open as he glared outside, then blinked and his face brightened. "Bah the' sisters!" he cried in surprise. "Ah can't rightly believe it! Ironmane, as ah live an' breathe! Come in, come in! This is providence, that's what it is! At this hour of th' mornin'? All three of y'all? Ah'm so glad y'all accepted mah invite, Ironmane!" He hurried her inside without giving her time to correct his mistake.

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Ironmane blinked rapidly, her face a mass of confusion. Slowly, understanding dawned. "Ah'm right pl--" she cleared her throat, delicately covering her muzzle with one hood. "I am quite pleased to accept the invitation, Bramble Rose, and I do apologize for being so very delayed. But you see, the High Priestesses of the Temple bestowed upon me the honor of being the Emmisary of Generosity, quite without notice, and I had no opportunity to respond to your card." She spoke rapidly, trying to keep up with the smaller unicorn hurrying her along. "I have come to collect your family's very generous offer for donation to the less fortunate foals of our land, and--oh! By the Powers, everypony is here!" She grinned brightly. "Miss Ali! Curtain Call!"

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"Little buddy, I think you can see the future. I promise not to tell! Our secret. Shh."

Playful banter aside, once Curtain Call saw the big red mare named Ironmane gracefully stomp her way inside, the stallion became very self conscious about how he looked. Questions like 'is my mane straight?' began rattling around in his head as he started adjusting collars and seams to look at least like he didn't just walk out of a bar brawl. Speaking of which, he still smelled like that was the case. This made the rogue; who usually takes quite a bit of pride in his appearance; want to go dunk his head in a lake. Twice so when he realized that his impromptu grooming was being done not in the presence of the pretty big mare, but of the pretty little one.

"What do you think? Should I have worn a tie?" He asked Ali, playing off his newly found embarrassment as bad shtick, adjusting the bow tie that wasn't there. The little liar even threw in an eyebrow waggle or two. Smooth. Moving on from that crisis, he was then off to greet a dear friend. She was prattling on about charity or some such. Predictable, but sweet.

"It's nice to have us all in one room with nothing trying to kill us for a change! A merry Hearth's Warming, Ironmane. Drop the bags. Stay a while."

And then he yawned. Smooth.

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Ironmane knelt down and used her magic to unhitch the heavy bags, then walked out from under them. "Oh how wonderful to see you all here. And, as you point out Curtain Call, with nothing trying to kill us." She trotted up to Ali and Curtain, giving each of them a kiss on either cheek.

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Bramble Rose was too tired to deal with minor issues of jealousy or whatnot ... though Ironmane's fumbling over his accent reminded him to straighten up and speak properly for when in Canterlot. "Ah, yes, the charity. We had wondered why nopony had been by to pick that up. I believe there shall be plenty of time for that in the morning! After a lovely night's sleep! Or half a night's sleep, as the case may be..." He gave a bleary grin, ran one hoof through his tangled mass of mane. Goodness, that was blunt. Apparently, his manners were already asleep. Or had never woken up. Oh, by the sisters, he had forgotten to braid his mane before going to sleep. That was going to be a good hour of brushing in the morning... no, guests... not braiding... ummm...

He ended up standing there just staring vacantly into a middle space as he tried to work out ... words ... in his head ...

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Ali's head sagged a bit as Curtain Call fussed over his looks when Ironmane showed up. No big deal, she told herself, she knew he had a thing for Ironmane. She perked up and smiled as she welcomed Ironmane's kiss. "That's very nice of you to volunteer your time...and back...during the holidays, Ironmane. I bet it's very rewarding."

Ali saw Bramble out of the corner of her eye, as if his wind-up key had run out. She nudged him in the side gently. "It's getting very late. Bramble, can you show us to our beds?" She hoped this moved things along so poor Bramble could get the shut-eye he so desperately wanted. She did take a moment to look around at her three...friends? Could she call them that? The warm house and their warm faces made her finally feel jolly for the first time of the season.

