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[SPONSORED] A Season's Greetings (Open: Ponyville)


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The Castle of Friendship was open to everypony per tradition, and this year Princess Twilight Sparkle would be there to oversee the wonderful festivities. Ponyville was one of Equestria's most energetically celebratory towns and there were few paces better suited to tonight's event. Her castle was lined with decorations and the rooms were opened up, with dozens of smaller, more intimate parties in closed off sections while the larger public festivities conquer the majority of the space nonetheless. It was open to all creatures big and small and it was another in a long line of officially sanctioned celebrations that the Princesses of Equestria had held to mark the holidays. Like most other parties this one had plenty of drinks, food, song, and presents. And just like most of them, this party held a dual purpose.

 

Tonight they would be seeking donations for various charities, all for the greater good of Equestria and her citizens that were less fortunate. There was always more that they could all do together and she happy to do her part. Ponies were a giving sort by nature and the holidays were a great time to join with others in supporting the needy and less well off. The fire of friendship burned in their hearts but it could not just be for friends and family alone, but for all their fellow ponies. And with the warmth of the holidays spreading cheer, she had no doubt that the attendees would open themselves to the charitable happenings of the party. She was just happy to be able to share this with so many!

 

Not that she wasn't excited to just be able to let her mane down, if only a little. As the ruler of all Equestria her days were spent discussing issues minor and significant alike, and sometimes she was forced against her better judgment to treat them with the same level of awed seriousness that they truly lacked the standing to achieve with her. But today she could participate in the greatest holiday of all. She would love to say it would be with friends and family but she knew better than to say that. This castle was open to all and she knew that today was a day for the citizens of her fair nation to enjoy her in a celebratory fashion as well as the season as a whole. Sad but true. Nonetheless, she had plenty of eggnog on hoof for that and other duties- like later in the evening, when she would swear in all the elected officials as part of her Royal Assent to their positions. That included the new Mayor of Ponyville!

 

She took a deep breath as she stood in the throne room, where the map once stood. It was a long straight away to the main door and only a few of the Twilight Guard were around- she certainly wasn't expecting any trouble. With a turn to a guard next to her and a nod, the doors to the castle were opened and this year's Hearts Warming Eve celebrations were started!

 

OOC: Every character must give something to a charity of your choice. You may use a previously mentioned charity. That is the price of entrance into a raffle that will randomly give a prize to one lucky character!

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Prince Blueblood

The Prince was no stranger to Holiday Charity events.  They were a part of the nobility's regular social calendar; where the size of one's donations were compared in a contest of status and wealth.  Not exactly a display of virtue, but it didn't hurt anypony, and helped quite a lot of ponies, so who cared? 

Ponyville was different, though; most ponies didn't have as much surplus to give out of, but made up for it by the generosity of their hearts.  It could really restore a stallion's faith in equine nature, as well as humble him.  Not that Blueblood was any stranger to being humbled, it had to be said.  It turns out that all the hard stuff everypony said built character did, in fact, build character.  Who knew?

 

Well, Blueblood did now, which was part of the reason why he was here.  Acting as Archancellor to the School of Friendship, he'd already begun to integrate into the social life of the burgeoning town, which now included their Heartswarming Eve festival!  He was technically the first to show up and donate, though since it was to the non-profit he'd founded himself (IMAGINE, an organization dedicated to forging greater economic and peacemaking ties across international borders), he asked that he be recused from the drawing.  Instead, he would take up position beside Princess Twilight, to welcome all the donators!

"I'm expecting a good turnout, if last year was any indication."

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Rose Compass

Rose was stunned by the crystalline marvel of architecture that was The Castle of Friendship. A bit gauche of a name, but such things were negligible in the face of what had been built. As she climbed the steps, for once not accompanied by chromatic brews on her hips, she wondered who could have made it and, more importantly, how

 

With a mind for medicine, Rose Compass had donated some of the funds received from her small-time establishment to Filly Pharmaceuticals, a pediatric company. Considering her most successful brew only works on foals, it felt fitting. 

 

Ah, how oddly liberating it felt to free her flanks from the burden of her satchels, and odder still how familiar it was to don the blue frock indicative of her past life's... Position. Simple gold buttons hugged the fabric to her chest and belly as she entered what she assumed to be the front foyer, almost immediately recognizing a familiar face from a very memorable night.

