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[colour=#000000]Winter. The weather behind its veil of white could be a fickle mistress, but the midday snowfall was relatively light within Saddleveil Plains.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Even still, next to what appeared to be a quirky, colourful-looking cottage with with a glass display front, it was beginning to cover the path connecting Fillydelphia and Ponyville. Some spots were aligned with cobblestone, but it seemed otherwise a dirt road the farther a pony traveled north. It remained visible still, however, for now atleast, along with any particular ponies who may be roaming about for the time being. Nonetheless, the residents within the aforementioned dwelling worked with diligence, without much mind to the conditions outside.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]An elderly, lilac-coated mare sat behind the counter, appearing to attempt fixing a toy train without much success. From the look of her pale pupils and aimless gaze, even the wide set of glasses she wore didn’t help her see what clearly needed to be mended. With a heavy sigh, she turned around and called out:[/colour]

[colour=#8E7CC3]“Swifty, you think mebbe ye can watch th’ storefront? Methinks I’ll man the workshop for the time being...[/colour][colour=#B4A7D6][/colour]

[colour=#000000]It didn’t take long for a cranberry-coloured pegasus to burst through the end of a narrow hallway from across the checkout desk. Both wings and sky blue mane were haphazardly wrapped in silver tinsel, as though having come back from trying (and unsuccessfully) putting away stuff left over from the last Hearth Winter. A chipper[/colour][colour=#BF2455] “Mmhm!”[/colour][colour=#000000] escaped her muzzle and, with a chuckle and light facepalm from her superior, the elderly mare and Swift Kite traded working spaces.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Aside from pushing aside pieces of entangled adornment from her face, she seemed to ignore the shimmery trimming that coiled around her. Business was especially slow after the holiday rush, considering how spread out the cottage-like store was from other towns. Either way, the young mare went happily to work, organizing shelves here and there while replacing price signs with lower, after-the-holiday salemarks.[/colour]

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A thin layer of white covered the otherwise green plains of the mid point between Fillydelphia and the strangely infamous city of Ponyville. The sun tried in vain to peer through the haze of snow clouds that littered the sky, slowly releasing their frigid water upon the the vast landscape. Most of the reasonable residents of Equestria were tucked away in their homes, enjoying the warmth of a fire as they waited for the sun to finally dispatch the snow that lay siege to their homes. There of course were always exceptions to almost every rule, one in particular trudging through the snow at a pace that could only be described as focused.

The light crunching of snow filled the air as a tall figure clad in a similarly dark cloak made their way towards the colourful cottage. A closer inspection of the stranger would reveal it to be a unicorn with a coat of darkest black, her form silhouetted against the white of the snowy terrain. Crimson eyes peered out from beneath her cowl, intensely searching the landscape before locking onto the cottage in the distance. With a quick trot, she soon found herself upon the the quirky toy shop, her hoof steps surprisingly quiet for such a tall mare who was trudging through frigid snow. With the residence clearly before the unicorn, her keen eyes quickly examined the house again, seeming to find something about it satisfactory.

A dark red glow enveloped her long black horn, before her magic deftly lowered her cowl to reveal the most stoic of faces to the elements. Her expression seemed to be that of complete apathy, taking no pride or offense in being stuck out in the freezing cold in what could only be described as the middle of nowhere. She carefully raised an equally dark hoof from the ground and roughly knocked on the door to their home as she seemed to seek the attention of the residents. Her tall frame shifted ever so faintly as she patiently waited for a response from the toy makers. A keen eye would be able to spot the faint outlines of two large saddle bags that were tightly strapped to her frame, their exact contents unknown, well hidden from attention beneath her cloak almost as if she didn't want them to be noticed by prying eyes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

[colour=#000000]Figurines to arrange, and perhaps a few more prices to bump down. With Joy out in the back room, the older mare’s apprentice worked diligently - perhaps too much so, as she didn’t even notice the dark figure making their way along the path from the display front. As the mysterious stranger made its way toward the front door, the pegasus began humming what vaguely sounded like the tune of ‘The Little Drummer Colt’ as she finished up. As far as Swift Kite was concerned, the knock of the door was the first thing that hinted at somepony’s arrival.[/colour]

[colour=#BF2455]“Heh, didn’t think anypony’d be here...”[/colour][colour=#000000] She mumbled under her breath. The humming ceased of course, and the young mare brushed more tinsel behind her ears, its unintentional embellishment aligning her mint green bandanna whilst confronting the source. The door swung open without much haste - and at first glance, the plucky, red-pink pegasus seem unfazed by the cloaked, if not ominous-looking unicorn by the now open entrance.[/colour]

[colour=#BF2455]“Hey there- I mean, uh, welcome to Joy’s Toy Shop!” [/colour][colour=#000000]Swift flashed a smile - a sheepish one, as customer greetings weren’t her forté, but it was still a stark contrast compared to her acquaintance’s stoic expression. [/colour][colour=#BF2455]“How may I hel- oh! Sorry, should’ve let you come in first...” [/colour][colour=#000000]She stepped aside to make way for entry, scolding herself mentally. [/colour]

[colour=#000000]Within view, the shop’s inside was just as welcoming as its quirky, colourful exterior. Hoof and unicorn-made toys of many sorts - perhaps dragon-made as well, at least for the wooden figurines - lined the shelves. They appeared of quality grade for a cottage plunked in the middle of nowhere.[/colour]

[colour=#BF2455]“So uh, anything you need?”[/colour][colour=#000000] The young mare said.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]For somepony having coming across a peculiar cloaked acquaintance, she wasn’t all that perplexed by her presence...maybe she was thinking that the figure was like any other toy-seeking customer, or perhaps she just didn’t bother with judging a toy by its paint job.[/colour]

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Asteria was here on business matters, granted everything was business for her. Her keen eyes looked over the the colourful room, her stoic exp<b></b>ression unflinching as she ingested the heartwarming scenery. A cursory examination of her face might reveal that she was entirely apathetic to the situation, a conclusion that actually couldn't be farther from the truth.

After a brief interlude from the mare, she opened her maw to explain her seemingly unannounced appearance at the shop. "I am here with pressing business from Manehattan. I was tasked with creating an environment that would be most comfortable for the children. I decided that repairing the damaged toys that they were most familiar with. May I request the expertise of this shop with the repair of these orphan toys? I am willing to pay the going market rate for the services," she explained suddenly, the mare seemingly interested in helping orphans of all things. There still was something strange about her, the odd made never mentioning ponies as she explained her goals to the worker. It was strange but still on the cusp of normal speaking.

Asteria was always a bit odd, but she meant well enough. She refrained from judging the pegasus, but the unicorn kept open the possibility that someone else might have been running the store. "May I ask for for your name Lady Pegasus? I am Asteria Stillheart, honored to meet you," the black mare explained with a formal tone as she performed a subservient bow before Swifty. The strange mare seemed all over the place with her words and mannerisms and it was unclear if it was her intention to come off in such a way.

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