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A Hearth's Warming Gift Exchange! (See OP for Rules)


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Tiger smirked a bit at Bluebelle’s words, watching as she walked off to try and get some conversation going with Trixie and some griff who was at the food table. Martini, apparently. 
 

Still, he had to think about if he actually wanted that job. He had been right about one thing, at least, there would be quite the view involved. Perhaps he’d need to talk terms later, like after the party. For now, he turned towards the mare that used to be a stallion, but before he could say anything another mare he knew showed up and drew his attention. 
 

“Oh don’t worry about that, I just met her. That slot’s still open.” He chuckled, winking at Cocoa. He waited for the mare’s introduction before continuing. “So, Nutty, how’s it been going? Getting good business?”

 

Aside from a quick glance, and an offered “gesundheit,” Tiger largely ignored Trixie’s reveal. He had seen them already, after all. 
 

—————

 

Flux tilted her head at Hope’s words, looking at Spike. Had he? She very much doubted he had. Even if he could, he didn’t seem the type to actually do that. 
 

“I don’t think he did... Or at least I never heard about another invasion of the Crystal Empire. The only one I know of wasn’t really an invasion at all, but it was where Spike and Thorax met. So don’t worry, he’s a friend of changelings like us.” She reassured the younger changeling, hugging her again. She was distracted from saying any more by the sneeze, drawing her attention towards Trixie. She waved at Fire Walker along the way, glad to see the pegasus. 
 

“Hi! Trixie, right? Nice wings! Are they new?” She asked, practically shouting her questions at Trixie due to the distance between them. She didn’t think she’d ever met Trixie, but she had heard about her from others.  

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Martini had heard his name, and glanced over at the white unicorn that had spoken to him...right, Miss Blue-something or whatever, she was a teacher...Both of Martini's cheeks were absolutely bulging with muffin content,as he really didn't have any agency in interacting tonight... He was about to swallow and respond to her..when the blue..ali-uni- whatevercorn pony proceeded to let out a dramatic sneeze, almost making a show of showing off a pair of wings.

Big deal, Martini had wings, you didn't see Martini acting like it was a big deal, Martini also had a tail that could curl around things, so who was the one on the winning foot now blue horse lady that hadn't even said anything to Martini and yet for some reason he had a competitive inner dialog with!? HM!?

Swallowing down his muffin stash, Martini took a swig of 'nog.

"..Yeh that's me...S' Nice t' meetcha, an' bless you"

The bless you aimed at the sneezey blue pony, maybe she sneezed on her own hubris?

"......M' not good with the talkin, s' why I'm eaten th' food ya know?"

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One moment before, everything had been fine.  Princess Bluebelle had briefly turned aside to give her name and title to Cocoa Nut ("Princess Bluebelle, Archancellor of this very school!  Pleased to meet you, I do believe I may be hearing more of you.  Many students and staff have a sweet tooth!"), and even more briefly nodding at the entrance of an old friend.  She and Fire Walker did need to catch up at some point, it had been a while since any adventures had been had by them both.  Life, alas, had kept them apart, and, if anything, would keep them home more in the future.

 

But her attention had mostly been on bringing her new student into the conversation.  Tropically-plumaged griffons were a rarity, and Martini would be a definite adornment to the line-up!  

Provided, of course, he could ever be persuaded to leave the cafeteria.  "So I see.  But I think you could at least find somepony to eat with.  Food shared with good company is even more delicious, right Trixie- !"

 

The Princess's voice caught, in a kind of squawk-like hiccup.  She'd just briefly turned her head back from avoiding Trixie's sneeze, only to find that the blue unicorn mare... was no longer just a unicorn.  As the twin arcs of azure plumage unfurled from beneath the magician's cape, Bluebelle's jaw dropped, and her pupils shrunk, before dilating once again, as if shaking themselves in disbelief.  Shock had fully occupied her expression for a good five seconds, before giving way to the battle between desire and envy in her eyes.  Unfortunately, it was envy that won out.

 

"How... how did YOU get those before ME!?"  The alabaster mare cried out, in a hurt and, frankly, whining tone.  All thoughts of being a good example for her students, all thoughts of being a gracious host, all thoughts of being a sweet Princess.... gone, before the onrushing tide of wing envy that had literally been building from birth.  Cadence, that had been before Blueblood had really developed his alicorn-induced inferiority complex.  Twilight Sparkle, a prodigy whose absolute and relative worth he could not deny, was also not cause for an outburst.

 

But Trixie?  Trixie?  

 

Bluebelle tried to rein in her breathing before she hyperventilated.   This... this wasn't real.  They couldn't be real, right?  She looked again.  They certainly looked real, and dang fine too, if she was being honest with herself.  As those who knew the unicorn royal well knew, she had a real thing for wings.

"Windy!"  She called out between sighs.  "This is your work, right?  Temporary wing potion, yes.  I wasn't passed up for ascendency, this is just a new product.  No need to panic, no need to make a scene..."

 

Too late.

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Cocoa blushed "I-I wasn't- I didn't mean-" she smiled and playfully slugged him "I'll keep that in mind." she finally said, giving in. She did, afterall, find him attractive, and wasn't exactly 'off-the-market' per se. She smiled at his question about her shop. She was always happy when somepony found interest in her pursuits. In fact, honestly, if he kept at that, she'd have no choice but da- Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves shall we? Anywho the question remained in the air for only a second or two before she snapped herself out of her daydreaming. "I-I'ts been okay. I haven't had any customers, but that gave me lots of time to experiment with some new ideas! I've made a whole new sculpture that you might like as much as the Nightmare Moon one I did for Nightmare Night. You should come by, sometime, and check it out!" she paused. was that a flirt? It sounded like a flirt. She only meant it as a businessmare trying to bring in customers, but she was sure he'd pick up a flirt.... oh, well. It's not like she didn't like him. Celestia, denial is tiring! I mean... oops.

 

=================

 

Stellar began to wander much the same as Rose was doing without looking where he was going. He thought he might've seen her, but was mistaken. He was just in the process of turning back around when he bumped into somepony. "Oh, Celestia! I'm so sorry! I wasn't paying atten-" he stopped cold. In front of him stood the newly ordained leader of Equestria, the Princess of Friendship herself. Rose failed to mention she'd be here. He stammered "Y-your highness!" he bowed himself humbly "Forgive my intrusion, Princess. I was careless. I didn't know you were here. My invitation came from a friend." he added quickly "Your school is quite impressive! I've never seen it in person until now."