 

"Twilight!" She greeted with all due enthusiasm, quickly making her way up to the alicorn with a cordial smile. They'd barely known each other for more than a couple days and she already felt the mare her own kin. "It is so good to see you again. What are you doing here?

 

The question wasn't asked out of rudeness or anything, and she did acknowledge that the mare had taken up a certain position at the entrance implying she had a role to play, but she also wanted to just know. That's when she noticed the stallion that had taken up a place next to her.

 

For some reason... She liked him a little less than the other ponies she had met, but that was probably just the noble attire.

 

"Oh, pardon me, buen señor." She offered a hoof in greeting. "Rose Compass, local alchemist ~"

 

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It had been a long while since Ice Storm had set hoof in Canterlot since Luna's retirement. It had been even longer since she had been to Ponyville, which wasn't really fair to the village that got her to where she was now. Ponyville was always that down-to-earth village that anypony could walk into and feel at home... Provided you weren't a zebra.... A changling... A griffon.... A dragon... A diamond dog... Or anything non-pony. Thankfully they'd gotten a lot better at that here recently after the school of friendship had opened up. Honestly the school of friendship was something that Ice Stolen herself could have benefitted from when she was a foal. Perhaps things would have worked out better, it things would have went exactly the way they did. There was no way of really knowing for sure. 

 

Tonight though, was not the night for such things, nor was it a night for armor. Tonight was Hearth's Warming Eve. It was a night for family, togetherness, remembrance and hey favorite black sequinned dress will long gradient blue sleeves. What better way to share that than back in the place where everything good really started for her, right here in Ponyville. The train ride here with Raven was one filled with love and heart as they left the worries of Las Pegasus, the casino, STAR, their research, all of it behind them for a week or two while they just relaxed and spent time with each other. Now that they were here, they would stay in the apartment above the shop that she still owned here, but for now, the pair simple made their way toward the castle.

 

As they approached, Ice immediate recognized Twilight and Blueblood. Both were very good from of hers and was part of the reason why she chose to come here to Ponyville rather than Canterlot or stay in LP for the event. Las Pegasus had a habit of over monetizing the event with sales, travel pushes and the like. Naturally hey casino wasn't much different in that regard as she did still have to compete with the other establishments there, even if The Fire and Ice and the Mareage were an alliance of sorts. The other mare Ice Storm had never seen before. She was likely new to Ponyville, and that wouldn't surprise her at all with the school and all. 

 

She also noted the mare extend a hoof to Blueblood which likely meant that they were in the middle of introductions. It was a perfect time to join it, but Ice Storm had enough respect and manners to allow them to finish their introductions before speaking. It was considered to be poor taste to interrupt such formalities anyway. She simply smiled as leaned against her marefriend and waited their turn for introductions or to be let into the castle, which ever came first.

 

 

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The next one in line was a large pegasus mare. At least she appeared to be a pegasus at first glance, as her larger wings and the presence of talons at the end of her forelegs suggested a bit of griffin parentage as well. She scratched the back of her head a bit as she waited to get in, observing the area with her one good eye. Aside from the eyepatch over her bad eye, Scarlett was only wearing her long captain's coat. She may be a pirate by trade, but she liked having a good time, and this seemed like it'd be a fun experience.

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The castle truly was truly becoming a hotspot, a poppin' palace in Ponyville. Through the hallways of the castle, a certain brown pegasus was flying. Her head swing left to right while she looked down through the doorways into the opened rooms. Meetings, talks, crowds of ponies conversing. It all looked like so much fun, and Dunnie wanted to join... but she was on the clock! She had a job to do!

 

She had been in the castle before briefly, before having a very curious incident with a mirror and a couple of good friends. But the ponies were scattered throughout the hallways and through the open doors made it harder to navigate and find the throne room where she was meant to be. As she scanned left and right for a certain alabaster pony, she eventually came upon one of the doors. Instead of leading to a small room, it led to the throne room. Where Dunnie could spot a few ponies. A few guards for Princess Twilight Sparkle and her own Prince, sitting alongside the purple mare.

 

The alicorn princess, sitting alongside her guard motivated the mare. That's what she was supposed to be doing!