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"Hey. No napping on the job, soldier." To Curtain Call, this scene was strangely familiar but for the life of him, he couldn't place why. Why would one of them practically falling asleep leading the carriage cause a sudden shock of deja vu? Regardless, the grey one flicked the purple one's horn. Yes, it was a little rough to wake him up like that, but it was better than passing out on the floor. Desperate times and all that. Once Bramble stirred, it was upsy daisy onto his back. Oh, he considered letting Ironmane do the heavy lifting again, but didn't she just get that huge load off already? Besides, it's not like Bramble weighed much anyway. Curtains started to wonder how, with all that money and property, Bramble apparently hasn't heard of sandwiches.

"We're going upstairs now. You're going to show me which room to put you in. On the way, you're going to show us which rooms the rest of us can be put. A sneeze will do if that's what you can manage. Nod off while you're on me and I'll drop you."

His recollection of the house's layout was fuzzy at best, despite the nights the crew has spent here. He knew where the family safe was kept and that was something. So he headed there and hoped things to sleep on where on the way. But where did this motivation come from, he wondered. Oh, right. A kiss from Ironmane. Discord himself could strike him now and he could die happy. A merry Hearth's Warming indeed.

"Oh, and somepony grab the sheet he dropped."

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Ironmane did so, folding it up with her magic as she followed Curtain Call. "It's a wonderful honor, T. Ali," she said. "The High Temple of Princess Platinum does this every year, and to be selected is...well, as I said, a wonderful honor. I cannot recall the festivals and traditions of the followers of Commander Hurricane at this special time of year. Would you enlighten me?"

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"Most of Hurricane's followers participate in war games in his honor on this special day. At the monastery...well..." She sighed, looking incredibly disappointed as she continued. "They pray. A lot."

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"It would seem you are glad to be away from that," Ironmane replied in an understanding tone, "but I am pleasantly surprised you have chosen to miss out on war games."

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Bramble let out an *ack!* as his horn got flicked, making him disoriented and dizzy for just a moment, and in that moment he found himself hefted up over Curtain's back. "I'm quite capa-*oof* capabe of walk*erp*" He clung to Curtain to keep from tumbling off in an undignified manner, feeling absolutely ridiculous. He sighed softly... "Fine ... Ironmane, Ali, those first two doors on the right there, those are guest rooms... you can share one or each take one, if you like, up to you. Curtain, you know where my room is..." He settled over Curtain's back with a flat expression that was totally ruined by another jaw-cracking yawn that made him cling a little tighter.

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"I don't suppose either of you lovely ladies would care to share a bunk with yours truly", the sly stallion suggested to the mares following him, topping things off with a wink and a grin. But of course, it was only a joke. Curtain Call told them so. "Kidding. I'd imagine you two would want your privacy." He laughed, but without much humor. The idea of a warm body to snuggle with on a cold winter's night was delightfully romantic and painfully tempting, but there must be some boundaries in place with ladies of the cloth and the gentlecolt would be respecting them. That doesn't mean he can't have pleasant dreams about the idea tonight.

"Ironmane. Ali." He dropped the Miss and no idea why. "Good night. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning. Kidding again! Kidding kidding!"

Once in Bramble's quarters and up by the bed, Curtains without warning just slowly leaned in and let gravity do all the work. Eventually, those tired little hooves around his neck will give in, he figured. Any second now. Having trouble breathing. There we go, thought the nearly asphyxiated stallion as he gasped for life.

"Good night. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning." While he wasn't one to reuse a bit, Bramble was in a receptive state and maybe he could get the little runt to- ah, to Tartarus with it. "Kidding. And thank you, Bramble Rose. I owe you one."

Shutting the door behind him, Curtains bypassed the two filly's rooms, the thought of disturbing their rest not even on his mind. Instead, he went into the lounge wherein his old friend the safe was mounted. What did he do there. Got comfy on one of the few smoking chairs, tipped his hat over his eyes and passed right now.

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"Well, I was planning to spend the holidays with my folks, but by the time I found out they were going out of town, it was too late to sign up for anything. They fill up fast. But I'm here now! I think this is much better." She nodded, smiling as she looked around at her companions.