 

=================

 

Rose finally saw him across the hall, he was talking with Princess Twilight. From the looks of it, just as flustered as she figured he'd be. She chuckled. She hadn't told him she was here because she just knew if she had, he'd have been too worried about how to behave, and would've found some excuse not to come. She figured she'd let him chat for a moment, and began looking for somepony to talk with, herself. She saw somepony looking around the hall. A fire-red pegasus. She was a little trepidatious about talking to her. She exuded an air of somepony with authority, and Rose could just feel her "Royal Guard" atmosphere. Rose hadn't had many experiences with Royal Guards, even when she'd lived in Canterlot. Most often, it was when they'd stop her in the streets on suspicion of commiting some crime. mostly because she was out at night, but she also feared some of it was prejudice and racial profiling. Being a "Bat Pony" wasn't always easy.

Nonetheless, she gave this pony the benefit of the doubt. "Hello, and Happy Hearthswarming! I don't believe we've met. I'm Compass Rose. It's a pleasure to meet you." she tried, with marginal success, to smile despite her nervousness.

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Trixie winced and took a step back "I just- I've been collecting and studying artifacts I was told were from Starswirl, its something I've been doing for years, trying to understand them, searching for their purpose and power - then one day I finally realized the truth - that they were all fakes, and I wasn't really looking for an artifact from starswirl at all, I realized the truth about what I was searching for - and what I had, in doing so, I unlocked a great power." but then after a moment her head snapped back up "Wait a minute!" she said, looking bluebelle right int he eye "...This isn't about me at all, is it?" she asked, unseen a ring around her horn began to glow "This is all about you!" as trixie spoke, her size seemed to be increasing, while bluebelle seemed to be shrinking "All those speeches about doing your best, about seeking forgiveness and friendship, about being who you are... it was all a lie, wasn't it?!" Trixie was looming over belle now, somewhat terrifyingly "Everything you said, to me, to the other staff... to the students... it was all just an act so you could get these!" she unfurled her wings, proudly now, she sneared "You... disappoint...and... You disgust trixie! and that's not easy to do!" she turned on a dime, the pair's sizes seeming to return to normal

 

She turned to the griffon and her scowl slowly reformed into a smile "So your martini? I do think your doing well putting yourself 'out there' even if you dont like public functions" she paused "why dont we talk at the other table..." she glanced back at bluebell with a very disappointing and sad look, then gently nudged martini towards the other refreshments table as she headed that way herself.

 

---------

 

Hope looked over at spike, then back at flux "he does seem kinda small..." she said with a slightly forced laugh "...who's Thorax? is he small too?" she added, making it clear that she was very-much NOT caught up with her history lessons... though to be fair they probably didn't cover events that current unless they became relevant, and most of the interactions with thorax had been at best several months ago, so he wasn't fresh in anypony's mind right now.

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Well this turned ugly very, very quickly, Teacher went from a calm and calculated adult, to a tantrum throwing child, and it was not encouraging Martini at all to socialize.. he was about to open his beak to their comment about good food being enjoyed with peers annnnnd wing based temper tantrum...

Martini just used his tail to coil it around another muffin, and handed it to himself, slooowly pushing the muffin in his mouth to render his need for discussion any further moot, after all it was rude to talk with your mouth full! Maybe if he backed towards the door slowly...and then ran off.... He'd never have to share eye contact with these ponies ever again because tonight was awkward.

Now Trixie was lecturing the teacher on her behavior? While showing rather bad behavior herself??? This was a hot mess, where was the hostess to mediate such knock down, drag out verbal brawls?

Maybe he should..

Annd Trixie was now focused on him, the scowl on her face turning into a smile, huh that was a heel turn if he'd ever seen one...but she was a teacher here so best to not be too rude..

"..Thanks..-" Annnd now her gleeful gloating at Bluebelle for being surprised and upset, had turned into disappointment and sadness? What was this pony? This was an emotional roller coaster that Martini was too short to ride, he'd like off please!

"..Kay...." And he let himself be nudged over to the other table, well at least there was more food.

Using a wing, he reached out and scooped up one of the table's more savory options and just..

stuffed it in his face, awkwardly standing by Trixie, he's sure if he gave her a moment she'd do the talking for him.

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“Erm.”, Fire Walker nearly lost control of her own wings after the rather loud sneeze came out of nowhere. Well, it wasn’t nowhere, but the blue mare. Pixie? Mixie? She also had wings? Were these just being hoofed out nowadays? Equestria went a few thousand years without having a new Alicorn, at least one known to the general public, but now they were practically falling out of the sky. First it was Princess Cadance who beat up a witch to earn her wings. Then it was Princess Twilight who mastered a rather ancient spell that was never finished till then. At least that was what she had heard. Second-Hoof.  Princess Cadance later had a foal, who was born an Alicorn. And now there was another new Alicorn? What in the world did she do to gain her wings? And why was she hiding them? This was all none of her business. She just hoped the sassy mare kept on the pathway of goodness and did not try taking over any more villages.
 
As she had entered the school, the officer had heard a familiar name called. Martini? Was Martini Paradise here? She was one heck of an gifted bartender, although she wouldn't get to make her signature drinks here. Could the islander even stand the cold weather? After glancing around the room, she did not see the skilled mare. Maybe she had just misheard someone. Seeing that she had caught the changeling's attention, Fire waved back at Flux. She was the first Changeling she had met where it wasn't necessary to try to subdue the shape-shifter with her disarming blades. Fire would have to catch up with her and see how she was doing.
 
Before this could happen, a...oh dear.....Her husband to be would be most disappointed with her. She wanted to say 'Bat-Pony'. It was more fun to say than...er.....Aerion..That was it. One of her trainers was an Aerion and she didn't seem to mind being called a Bat. Captain Ember Skies retired far too young and ended up with an rather large family. None were in the R.E.A so far. She was rather cheerful for an bat. This was good.
 
"Hello and Happy Hearth's Warning Eve'", the red mare gave the cute mare an friendly smile. "I'm Captain Fire Walker....R.E.A...And Twilight Guard." Was that even a thing? Within a few years her boss went from student to librarian to village princess to ruler of all of Equestria. She'll probably be ruling the whole world soon. Planet Sparkle! There was something slightly familiar about the mare. Was she one of Ember Skies' kids? Would this be the second mystery of the evening?
 