 

She slipped on her mask, giving her a flare of mysteriousness and intimidation to any potential wrongdoers. Or even any non-wrongdoers who would then spread the word to any potential wrongdoers! She zoomed off, her wings sending her into a climb, then a dive that sent her right over the queued ponies, then a swift descent, wings flapping to slow her down until she landed next to Prince Blueblood and gave him a soft nuzzle, cold and hard through her mask. "Sorry." She whispered, "One of Twilight's guards at the door didn't believe I was your guard and wanted to take my sword away, can you believe that?" She asked, in disbelief at the audacity of the stallion. Sure she didn't wear a normal guard uniform, but that came with the territory of being the only full-time guard. She also made sure to give a wave, if she would notice, to the purple alicorn. It was the polite thing to do even though she was reaching over her own Prince.

 

The mare took her place next to the Prince, standing tall as she surveyed those who were approaching. First a sea-foam coated mare. Something about her rubbed the guard wrong, so she eyed her, until she heard the familiar language. It disarmed her immediately.

 

Next she looked to see a bright blue mare, unicorn. Bright green eyes and flowing mane. The heart in the guard's chest jumped, a gasp stalling in her throat. Dunnie immediately pulled her hat down, turning her head away immediately as she took her place behind the Prince's seat.

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Prince Blueblood

Dunnie Blust, personal honor guard to Prince Blueblood, finally took her proper place at her Prince's side.  Apparently the delay was due to overzealous weapons-checking by the Twilight Guard.  "I'll have a word with them after."  He whispered back to her as the first guest approached.  "Still, given how things have been these past few years, I would rather the guards of our current sovereign err on the side of caution."  The new reign of Twilight Sparkle had promised many changes, not the least of which was a reform of Equestrian armed forces.  Hopefully they wouldn't end up being embarrassed when the next villain came to attack.

 

Such dark thoughts, were to be dismissed in the warm atmosphere of hot chocolate and peppermints.  The first guest was an alchemist, offering a hoof, which he kissed as befitted a lady.  "Charmed, I am Prince Blueblood.  I note from your accent and linguistic flair that you are from near the Tenochtitlan basin, unless I am very much mistaken?"  Having Dunnie as a guard made him somewhat familiar with the place.  Just beyond the alchemist, he could see an old friend approaching, along with a winged stranger.  This should be fun!  The Prince was in his element.

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Raven bit her lip nervously, as she stood next to Icy in line. She wasn't quite sure why she was nervous. She'd been inside the Canterlot castle quite a few times, and this would likely not be that different. Aside from the fact that it was a party... And she still didn't really like parties... Oh... And it was in Ponyville... After all, she'd dealt with the nobles in Canterlot and their ideas of parties for quite some time. The gossip, the backhoofed compliments... She bit her lip a little harder, and slightly shook her head. She was here, Icy was here, buck the rest. Sure, she'd almost rather be back in her lab, in Las Pegasus, or in hers and Icy's room, but Icy had wanted to come and spend time with her friends, and she couldn't say no. Anything she could do to make Icy smile, she'd do. With that thought in mind, she lit her horn softly, simply smoothing out her dress. It wasn't the fanciest, but it suited her, being a gentle red that faded to orange. She had gone a little farther, and had a clip-on ear ring on one of her ears. When Icy leaned into her, She smiled softly, and leaned back, before sneaking a quick peck on her cheek.

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"Oh my ~" the mare giggled into her spare hoof, a light blush dusting her cheeks. "It seems my preconceived notions about local nobility were unfounded." She'll be remembering this greeting, even if she'd hardly call herself a lady

 

"And, ah, no. I'm from overseas, a land called Andalusia. ¿Has oído hablar de este lugar?" She paused, giving him time to think it over, before a simple, calm smile overtook her features. "It is alright if you haven't, it's a pretty remote place." This was a lie, but considering the circumstances of her arrival in Equestria, it was unlikely anybody would be uncovering the truth anyways. Her home is far, far away.

 

 

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As Dunnie took her hiding place behind the Prince's seat, her ear couldn't help but perk up and lock onto the familiar language. After hearing the sentence, Dunnie hastily continued on her way behind the chair and peeked around so that her mask muzzle almost pressed against Blueblood's alabaster ear. "She asked if you have heard talk of that place," Her wing brought forward, covering her mouth even though her muzzle was already hidden. Subtly was lost on the mare, anyway. "Andalu-silla, which means 'chair'....something or other. Or it could be 'seat'?" Dunnie couldn't question it, having only heard of the place in passing, and never reading about it.