"You two are starting to make me wonder..." Ali raised a brow at the boys. Something fishy seemed to be going on with them. Why did Bramble offer the girls their own rooms but assumed Curtain would stay with him? Oh well.

"I'll take this room, you can have the other. Sleepy time!" She said to Ironmane and opened one of the doors at random. "Good night, folks." Ali shut the door and collapsed on the bed, smiling and sighing heavily before falling rapidly asleep.

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Bramble Rose sighed in relieve as he was slipped into the bed, hugging into his pillow with a relieved sigh... he didn't know why Curtain had to carry him, he was perfectly capable of walking on his own, s he'd no doubt demonstrated in walking around to let everypony in ... but ... it was nice to be in bed.

Oh! He sat up, opening his eyes. "Almost forgot - Curtain, you can take the third-" he cut off, blinking in surprise. Curtain was gone? And ... sunlight was streaming in the window? What was going ... morning? Already? When had he fallen asleep? He blinked a couple more times. Huh.

Ah well. And late morning, by the look of it. He got up and streeeetches, and set about making himself presentable... he had guests, after all! But not too showy - they were friends, but of mixed background. Ironmane would understand if he showed up to breakfast wearing a proper dress tunic and cravat, but Curtain and Ali might think he was being stuffy. Still, he had to dress up at least a little bit...

One fine green dress tunic, a red scarf snug round his neck, and he looked proper, but also festive! There we go.


Downstairs, Feather Duster and Ma Custard came in early in the morning, humming happily to themselves. They'd already had a lovely breakfast with their own families, but they went quiet swiftly when they saw Curtain snoozing in the chair. Quietly moving around him, they went on their work, giggling amongst each other with theories about being too drunk to get to bed. It wasn't long, though, before heavenly scents started spreading through the household, and Feather Duster was going room to room to peek in and see what might be needed for guests... hot baths began being warmed, and silently she slipped into guest rooms to leave warm robes and towels for the mares, folded neatly next to the beds. Curtain, too, would find a thick warm towel on the end table next to him. His hat, though, which had fallen off during the night, was picked up from the floor and taken away, with Duster clicking her tongue over the state of it, and setting to cleaning it carefully, though it would still be missing when he woke.

Bramble, meanwhile, slipped down to the kitchen to smile and snack on the breakfast being prepared, and make small jokes with Ma Custard, who flapped her dishrag at him and scolded him for snagging tidbits. "Will you never grow up, Master Bramble?"

"Not on Hearth's Warming, I won't!" he assured her.

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Biting cold winds blowing in his face, the soft snow crunching beneath his hooves, and the feel of his red, warm cloak flapping in the wintry breeze; it was as if the pegasus had never left home, well his home in the North so to speak. Razor Wind trudged along up the mountain path toward the gleaming city of Canterlot; its practically shining gates already in view as he rounded a bend. He could've easily flown his way up here but... well something about the mountainsides made the travelling, adventuring pegasus just want to see them from a grounded pony's perspective! It was a sight to behold this time of year as well; snow falling slowly down onto the land below, winds echoing hither and thither off the mountain walls, and a sense of scale one couldn't get from just flying over the scenery! Besides it wasn't like this was a tough trip to make on hoof, and he had already flown down from his (current) home, so giving his wings a rest was not unwelcome.

His trotting hoofs brought him up to the city gates, already adorned with the sparkling lights and hanging plants of Hearthswarming Eve! The city-ponies certainly act fast, and this city was always among the most festive during this time. Truth be told, however, Raz hardly ever set hoof inside the glimmering city of the Royal Sisters, mainly because his.. rough and tumbling type wasn't exactly looked upon kindly in their walls. That, and they always seemed so persnickety about carrying a-

"Hault! No outside weapons are allowed in the city walls!" came a gruff, commanding voice.

Yep, right on cue. Razor gave a defeated sigh as he approached the gate guards, stopping before them, "Its not like I was planning on using it, you know." he gave a slightly snarky remark before shrugging. Nothing to let himself get worked up over, besides, it was the holidays; this was a time to be happy and joyful! He complied and let his heavy greatsword fall to the ground from his back, sinking into the snow. The guard who had yelled at him gave an annoyed huff before moving forward, gripped the ironweave straps of the sword's scabbard in his jaw and lifted it up. The guard then attempted to speak though sounded quite silly having a mouth full of the leather-like material.