"Happy to meet you Miss Rose." She really wanted to ask who her mother was, but there would be a time and place for that. "Interesting sort of party we have here..." A party in Ponyville without the Pink one? Was this possible?
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Tiger nodded a bit with a hum as he listened to Cocoa speak about her work. Seemed things were going alright with her, that was good. His first experience in her shop had certainly been an interesting one, to say the least, but it was fun nonetheless. 
 

“Guess I’ll have to come by later then, see this new statue of yours. See what other kinds of fun we can get into. Seems I’ve got lots of ponies to check in on now, and a possible job offer or two. Turns out I might be sticking around longer than I thought.” Tiger shrugged, humming slightly. Seemed things were getting more complicated around Trixie and Bluebelle, but things seemed to resolve as soon as they escalated, so that was that. Hopefully. 
 

————

 

“Thorax? He’s the changeling leading the hive. The one with the antler things?” Flux tilted her head, trying to explain the changeling to her. “Hey, maybe we should go find some other creatures to talk to, make new friends! Making friends is always fun!”

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Cocoa seemed not to even notice the commotion going on just hoof-steps behind her. Almost like it was a regular occurrence for her (probably a result of having lived in the cuckoo house). "Oh? That sounds great! I'm glad my one and only customer is staying. I'll try not to disappoint you. If you're ever bored there, I could always whip up another batch of chocolate glue." she giggled at her own joke. Then she made a face "Although, I really should come up with something less offensive to clean it up with...." she began muttering ingredients to herself lost in thought trying to figure out something she could make.

 

=================

 

Rose relaxed almost immediately, becoming visibly more comfortable at the mare's friendliness. "Oh, yes. I love the idea the princess came up with! Exciting, wouldn't you say? I don't get many opportunities to get out and meet ponies. It's hard for me to get out when others are awake, but I couldn't very well miss this, could I?" she smiled at the crowd. She hadn't given herself a moment to think about it, but this really is the biggest gathering of ponies she's been to. At least in a while, anyway. She stifled a laugh. Stellar's probably sweating like a stuck pig, rn. Rose took another look at the pegasus she was talking with. She didn't seem at all imposing in person. She was actually pretty friendly. "In fact, maybe I should make an effort, more often. I could always use more friends, and my business isn't going to go anywhere if I don't reach out." She smiled at Fire "So you're one of princess Twilight's guards, then? I used to aspire to be in the Lunar Guard, myself. It's in my lineage, and my parents wanted me to, but I've found I don't do well under that much discipline. So I became a map-maker instead." She laughed heartily. It was kind of funny to her that her passion was something so strictly disciplined as maps after her reason for not joining the Lunar Guard.

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Several things happened in quick succession after Windwright stepped back from Princess Bluebelle. She'd intended to make her way to the refreshments table and get a quick cup of the spiced cider she'd smelled on the way in before offering to help the confectioner carry in the last of his goods, but no sooner had she started the mug of mulled magnificence when an ear-shattering sneeze echoed through the room and all conversation stopped. Windy had ignored the sneeze itself, she was used to hearing random sneezes, coughs, and explosions during semi-social/semi-professional gatherings (any time you get even a moderate number of alchemists in the same spot you tend to hear them all quite frequently), but the sudden silence after made her look over.

 

Another Alicorn?! That was impossible, it was always newsworthy when a pony managed to pull off Ascension. Temporary transformation then? It had to be. There was no other explanation that made sense. Of course, she couldn't follow the train of thought very far before Bluebelle's outburst snapped her out of her stupor, and the direct accusations...kind of stung a little actually. She started to babble "What?! Of course not! Mine isn't on the market! I haven't even run a batch in years, it takes too much skyleaf and I have all of that earmarked for feather-grow tonic and mane conditioner, and it's too expensive for most alchemists to experiment with!"

 

However, her defensive rant got killed after it started to wind up by the unicorn's response. Artifacts made sense, kind of, though Windwright themselves only rarely encountered anypony with access to those kinds of dangerous items, they knew other ponies weren't as cautious. Of course, all that defensive energy was already wound up in the pegasus, so when the alicorn had the GALL to attack the princess like that?! The nerve! At a Hearthswarming party of all times! How. Dare. She.

 

The alchemist started stomping her way through the crowd, intending to barrel up to the faux-alicorn and give her a piece of her mind, but by the time she reached the scene again, the blue mare had already sauntered off. Windy didn't have the time or patience for chasing after her, and this was Hearthswarming. She snorted out a breath and, rather than follow Trixie, she turned around and got close, moving in to drape a wing around Bluebelle and trying very hard to soften her tone from fury and outrage down to something in the neighborhood of sympathy. "Hey, don't worry about it. Plenty of great ponies have been one of the three races. Most of them, in fact. Mage Meadowbrook is legendary for her efforts to cure the sick and heal the injured, Starswirl the Bearded practically founded the advanced study of magical theory, all three of the founding leaders and their advisors were pegasi, unicorns, or earth ponies...We've only had, what, five alicorns in recorded history? It's not something you're passed over for or chosen for, and if it were, I'm absolutely sure somepony like THAT wouldn't be chosen."

 

She was trying to keep her voice down but frankly didn't care if she was overheard just now. Her calling in life, her cutie mark, her destiny were all bound up in using her talents to soothe hurts, and she wasn't going to let acute embarrassment or the chance of offending somepony get in the way of that.

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This was a really, really long week fro Swift Squall Squallcoast.

 

Heart's Warming season was always the one that brought great surge in demand for all kinds of products. And Swift, being a head of large corporation had to stand up to the task of meeting that demand. And that meant longer shifts in his office. Which he had to juggle with:

 

Visiting his parents.

Overseeing the construction of Fillydelphia Botanical Gardens AND finishing touches upon Tempest Tower (opening next tear!).

And getting gifts for friends and loving ones. Large amounts  of gifts.

Also, setting up dinner with Fire this evening.

 

Simply put, swordstallion was exhausted...!

 

 

But not exhausted enough to bring more of Heartswarming Cheer to the land!

 

And seeing that he was going to Ponyville anyway (to discuss some very important things with Sparkle. Away from bustle of Canterlot), showering the town with gifts seemed like a splendid idea. Already his employees were leaving packages under every doorstop.