 

She straightened herself back up and stood by the Prince, keeping her eyes forward. Only giving one quick glance once to the Prince and not giving a look to the green mare he was speaking to.

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Prince Blueblood

Outward calm on the unicorn's visage belied a certain degree of inward panic as he was asked a question in Rose's native tongue.  To say he recognized the language did not mean he could speak it.  At first, that was what he thought the question was about, and was in the midst of formulating, in broken Mexicolt, that he did not in fact speak much of the language, when Dunnie came to the rescue as translator.  "Oh, no, I can't say I have heard of the place.  Is it a city-state in that region?  The name sounds like it was referring to the seat of a local power, or somesuch."  He shook his head.  "Anyhow, we're quite glad to see you here, from however far you came.  Happy Hearthswarming!"  

 

Then it was time for the next guest.  He wasn't sure how many would stay after making their donation; the raffle wasn't until rather later in the evening, and there was some sort of show being put on outside by a pair of Los Pegasus entertainers.  Speaking of, the next one to come up had made quite the name for herself in that city.  "Icy!  It's good to see you again, and Raven as well!  I hope your trip over went well?"  He let them approach, temporarily oblivious to the fact that he was standing right beside Ice Storm's ex while she approached with her current marefriend.  This was gonna be interesting.

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"Actually, it is a region, but good guess." she explained, then bowed as was befitting a stallion of his station, smiling cordially. "And a Happy Hearth's Warming to you as well! Que tus días se llenen de mucha prosperidad ~" With this, she would bid him adieu, pausing incase Twilight had anything to say before she'd make her way further inside for some merry making. 

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~~~Ice Storm~~~

 

 

Ice Storm felt Raven lean back into her and give her a small kiss on her cheek. Tonight was going to be a special night indeed for them. She heard Raven's horn flare up and saw her straightening hey dress and she nosed her again. "Relax, we're here for a party, and everypony here in Ponyville is friendly. They aren't like the stuck us that parade around Canterlot. Although thankfully the amount of prudes have been slimmed," she says with a smile. She at least held some peace in helping drain the corruption of nobility and helping reform the circle. She knew Blueblood was doing something similar. Between the two of them, they were basically daring nobles to try to abuse their power.

 

As the introductions wound down with the mare in front of them, she herself noted the language and the accent. It piqued her interest. She made a mental note to inquire about it later. That was, until she heard the mare explain it to Blueblood. Andelusia... Ice thought to herself before leaning in and returning the kiss on Raven's cheek that she gave her, using it as a cover to whisper into her ear. "Remember that name, and then remind me when we get back to base to do some research on that. I haven't heard of that country before. Would be nice to make sure we don't have anything to worry about from them," she whispered Raven with another peck. They're was time for all of that later. Now it was their turn. "I'm so great that we were able to make it out here tonight."

 

Of course, Ice Storm would glance to the guard that was now next to him and she had to do a double take. When Blueblood extended a greeting to her, she smiled and have him a friendly hug in getting off her own. "It's great to see you again to. We should really plan a time where we can get together again on a night that isn't a giant socal gathering, but I'm always glad to get to spend time with a friend. To answer your question though, the train ride was good. It was long, but Raven and I shared some togetherness. That's the most important thing after all," she said before turning to the guard. "You... Wouldn't happen to be related to Dunder Blust... Would you?" She asked the mare. She looked just like him, but Ice Storm knew with an absolute fact that he was male. She couldn't rule him completely out though. She had seen Blueblood's alter ego Bluebelle enough to know that with a little bit of magic, anything is possible. 

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Dunnie stood straight and tall, like a statue. A statue unwavering when just about face-to-face of her ex-marefriend. An ex-marefriend who only ever knew 'Dunnie' as 'Dunder'. Though, she did sneak a glance. If the blue unicorn noticed or not, it was difficult to tell. Still Dunnie snapped her gaze straight forward as her ear faced the two chatting unicorns. Curiously, they both knew each other. Not only did they know each other, but they were good enough friends to think about meeting up outside of social gatherings?