"Yuh mah pick upff yuh weapffon when-"

"Yes, yes I know the drill. Not my first time being here you know!" the dark blue pegasus chuckled as he trotted his way up to the gates, before blinking and turning around, "Oh, and Happy Hearthwarming by the way!"

He turned and happily trotted his way through the city gates and into the streets of the Royal City. His bright, yellow eyes were of course on a swivel, taking in all the shining and glorious looking buildings around him. The streets shining with marble, carved stone and even gold were of course covered in a thin layer of white softness, laced with the hoofprints of many-a-passerby. As always the cloaked and chain-shirt wearing pegasus earned a few wary glances from the regal residents, but also as always Razor hardly batted an eye at them; he was here on some important business after all!...

What was that business again? Oh! Right! The Heroes; the ones who had done away with the foul hearted wizard who had been troubling his tribe's village for quite a while now, he was there to join them! While Raz found his home in the North, among the more hearty, battle hardened and jovial mindset that he so related to, he always grew weary of staying at one place too long and wished to make a larger step out in the world. What better way to do that then to join this group of adventurers whom even now his village was probably singing praises of! The best way to show thanks to anypony was to offer your sword hoof and your expertise to them in any useful way possible.. or at least that was what Raz grew up learning.

The main problem now was finding them... where in this giant city of stone, gold and magic was he ever going to come across them? Perhaps he could ask around.. surely somepony knew! Though that also posed a problem, none of the high-and-mighty type here would probably speak to the pegasus, leaving him in quite the pickle. His wandering hooves stopped in what he thought was a random spot; turned away from the door of a certain druidic unicorn's abode; tapping a hoof to his chin in thought.

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Early morning in Canterlot. Could there be a better time and place? Ironmane could scarcely imagine one, and she was thoroughly enjoying being out on a crisp, perfect example of such. Having dropped off the generous donations of Canterlot's well-off citizens with a team of rather attractive pegasus stallions who would see to their delivery and distribution in the hour just before dawn, Ironmane was taking the scenic route back to Bramble Rose's, drinking in the scenery and sharing warm greetings with the few ponies already out on this frosty, beautiful day.

Rounding a corner, she came within sight of an athletically-built blue pegasus with a striking silver mane and tail heading her way. He was clearly searching for something or somepony, so Ironmane, trotted up a spring in her stride.

"Good morning! Can I help you?" The big, powerfully built unicorn's voice was surprisingly delicate despite overbrimming with cheer, and her head was lowered to the level of the pegasus', making her look almost shy and diminishing what might otherwise be an intimidating stature.

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The pegasus continued to look about and think to himself.. quite a conundrum this trip was turning out to be. He was debating moving to check a whole other part of the city before his pointed ears flicked at the sound of a voice.. speaking to him? Did somepony actually give him a polite greeting? Well this was already turning out to be an unusual, but not unwelcome turn of events, and he hadn't even turned to see who it was yet! A short turn of his body and- oh dear that was a tall unicorn trotting up to him. Razor was decently tall himself and yet this mare still stood above him, having to lower her head to be on eye level with him.. though the action had the adverse affect on her previously intimidating stature.

Still, the travelling stallion was not one to turn down a polite greeting and straightened himself up, nodding to the big pony and returning her pleasantness with a warm, hearty smile, "Well good morning to you as well! Nice to finally meet somepony willing to speak to me first," he chuckled, "I don't suppose you've heard of a group of heroes who recently did away with an infamous wizard, have you? My village heard all about their bravery and daring-do and I just had to go out and meet them myself!" he explained his situation.. almost with an air of pride about him, stating his business was to join a group of renowned heroes probably felt somewhat empowering. He extended a hoof in greeting to the tall unicorn, smiling brightly, "My name is Razor Wind by the way, travelling pegasus explorer and master swordsman, at your service."

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