 

Meanwhile Squall himself was hurrying to the School of Friendship, carrying big fat sack of presents of his own. Apparently some small event tied to holiday was happening there, and that was reason enough for noblepony to do this place himself. Swift wasn't exactly clear on the details - an odd thing for him, but, after all he was in hurry.

 

Thus stallion closed to the school, the bag floating next to him while he whistled holiday songs.

And soon he begun hearing talks coming from the building. His ears perked up when Squall heard the familiar voice of Bluebloo...Bluebelle. But soon his eyebrows furrowed. The Princess seemed....upset? Was Blue arguing with somepony? As he closed in, unicorn could hear the later part of response coming from some mare. And judging from her words, it indeed was the case....

16 hours ago, Ashton said:

Trixie winced and took a step back "I just- I've been collecting and studying artifacts I was told were from Starswirl, its something I've been doing for years, trying to understand them, searching for their purpose and power - then one day I finally realized the truth - that they were all fakes, and I wasn't really looking for an artifact from Starswirl at all, I realized the truth about what I was searching for - and what I had, in doing so, I unlocked a great power." but then after a moment her head snapped back up "Wait a minute!" she said, looking Bluebelle right in the eye "...This isn't about me at all, is it?" she asked, unseen a ring around her horn began to glow "This is all about you!" as Trixie spoke, her size seemed to be increasing, while Bluebelle seemed to be shrinking "All those speeches about doing your best, about seeking forgiveness and friendship, about being who you are... it was all a lie, wasn't it?!" Trixie was looming over Belle now, somewhat terrifyingly "Everything you said, to me, to the other staff... to the students... it was all just an act so you could get these!" she unfurled her wings, proudly now, she sneered "You... disappoint...and... You disgust Trixie! and that's not easy to do!" she turned on a dime, the pair's sizes seeming to return to normal.

 

Squall grit his teeth. For years everpony has thrown shade at the Prince. And frankly Swift had enough of that. Knowing Blue since they were kids, he was in unique position to truly confirm how much he...she had changed, how hard Blue tried. He and...errr...him/her were ponies of completely different strengths, but Squall could see how the royal unicorn has risen above his/her vices and tried to do best for Equestria. So, to hear this unknown mare insult Prince/Princess so was exasperating. What did she know?!

 

Swift hastened his trot, righteous fury seemingly evaporating his weariness amd uplifting his step. Swordstallion was practically glowing with anger when he got to the door. Noblepony smashed door open, with enough force to make them fall of the hinges. Before anypony could react unicorn was already bellowing at the blue mare that Headmistress was staring daggers at.

 

"AND WHO ARE YOU TO THROW SUCH SLANDER?!! AT THIS DAY?! THIS PLACE!!!"

Squall roared as walked towards Trixie. His gift bag was placed next to Headmistress.

Rage has blinded the noblepony as he closed to the stage magician. He recognized her now, the arrogant performer who got herself involved in the conflict with Princess Celestia most Faithful Student. Swordstallion had yet to meet her but heard a lot about her. From his copy of Friendship Journal, from Sparkle, and from Miss Applejack. The Trixie mare apparently got better since those days. 'Apparently' being the operative word here. And it was up for Squall to put her hubris back in the box.

 

"What do you know of Blue? You who for most of your life was pompous braggart with nothing to show for it? I knew Prince since before we were five. And I seen his burdens. Always treated like an...an extra , a charity case on Celestia's part. She never had a time sit down with him and understand Him, despite sharing the case of missing family. No it was always the Equestria, her nice, her first student and then her other student that came first. All the while he tried to become the most charming, most affable gentlecolt he could be. But it wasn't enough, it never was enough because She never told him straight to the face what She really wanted from him!" Squallcoast shouted.

"Instead of appreciation or guidance, all the high society of Canterlot was looking how to humiliate and heckle at him. Something that Stage Mare who's audience was trying to get into horn measuring contest with her every show,  should be able to relate to." Swift pointed out.

 

"Blueblood would have had all the right to be resentful, turn his back on Equestria after all of this, especially after Grand Galloping Gala. Instead he got good, long look at himself and did his %$#*! best to be better. He squashed his envy, and anger and got to work. Blue let go of his grudges.....instead of...Oh, I don't know? Planning elaborate revenge schemes using dangerous magical relicts?" noblepony growled at the blue mare.

"The point is, he worked hard to be here today, instead of having friends in high places. Now, who is disgusting and should seek forgiveness...Miss Great and Powerful?!" Swift asked.

 

Only now after he vented his fury Swift was able to really notice...the details. Like the wings on the back of the mare that he verbally torn a new one.

"....The %$@*?!!!!" business-stallion cussed. Were they hoofing those down these days?! As he looked around he spotted more familiar face.

 

"Flux?!" noblepony wouldn't recognize the changeling, if not for the fact she kept the same voice and mannerism. "When? HOW? What did I miss?!" Squall confusion only grew further.

But it was not over yet.

 

"Sparkle?! Moto? What are YOU doing here?!! Shouldn't you be in Canterlot for the first err....Heartswarming of....new....." unicorn was quickly loosing steam now that he realized that Fire heard his outburst. All of it.

"I pay for the door. D-Dear, I did nothing wrong...." he defended himself, his gaze shifting back and fortyj from the Princess of Friendship to his fiancee.

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This wasn't the first social gathering that Bluey had been at to fall apart in front of her.  It always seemed to be a cascading kind of failure, like pushing a snowball down a hill.  What came out of it was always larger and messier than what started it...

 

Trixie was probably right to have been taken aback, the envious outburst was unbecoming of the Princess, but immediately shooting back with the most uncharitable interpretation of Bluebelle's inner thoughts and motivations was probably not the wisest of maneuvers.  Accused, quite unjustly, of having been a fraud all along, caused her to rear back, stammering.  "What-the-the, but I...."  Before the unicorn could recover her wits about her, Trixie had gallivanted off, attempting to reach out to the multicolored Martini as if nothing had happened!

 

The griffon, for his part, seemed absolutely nonplussed, with a side dish of unimpressed.  Bluey honestly couldn't blame him, in her heart of hearts, she knew it was a bad showing.  Envy, however, did not dissipate so easily, even when her alchemist friend attempted to give some comforting words.

 

And then... Swift Squall happened.  There was really no other way to describe it.  And it was there, with one friend comforting her, and other vigorously defending her, that Princess Bluebelle broke down.  "I...I... I"M SORRY!"  Embarrassment and shame now carried through her voice, having jointly thrown out envy with a sob.  "I... I didn't mean to spoil this... I didn't want to make the school look bad, Twilight, I just.... couldn't...."