 

Dunnie was not sure how to feel about this revelation, but she had no time to mull it over as she was addressed directly by her other name.

"Ah!" Her wings puffed up after the question, front leg lifted as if ready to take off. "Er....N-no. I-I mean...yyyeeesss...?" She sounded just as curious as the mare who asked the question. Her wings settled down, and her forelegs returned to the hard floor. "Well." She sat on her rear and lifted her forelegs up to her face. With a metallic 'clink' the mask was removed and set aside. "You knew me as Dunder Blust." She looked at Icy, and Dunnie indeed looked like Dunder just in mare form. Two-tone brown coat and wings, almond shaped eyes, fluffy and wavy dark brown mane and tail.

 

"It's good to see you again, Icy. Long time no I-see, huh?" She gave a grin and a sly wink, then giggled awkwardly at her own terrible pun. "How have you been doing? Are your frozen treats still as tasty as when we met? And who's this Raven friend of yours?" Her questions rattled off one by one, equal parts excited and nervous.

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Raven couldn't keep from being nervous, though Icy's words did a lot to help her, as did her request to remember the name. It gave her something to take her mind off of her worry. When they got to Blueblood, she smiled, not fully, but at the same time, not like her old masking smile from Canterlot. "Hi... The trip was pleasant... Neither me nor Icy have a lot of time between everything we have to do to spend with each other, so the long train ride was great." She said, talking to Blueblood, not noticing Icy's conversation with the guard next to Blue. If she had, her worry would have made her seize up...

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Blueblood found the hug surprising, but not unwelcome.  It was still not so frequent that he was in public social situations where that kind of informality between friends was observed, but Ice Storm was a true friend, and found her hug reciprocated.  "That's good to hear.  If you're staying in town longer than the celebration, I could host a smaller gathering for you and Raven to catch up.  It's been a while, and I don't really have a good sense of what all goes on in your part of Equestria."  Which was Los Pegasus now.  An ice mare in a desert city, who would have thought?

 

Her interest in Dunnie at first puzzled the Prince, but once the pegasus' old name of Dunder Blust was uttered, a memory was triggered in the back of Blueblood's head.  *Oh, that's right, they were almost married, and Dun got cold feet at the alter.  And now she's here, meeting her ex.  With her ex's lover.  And with me as hers.  Oh dear.*  His eyes darted rapidly between them all, not sure what he could say to prevent disaster.  Did he need to say anything, though?  None of the mares seemed to angry...

15 hours ago, Dunder said:

"Long time no I-see, huh?"

The Prince facehoofed.  No, he wasn't going to say anything.  Nothing could possibly be said to salvage the situation, save for an apology after it all blew over.

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~~~Ice Storm~~~

 

 

 

 

Ice Storm smiled and nodded to Blueblood's question. "Yup! I wanted to take an opportunity to catch up with everypony here in Ponyville because this is where everything kinda started for me. Without me opening up my Frozen Delights here, I never would have gotten invited to that gala in the Spire at the crystal Faire. Then I wouldn't have discovered that I could use my magic to protect others. Now here we are," she smiled. "We're going to be staying in my apartment that's above my shop here," she said as she turned back to the guard. The answer that the guard have her though kinda rocked her world a bit.

 

The mare that was standing in front of her was Dunder Blust!? She knew that the mare looked a lot like him and while she didn't rule out a gender swap, because of the pony that she had just hugged, but she wasn't actually expecting that to be the case. She couldn't help but grimace a bit at the pun that Dunder had made with her name before laughing a bit as well. "Well, I would think so. I was able to do some massive expansions since then. I now own seven stores. One here, one in Hoofington, two in Baltimare, two in Seaddle, and one inside my casino in Las Pegasus. Though I don't have a lot of time to run them myself, being the commanding officer of STAR now. How have you been though? I never got to apologize for the mess I caused all those years ago..." Ice told her. "As for Raven, she's my marefriend. We meet when she interviewed for STAR when it was still a private organization, but now I try to spend every moment that I can with her," she said with a smile and ended with a small kiss on Raven's cheek.

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"Whaaaaaaaaaat?" Dunnie's jaw dropped some, expressing her surprise quietly "Seven stores? And a casino in Las Pegasus? AND an officer in STAR?" Icy certainly had kept herself busy, and yet it felt like only yesterday that the two parted ways.