 

Sniffling, she hung her head low, curling up underneath Windwright's wings.  *Please, please don't let this be the Gala all over again.... Twilight doesn't deserve that...*

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Trixie stood there, completely frozen, when the stallion was raging at her, she merely held up a hoof to project a protective force-field between herself and him. When she heard bluebelle crying. She finally turned and looked the princess in the eye "Your an idiot to want these" she said "Dont you see... all they do is cause pain and strife... everything was going fine for me untill I got wings, and now its all ruined! Every friend I had turned to an enemy..." she raised her head so they could see her red eyes and the tears falling from them "be glad you dont have wings! They're nothing but a curse! They only hurt others and destroy friendships! They were the worst thing that ever happened to me, and believe me I am going to find some way to rid myself of them forever even if it takes a saw!" she turned to face twilight and gave her a long sad look, some form of unspoken apology,  but she said nothing, finally, smoke just started billowing from under trixie's cape, soon overtaking her form, and then, she was gone, leaving only the small wet spots of spilled tears where she had stood...

 

...and if anyone had the foresight to run and look out the window, they would see trixie and her wagon heading as fast as possible with such a load, for the outskirts of ponyville... leaving a shattered past behind her once again...

 

-----

 

Hope just stared blankly at flux "...where's the hive now?" she asked, making it clear she hadn't been there since before chrysalis had been defeated... the poor filly really had a lot of catching up to do... "And why would a changeling have antlers?" 

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"....." Martini waited a little bit for the yelling and the dramatics to cease, a candy cane in his beak as he watched Trixie Martyr herself after being torn into for relishing in Bluebell's discomfort and mistake...what a buncha horse apples.

As the awkwardness filled the air, the sounds of creatures yelling, Bluebelle crying, and the annoying holiday music all droining on...it was a wonder anypony celebrated this holiday... it was absolute poppycock.

After a moment, Martini crunched on the last of the candycane, before fluffing up.

"...Sooooo when do the Wendigos show up?"

After all there was so much disharmony and rage on what was supposed to be a simple student gift exchange that Martini didn't put it past today for that to happen... "If that happens d's at mean I get excused from class?"

Walking over to the crying Princess, he moved a clawed hand out and...gently scritched her behind the ears, making a tiny chirring sound, obviously an attempt to comfort...

"Sometimes y' slip down the ladder, and sometimes you fall off, it happens..what matters is that you don't  ever give up trying t' climb it okay? One wrung at a time"

With that he removed his hand, and yawned...

"...That was a mess eh?~" 

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Tiger was... kinda unsure what to do about that whole debacle... He glanced between Bluebelle and Cocoa for a moment, seeing the latter was a bit distracted at the moment. 
 

“I’m gonna go check on her.” He said, in case Cocoa could hear him, before heading over towards Bluebelle. Once there, he patted her on the back gently as the griffon spoke, then took his turn once the bird was done. 
 

“He’s right, you know. Everyone makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect. The important part isn’t that we made the mistake, the important part is that we learn from it and grow. Everyone falls, what matters is if you get back up.” Tiger said, giving a gentle smile as he finished. 
 

—————

 

“Umm... not sure how to give directions to it... maybe I should take you there sometime. And I dunno why Thorax has antlers. Maybe it’s supposed to be a symbol of leadership or something.” Flux shrugged before standing up. It seemed everything had finished blowing up over there, which unfortunately left a mare crying on the floor and another gone entirely. Oh dear...

 

She made her way over as well, giving Bluebelle a wordless hug for a few moments before smooching her on the forehead and letting go. She didn’t want to overwhelm the mare after all, so she moved on to Swift Squall, smiling slightly at him. 
 

“Hiya, Swift. It’s been a while, huh? This whole thing happened not long ago in the Everfree with her. Her name is Hope.” Flux said, referring to her new form and her new friend. 

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Bluebelle just about managed to lift her head to see Trixie go.  She even managed to raise her hoof and open her mouth, but no chance to reply or call out to the mare to stop a moment came.  "I... was never your enemy."  She whispered to the empty air.

 

It was Martini who made the obvious remark, that this sort of thing was exactly the sort of thing that brought on the Windingos, those wintry horses of legend attracted to disharmony and friendlessness.  But this was not the age of their reign; a different spirit ruled over this time and this place.  And wouldn't you know it?  The griffon, anti-social as he had been, was nonetheless full enough of the Spirit of Hearthswarming to reach out to the Archancellor.  She sniffed, looking over to him with a smile through her mane, "Well, you know, that's right.  Just the sort of thing I'm meant to teach.  I guess we all have to learn from each other, eh?"

 

His move seemed to inspire others, as Tiger repeated the sentiment from her other side.  Flux even gave her a kiss!  That was the last straw for the gloom surrounding her.  The Princess got to her feet, rustling out from underneath Windwright's wings, and brushed her mane back behind her ears.  "Thank you all.  That was... certainly something.  But it's good to know that I have friends, especially this time of year."

 

Turning back to Twilight, her look grew a little sheepish.  "Like I said, sorry about all that.  But, no matter!  Party is still going on; I believe there was a gift exchange to be had?"

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Image result for holiday twilight sparkle image.pngimage.png

 

Twilight's attention had been drawn to the reaction of various creatures to Trixie's newest acquisition. She'd had a chance to chat with Sunburst over the last couple of days and was aware of where the wings initiated from. It appeared thought that the news had not spread...especially to her Archchancellor. The Princess gave Bluebelle a sympathetic glance and nodded.

 

"Yes, there will be a gift exchange!" she glanced around, happy that so many creatures had shown up, and that the recent events had not unduly upset anyone.  "And yes, we can always learn from each other." She ventured a quick smile to Bluebelle, not wishing to press her about the events that had just unfolded. There was plenty of time, and presents, to salvage the current situation. The Princess had gotten really good at suppressing her anxiety around others...besides Spike of course. And then salvation, well what she hoped would be salvation burst through the doors!

 

"Whoooo ready to paaaarty!" Pinkie bounded in out of the snow. She had crimson clothes on, trimmed in fluffy white fuzz. She set up her party canon and let it rip!

 

WEEEEZZZZ BANG!!

 

Green and red confetti flew in all directions as the Ponk made her way to the present table. "Wow! That's a lot of awesome gifts!" With a quick twirl and swirl she had them lined up next to each other by twos. 

 

Iggy/Firewalker

Martini/Twi

Jasper/Cocoa Nut

Swift Squall/ Flux

Fleeting Hope/ Compass Rose

Stellar Drift/ Cloudy Skies

Spike/ Windwright

Bluebelle/ Tiger Blood

Candy Cane/ Pinkie Pie

 

"There we go!" She grinned. "That's my job done!" She glanced at the cookies and other sweets and trotted over. "Well, except for cookie eating! That job's not done yet!" She tossed a couple in her mouth and chewed reverently. "Yummy!"

 

(OOC: Feel free to RP the gift exchange between yourself and your randomly picked gift buddy in this thread. Let me know if I missed anyone, or paired anyone with their own characters!)

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Compass Rose/  /Fleeting Hope

 

Rose stood by her gift asst the table so that whoever Fleeting Hope was could come find her. She'd go looking for them, but honestly, she didn't know anypony. So it was unlikely she'd find them. "I hope they're nice like Fire Walker" she hoped to herself.

Then, she realised she was still wearing her sun hat and sunglasses. "Oh. Silly me. I don't think I need these indoors" she said. She figured it was only polite, when meeting somepony new, not to hide her face. She took a breath. She wasn't used to being around this many ponies. She'd been to the Conclave once or twice, but that was different. They were all Areion.

Rose recalled her first encounter with a pony from Ponyville. An earth pony called Hawthorn. The was scared, at first, but he did turn around. Now, he was a pony she could call a friend. She really ought to stop worrying about ponies distrusting her, she thought. It doesn't help when trying to make friends.

She interrupted her train of thought when she thought she saw somepony coming to her, but they were going toward somepony else. She sat in anticipation of finding out who she was going to meet.

 

=================

 

 Stellar Drift/  /Cloudy Skies

 

Stellar wandered casually to the table, and saw that, tho he wasn't paired with her, his pair was sat next to Rose's pair. On his way to his gift, he waved to her. "Hey, Rose." he greeted "Big crowd, eh?" he said almost accusingly, but with a hint of humor. She just giggled in return. She tried to hide it, but Stellar could tell the was nervous about meeting somepony new. He felt sorry for her, but would never say that to her face. He just gave her an encouraging smile, and turned to his the pair of gifts on the table the gift said it was from a "cloudy skies". Stellar thought they sounded like a pegasus. "Well, at least we'll have something in common" he thought. He hoped they'd like his gift. He'd hate to disappoint somepony on Hearthswarming Eve. Honestly, he thought he'd be giving the present to Rose, so it might not be the right gift to give to some random pegasus. He wondered if instead, he should have brought something generic. Then his anxiety hit him and he began sweating. He was so preoccupied, he didn't notice when somecreature came up to him and his gift.

 

=================

 

 Cocoa Nut/  /Jasper

 

"Oooh!" Cocoa exclaimed "I wonder who my buddy will be!" she bounced happily in the general direction of the table being sure to give her buddy enough time to get there first. She figured she could sneak up on them and surprise them. Either with a hug or just a tap on the shoulder. Whatever she felt like giving them in the moment.

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Well, that had been a sombering moment. Windwright shook her head, now full mare and grateful the changes had finished, and headed to the table to retrieve her gift for the exchange. Ordinarily she'd've rolled the cylinder up one wing, down the other, and made it tapdance or something, but she didn't feel showy right now, so she just tucked it under a wing and waited in an obvious but out of the way spot for her trading partner to show up. When the dragon approached, she'd wear her biggest, friendliest grin and wave, but until then she was just watching the crowd and thinking deep thinks.

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Iggy just stared slack-jawed as twilight completely ignored her explanation and walked off without so much as a polite nod.

 

Cloudy sighed and walked over, putting his claw on iggy's sholdier "I tried to warn you... she's a princess, you cant expect her to associate with common riff-raff like us... if you make some world-shaking discovery, maybe she'll find you worth her time but we're just not important to ponies like that" he hugged the kirin "now come on, chin up, we have our own riff-raff-kind to associate with now" he smirked jokingly

 

Iggy sighed, glancing across the room at twilight and shaking her head, clearly this had been a big blow to her idolization of the princess, but it wasn't quite enough to shatter the pedistol... "your right, I can go home and cry into a cup of cocoa later" she managed a small smile

 

"Thats the spirit, lets go"

 

-----

 

Jasper rolled his eyes as the other dragon rudely disengaged and headed over to twilight. Well, they certainly both had that much in common - neither of them was exactly the most polite... though it was annoying since it was rare to meet others of his kind that didn't immediately challenge him to lift heavy objects or some other barbaric menial task. Though what was he really expecting from some pony-noble-dragon... wordlessly he headed towards the tree himself to swap nick-knacks.

 

-----

 

Hope clung to Flux a little longer, no doubt wanting to ask the older changeling if she would go with her for this, but the young insectoid knew what would be said and with one more quick squeeze of her big-friend, she headed for the table, a bit nervously...

 

-----

 /====================\

 |  Iggy/Firewalker   |

 \====================/

 

 

Iggy was quick to the table, being so close from talking to twilight - well, from trying to talk to twilight... but she pushed that out of her mind as she levitated her gift from under the tree and looked around, wondering who her partner for this was since she hadn't met him or her yet... of course being new to town she really hadn't met much of anycreature there but she still was trying!

 

 

/=======================\

|   Jasper/Cocoa Nut    |

\=======================/

 

 

Jasper headed to the table and retrieved his gift, one that was rather obvious given the size and shape (though despite it clearly being a record album, it was anycreature's guess what particular album it was, given the fact it was coming from a dragon --- of course any creature that new jasper would have been able to narrow down the possibilities quite a bit, though given the fact that there really were no creature there that did know him made that point a bit... useless...

 

/==============================\

|  Fleeting Hope/Compass Rose  |

\==============================/

 

Hope nervously made her way to the table, picking up her "gift" which made it clear she wasn't familiar with the holiday, since it was literally just a pine-cone with a ribbon tied around it... of course being a changeling it made a lot of sense given that they had no culture revolving around hearthswarming and even what they had recently been given was a bit unique and hope still didn't know about even that since she hadn't returned to the hive since before chrysalis was defeated --- she didn't even know who Thorax was! --- though it was forgivable given her age.