When Dunnie realized the question she had been asked, her wings fluffed up again, but settled themselves just as quickly. Years had passed since she had seen Icy last. A nervous grin came across Dunnie's muzzle, "Oh...you know." Her hoof came up to enunciate, a few beats passing before Dunnie finally finished her thought. "Good." Her grin kept up, but dropped as she sighed, "Well, you know. There's been ups and downs. Life is a roller coaster and all of that." She took another breath, steadying herself, "Adventuring, lots of traveling all over the world. Taking jobs to get enough bits to get me elsewhere. And when cooling myself off from that lifestyle, joining organizations that'll take me like EPIC and even the Acroneighos military, though only as an auxiliary." She tapped her chin in thought, taking time to remember, "At some point, I became an honorary guard, appointed by Fire, actually." She chuckled, knowing Icy remember that name. "And now I'm an 'honor guard!' Of Blueblood's...and eventually...." She wrapped a wing around Blueblood, pulling him close unceremoniously, "We started dating." She leaned and gave a peck on Blueblood's cheek, not wanting him to feel left out!

"Mess? Are you talking about that fancy onion soup?" She gave an amused chuckled, "I know I had been slow cooking it for 12 hours, but it was my fault for putting the pot so close to the edge. It was ready to fall off the counter at that point!" As was expected, the dunderhead was off the mark.

"And your marefriend is very pretty. I see you still have excellent taste in ponies." She gave a wink and a grin to Icy.

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Raven smiled at Blueblood, giggling a little. "Oh, you didn't hear? I've moved out to Las Pegasus too. It's just she's so busy with everything, and I get wrapped up in my research... Means the only time we have to really spend with each other is when we're asleep." She said, finally realizing about the other conversation going on. "Oh! I... Thanks..." She said, blushing as she turned to address the pegasus. "To be honest, I'm still not quite sure what she sees in me, but I'm glad she sees it... She's done a lot to pull my nose out of my books... But then, Blueblood I'm sure has introduced you to how the nobles in Canterlot can be... Great reason to escape into books, that lot is..." She said, a soft smile on her face.

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The awaited-for explosion of unpleasantness.... never came.  As the two mares continued to chat amicably, Blueblood felt himself relax, and even laugh at himself a little.  *You know both these mares.  You know they're not really the sorts to be vindictive, or in any way wish to harm others just for the sake of it.*  Of course, the relevant subject had only been alluded to, not brought up in full, but any thoughts of the wisdom of doing so went out when Dunnie pulled him in close for a kiss.

 

"Well, yes.  I like to pull ponies who I know are capable from less than official sources.  If I wanted an REA detail, I could request one.  Retainers are another thing altogether, and lovers..."  He trailed off, smiling, as he kissed the pegasus back.  "To be honest, they seem to always come out of the sky for me, unexpected.  You know what I mean?"  Raven seemed to, at the very least, which earned at least one wry smile from Blueblood.  "Oh, I know.  All I will say is that in my schooling days, I was forced to read books that were a great reason to escape into soirees!"

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~~~Ice Storm~~~

 

 

Ice Storm couldn't help but giggle a bit when she saw the look on Dunnies face when she told her what she'd been up to as of late. "Not just an officer, but The Commanding Officer. I was the pony that founded the organization. The Newly christened "Shadow of Ice" just started it's first series of test voyages just a couple weeks ago. I can't tell you where though, that's classified," she said with a smile. Of course she harbored no ill will towards Dunnie at all. IT was just as much her fault that they got into the mess that they were in as it was Dunnie's, maybe even moreso. Still, it was nice to reflect on how far she'd come since then.

 

When she heard Dunnie talk though, she frowned a bit. It seemed when their paths split, while she had been successful, Dunnie on the other hoof was... not as much so. She said that she'd been floating around for different places that would hire her for sword, often times just making enough bits to get her to the next job. "Military work is always honest and most of the time pays decently well. I know I keep my own soldiers well funded anyway, but if you were struggling all that time you should have contacted me! I could have helped!" she said slightly annoyed, more at the fact that she could have actually done something to help her if she'd asked. She sighed though and smiled when she said that her and Blueblood started dating. "Oh! That's great news! I'm so happy for both of you! I'm especially happy that you were able to pull yourself back up from what sounds like a pretty rough stretch of luck," she said her demeanor changing once again now that she knew that Dunnie's life wasn't completely in the dumps because of her. It seemed that she didn't realize the mess that she was talking about was pulling her into a complicated love triangle to begin with. She supposed that was a good thing for now though. Right now everypony was happy, and on a night like this, it was important to stay that way.

 

Of course, her compliment to Raven didn't go unnoticed by either of them. Raven was the first one to speak up on it though, saying that she wasn't sure what Icy saw in her but she was glad that she did. "Oh, do you mean how pretty you are? How strong and tone you are? How absolutely smashing you look in your armor? How sweet and caring that you are? How you can look past the flaws of a pony you barely know and give them comfort and companionship? And then of course how smart you are because of all those books you read! I mean there's a reason I have you as one of the leaders on the Aether Core team. Your research and knowledge on arcane crystals is second to none!" she said with a smile as she noted the sole mare moving into the foyer. She wanted to talk more to her about this Andalusia that she was from, and the mare herself seemed rather interesting too! "That being said can you point us in the direction of the donations table? I would like to set these down before I forget, as I'm not just carrying my own Donation, but the donation from our Las Pegasus performer. She wanted to contribute too but wasn't sure if she'd be able to make it to this event with her show going on," she said with a smile.

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Dunnie looked to Raven, while smiling at the kiss from Blueblood, a wing tip fluttering at the kiss. She let out a chuckle and nodded to the unicorn, "Yes, unfortunately we've been to a lot of parties made of stuffy ponies. It's amazing to see how different they act from non-nobles. At least, when you're a guard, you can just stand there and that's all that's expected of you. Buuuuuuut, the bartenders or servants won't serve you wine." she rolled her eyes. "I would rather be reading. Or cooking some real food."

 

Dunnie nuzzled Blueblood again, "Oh, I think you just have a type. And you definitely like doing things through less than official sources when you can." She gave Bluey a soft poke on the chest. "But, I am glad you do. Or we wouldn't have met."

She pulled Bluey back into a hug while listening to Icy talk. Founding STAR? She definitely didn't know that. Something deep inside of her wanted to jump onboard, but her tongue was held. She gave Bluey another squeeze and slowly released her as waved a hoof at Icy, "You could tell me. I wouldn't tell. Buuuut I also take security seriously, so I understand why you won't." She giggled lightly.

 

As she listened more, Dunnie tilted her head, listening thoughtfully as she slowly released Blueblood from her grasp. "Struggling? Helped?" Dunnie kept her grin up as she shook her head. "Maybe I didn't say it properly." She scratched the back of her head nervously as she collected her words. "I enjoyed that life while I lived it. Traveling from place to place, climbing mountains, floating through valleys, gritting teeth through the extreme cold. I was always working, meeting new and interesting ponies and griffons and zebras and kirin." She giggled again, "I felt free. And I was never wanting for bits. If I was wanting for bits I would have just jumped on Blueblood as soon as I saw he was a bachelor-- I mean, jumped on a relationship with Blueblood." She quickly clarified after shaking her head again, realizing her words after they were said. "Anyway, I think me contacting you right after would have defeated the purpose of the separation?" She sounded unsure.

"Regardless, like Bluey said, we can meet up later if you two wish." She smiled to the mare and nodded.

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"Is that what you though I was? A stuffy noble. .....You might be right." an familiar, deep voice came from behind the group.

 

Approaching them, in the winter version of his white longcoat was Swift Squall. The noblepony wore a inscrutable expression as he neared them.

 

"Hello Blue. Hello Ice. Hello.....Dunnie." his gaze met each of them in order, lingering for a while on the last pony.

"It's been a while since...last time. But this is Heart's Warming a season of giving....And I couldn't stand aside when I can help so much."

 

Indeed, Swift Squall and his TEPMPEST Industries Mega-Corp put some work. This time noblepony decided to give some less fortunate a homes. Literally. Hundreds of residences in Rome, Manhattan, Stalliongrad and, of course, Fillydelphia were given finished touches and furnishings before being presented to new owners.