 

The small changeling looked around nervously at the other creatures, as they paired off, she came to realize who she was paired up with and walked over smiling awkwardly "h-hi. Are you Compass?" she asked, though the fear in her voice seemed to face a little as she looked over the areleon "your... your not like the others either are you?" she asked, clearly taking some solace and comfort in the fact that she had been paired up with another "not-normal-pony" who also stood out, though not nearly as much as the insectoid changeling did "I-I'm Hope" she said with a small smile, offering the bat-pony the pinecone "Its my first time... I'm sorry" she said sadly, knowing now that she had seen all the other gifts that she had screwed up with hers...

 

/============================\

| Stellar Drift/Cloudy Skies |

\============================/

 

The hippogryph gave one more nod to his kirin friend before retrieving his gift from the pile and heading to meet with his partner. Watching the others mingle, he found his way to the other remaining creature "Hey, 'sup, you must be steller" he said casually, playing it cool, smiling "wild night, eh? maybe now that everything's calmed down we can all have some fun" he shifted his weight to his back legs as he offered the package wrapped in the odd seashell theme to the pony "Happy heartswarming, Its a little out of season, but I figured something personal was better than something boring bought at some shop" he smiled again.

 

 

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Candy had been in the process of taking the sweets out of his basket and placing them on the table, taking time and care with each one. He was currently on the candy apples, and was taking his sweet time with each one. "That's it, lads. At the end of the day, you've all made me proud - except for your spoiled brothers and sisters. That's unacceptable, I'm afraid." There wasn't too much going on at the time, as most of the others here were simply conversing amongst themselves. Gift exchanging hadn't started yet, as. . . Well, Candy was pretty sure they were all waiting for someone. He hadn't been there to hear the instructions yet. He'd simply put up shop at a table. A couple ponies were recognizable, but just that. The stallion leaned over the table slightly, sighing. This was certainly a change of pace in comparison to his usual run in or around Ponyville. Maybe things would stay that way.

On the contrary, fate seemed to want to shake things up a little. A jumpy pink mare came flying in out of nowhere, really, clad in matching winter gear. She wasted no time making as much noise as possible, using a. . .  confetti cannon? Whatever it was, she fired it into the air, drawing the attention of Candy (and probably everyone else). She also took it upon herself to make gift-pairing arrangements, which ended with. . . "Oh, dear," Candy murmured. His gifting partner was her. Was that bad? Most certainly not. Some of Candy's favorite people were zany and fun. Was that good? That depended on what the mare's gift preference was. Cain cleared his throat, clearing his mind. Remember to keep introductions short this time. He hopped on over to the other side of the present table, giving a little bow to Pinkie. "Good day to you, and Happy Hearth's Warming Eve! A pleasure to meet you - the name's Candy Cain, and. . . Well, I'm afraid I am unsure of who you might be." Strange, considering Candy made it an effort to try and track these kinds of people down. He should have at least seen her on Nightmare Night. "Who might you be. . .? My apologies, I travel. Too much, by the looks of things." He held out a rogue candy apple that hadn't made it onto the table yet. "Candy apple? Or maybe a sucker? Buckeye?"

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“Oh yes.”, the red mare smiled back. “I’ve already done a few of these gift exchange parties during the last few days...Always a hoot.”, she quickly made her way over to the drink ‘bar’. “Is there anything you would like?”, she briefly considered the first thing on the ‘bar’. Good ol’ fashioned eggnog. The rather colorful and  very dashing griffon was already enjoying a cup of the milky stuff. The ‘Crimson Hearths Warming Eve’ punch looked pretty tasty. Per the recipe card, it had raspberry sherbet, ginger ale, and apple, cranberry and cherry juice. Hmm. And there was also a large bottle of ‘Surley Trample’. Usually available at all family parties.
 
Once she secured the drinks, only the way a pony could, she returned to the bat-pony's side and hoofed over her drink. "Yep. The Twilight Guard, which might not exist anymore...Considering all the crazy stuff that has happened over the last few weeks." Maybe she would get lucky and a new princess were to be found in the south. Then the guard would have to move to some awesome island and stand guard while wearing a royal bikini. Dreams could come true. "Even without the guard, I'm still part of the R.E.A. Just like my family."
 
She nodded her head as the mare spoke of her job. "Maps are always important and always need to be updated...Just like training manuals.", she took a sip from her glass. "My mother Write Stuff writes and updates some of the R.E.A training manuals. We're all R.E.A, but we do more than just march around the street and say...Oh..."
 
Her beloved was here. Did she mention she would be attending this little event? She could only assume her Swift stopped at the house, only to be told that she would be here. Hmm. He seemed to be slightly miffed at the blue mare. Wow. She almost forgot about the set of lungs he had. Guy sure could yell in 'fancy'.  There was a good deal of drama she must have missed while she did her rounds. She had attended at least three different 'Hearth's Warming Eve Pageants'. Thankfully she saved the best, in Canterlot, for last. There was a few different family parties. Work parties, and soon the on at Muggo's. She also spent a good deal of time buying gifts for everyone. She could only wonder what had gone on with her hubby-to-be, 'Blue' and Blueblood'. Thankfully she avoided only the tail-end.
 
"Nah, that's not till later.....You want anything to drink.", she pointed to the 'bar'. "Oh, this sweet young lady is Miss Rose. she makes the maps."
 
The good Princess managed not to get involved in the drama. Good. And it was gift time! Ho-Boy! Once her glass was empty, the mare returned her glass and quickly scooped up her gift and went to find an 'Iggy'. Hmmm. Not familiar with that name.
 
/====================\
 
 |  Iggy/Firewalker   |
 
 \====================/
 
With her trusty gift back on her back, the officer scampered over to the gift-giving area, which was marked with an sign. "Looking for an Iggy". Her gift was probably not an previous year's 'White Elephant'. Which was an 'Yodeling Pickle' Swift ended up with that one. Or did Dunder get that? Since he was a chef, that would actually make sense for him.
 
Once she found her Iggy, she plopped the festive looking gift box onto his table. "Behold, my gift. I am Captain Fire Walker". She really had no idea what this gift was. Her mother purchased it during her last shopping trip to Canterlot. Hopefully it wasn't underwear.
 
CHwuZXC.jpg?1
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Well, that was quite the entrance for that pink pony, but hey, he could appreciate it. Especially coming from a good-looking mare like her. Tiger shrugged to himself, going to retrieve his gift before meeting back up with Bluebelle and finding a place to settle down with her.