 

".....But....as befitting it's name....it's also a season to heart-to-heart....." Swift said as he turned towards Ice.

"....It make mind heart ache that you didn't believed you could trust any of us. Especially...." he waved at the 'necklace' that the blue mare wore. "Was mine judgment wrong...?" he asked, half accusatory, half hurt.

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Twilight was happy to stay in the background as the mares and stallions of this party went about their hobnobbing in a sweet and delightful manner. Having Blueblood here certainly helped. The Arch-Chancellor of the School of Friendship and one of the rare member of the true nobility of Equestria and while he at one time was not the most well-liked member, he had certainly changed course and was sailing smoother waters. And while it had been a bit hectic, his guard who joined him was a delight as always. She wasn't going to set the world on fire with a subtle flick of her fetlocks but her charm and wit would prove themselves equal to any task. 

 

"Happy to have you two. Dunnie," she said leaning in, poking her head towards Blueblood. "Keep him out of trouble. No telling what the most exciting noble in the land can get up to!" She said with a wink, just as a pony she met recently arrived. Rose Compass was an intelligent alchemist, if a bit strange, who certainly harbored a secret that Twilight was not necessarily working to unravel. She was pleased to see Rose make it in any case. "A pleasure to see you here, Rose Compass. Please enjoy my castle, this is a season for sharing and caring," she finished with a broad smile. 

 

Ice and Raven followed suit. Ice Storm was one of the most important mares in the land, one whose deep love of it sometimes led her down dangerous rabbit holes. But if you went down them with love in your heart, something easier with a pony like Raven at your side, then the climb back ever was never too far for one as determined and grand as Ice Storm. Twilight had not the pleasure of Raven's company too often but it was always pleasant when it was shared, and tonight was bound to be no great exception. "I'm happy you two could make it. Please, use my castle to your pleasure tonight."

 

The next guest? A pirate. She could tell. Plus, those who entered had some background done on them by a spell cast at the entrance. Nothing too exciting, but enough to give Twilight the information needed to be excited. "Scarlet, I take it? Welcome to my castle. I hope you enjoy spending Hearth's Warming Eve with us," she said, secretly hoping for Dunnie, Ice Storm, Scarlet, and her next guest would engage in a spirited battle. It would certainly be more exciting than anything else that was bound to happen, despite Swift Squall's ability to make anything dramatic. She had a soft spot for the stallion and was happy to see him. "Swift! Happy to see you. Shocked to see you without Fire Walker. Is she...busy?"

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Though she wasn't talking specifically to him, hearing Ice Storm talk about all the measures she was taking in her own right for the sake of Equestria caused Blueblood's muzzle to twitch upward in a small smile.  "You know, for all the talk about the nobility we've done, the simple fact of the matter is that you're practically a Peer of the Realm in your own right.  A Peer in the Old-School sense, one to be recognized for great service to Equestria.  In fact, I've decided!  Twilight, I think its high time we created some new noble houses; show the country who our elites really ought to be."  He was laughing in his voice, but sincere in his tone.  As his position was rather more Highest Noble than Lowest Royal, he did care for the ultimate health and relevance of his class, and to his mind, what it needed right now was new blood with old values.  "Oh, and the donation table is over that way.  Love to keep chatting, but I've got other guests to greet."

 

Taking Dunnie with him, the Prince aimed to greet Scarlet, but found himself intercepted by Swift Squall.  "Oh, Happy Hearthswarming, Sir Squall!  I understand it will be a little difficult to place houses on the donor table, but I'm sure we can see to the proper distribution of the deeds!"  He was in high good humor, now.  Not even a pirate raid would be able to dampen his holiday hilarity, which was a good thing, considering who he was about to speak to.

 

It was a good thing also that Dunnie was an understanding mare, because by Auntie Celestia's beard, dat wingspan!  The Prince was not shy about his appreciation, and the claws only added the appeal of the exotic, as far as he was concerned.  "Another new face?  Welcome!  I am Prince Blueblood, but also a sailor myself.  I see you are also a sister of the high seas?  Or skies, I suppose."  The last sentence was spoken with considerably less enthusiasm.  As much as he was a winged flight admirer/envier, airship travel never really appealed to him.  Not nearly so much as the sea.  How long had it been since he'd taken the yacht out for a cruise?  Too long.

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