 

"Looks like we got a better chance to get to know each other, huh? So, what'cha got for me?" He winked, smiling as the two swapped the gifts.

 

---------

 

Flux blinked a bit to herself as it turned out she was matched up with Swift. Well, that was convenient, considering she was right next to him. She bounced off to collect her gift, giving Hope a supportive hug before bouncing back to Swift and sitting in front of him, presenting the disk-like package to him. 

 

"Hiya, Swifty! Hope you have fun with this! Or give it to someone who will, either way. As long as it makes someone happy, I'll be happy." She chirped, smiling happily at him as she waited to see what he had brought.

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Compass Rose/  /Fleeting Hope

 

Rose stood waiting for a for a few moments before it seemed her gift-exchange partner was approaching. However, contrary to her admittedly narrow-minded assumption, It seemed 'Fleeting Hope' was, in fact, not a pony at all! The green insectoid made her way straight in Rose's direction. She'd never met a changeling, before. She'd heard lots about them, mostly about their history, but also about their reform. She knew not to fear them, and being an Areion, she knew what it was like to receive prejudice, and didn't want to be somepony who caused that feeling.

When she introduced herself Rose couldn't help but smile. If it hadn't been for a certain white and grey pegasus, she'd be just as nervous. She seemed to be disappointed in her own gift. Rose knew exactly what it was like to not know about customs, and she felt for her.

She smiled sweetly at Hope "Hi, Hope. My name is Compass Rose. You can call me Rose, tho. I think your gift is very sweet." she said.

"Yes, I'm what ponies like to call a 'Bat Pony'. Probably mostly because of these." she spread her bat-like wings displaying her race's uniquely leathery wings. "As well as other things. but," she added, slightly quieter, as if she was sharing some secret "if you want to be more correct, I'm actually an Areion."

Normally, Rose resented this kind of introduction. She didn't usually appreciate having to explain her race every time she met somepony, but for some reason, talking with somecreature else who was "different" from others, she felt more like she was sharing something special about herself instead of simply trying to assuage another pony's fears. It was... refreshing. For the first time since she met Stellar Drift, she felt like she could just be herself around somebody, and not have to prove herself.

 

=================

 

 Stellar Drift/  /Cloudy Skies

 

Stellar, who'd been so lost in anxious thought he didn't notice the Hippogriff approaching. His anxiety built up so that when Cloudy spoke to him, he was startled so much he actually jumped in the air with a bit of a yelp. Quickly adding "I didn't know! I'm sorry!" he blushed profusely, looking down. "I-I mean.... Hi, I'm Stellar Drift. I-I have a gift for yo-" He reached in his saddle bag and pulled out a small, rectangular parcel wrapped in plain brown paper, but froze upon seeing with whom he was conversing.

It's not like he didn't know what Hippogriffs were, or like he didn't like them, but he just wasn't expecting to see one standing three feet in front of him. He dropped his gift in surprise, but quickly fumbled to pick it back up. "I-I'm sorry. I was just not expecti- I've never met-" he took a deep breath, cleared his throat and said "Let me start over. I'm Stellar Drift. It's nice to meet you." he exchanged the gifts, ashamedly offering his plain package while accepting the unique gift in return. Now, he was extra sure his gift wouldn't really be enjoyed. This Hippogriff seemed like the cool-as-a-cucumber type, and he didn't know how well the gift would fit. "I-I um.... I didn't know we'd be exchanging with strangers, I thought my friend would get it. So... forgive me if it's not right." he apologized.

 

=================

 

Cocoa Nut/  /Jasper

 

When she finally approached the gift table, Cocoa saw in her spot a blue dragon! How exciting! Her logical mind told her that jumping into the air to surprise-hug a dragon from behind was a bad idea, and could only end in trouble.

....but since when did her logical mind ever win an argument?

Geronimo!

Cocoa jumped up to hug the dragon from behind "Happy Hearthswarming!" she said, simultaneously, as she latched on. Yup. Definitely the best thing she did today. She could tick "hug a dragon" off the bucket list (which didn't really exist, per se). She hugged him only until he made any attempt at all to free himself from her grasp. At which point, she let go to come face to face, and confront whatever surprise or possibly tirade he had for her. She didn't exactly have the habit of thinking things through, and this could possibly come back to bite her.... maybe literally. but that was logical mind's problem to think of.

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The stage mare was....quite melodramatic in her response. It was hard to pin to who she was talking exactly. Perhaps to everyone at large. When she started to fall apart at the seams, Squall's stern expression softened - if only a little - upon seeing those tears.

"Look, girl." he started again, much calmer and quieter "You seem to have an tendency of speaking before thinking....Maybe sit down for a moment , and ask yourself what did you said that....."

Swift wasn't allowed to finish. When he spoke, Trixie used spoke to make hasty exit, proving her qualifications as the stage magician.

".......Apologies towards the right pony would suffice......" Swift mused before turning his visage toward Twilight.

"You can reach her, right Sparkle? Better bring her back before she does something reckless." he said before turning to Bluebelle. Thankfully Archchancellor got herself back together.

 

"There are those that care for you Blue. They....WE will always be there for you." unicorn said as he walked towards the Princess and patted he on the shoulder.

"You will get there, I know it." Squall said encouragingly before bouncing away from the royal pony. After all, Twilight and her interactive pink friend seemed to be 'cooking' something.

 

Swift's eyebrow's moved up when he saw enchanted confetti forming words in the air. At first he didn't understood why every-pony was paired up. then it clicked within him.

"So that's how it works." he mused. Being sellsword for most of his life didn't left much room for those kind of parties. Or any kind of parties for that part.

 

Thankfully Squallcoast was paired with someone who he actually knew.

"You have to tell me that story sometimes. With details." noblepony spoke to his changeling friends before giving Hope a glance. "Still roaming around the realm and meeting new buddies I see." he mused.

 

Swift accepted his gift gracefully. He did not unpacked it yet, it will be so much better if they do this simultaneously.

"It must've be hard. Getting gifts for a pony who can buy anything." he lampshaded. "Don't worry, I will treasure it regretless. The fact that it's from you is a value enough." Squall reassured his friend.

"Now...this is something that I've meant to give you for a long time now...." swordpony said as cylindrical package floated through the air into Flux's awaiting legs.

"So...together?"

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