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

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Well, those two had plenty to talk with the nobles about, though that was pretty understandable when you had history with someone. It sounded like a doozy of a history too, but oh well. Eventually it was her turn, and the alicorn spoke up first. Scarlett nodded to her, seemingly able to skip introductions. It made her wonder just how much this purple mare was aware of about her, but it didn’t actually matter that much. 
 

“Same, I hope this’ll be a fun time.” She smiled a bit before the unicorn stallion started talking, and he looked like he enjoyed what he was seeing. That was something she might pursue, if he wasn’t already spoken for, she had no desire to get into it with that mare right now. Not about that, at any rate. Of course, another unicorn just had to butt in first, and Scarlett just rolled her eye at the stallion’s words. 
 

“You’re a sailor? I wouldn’t have guessed, unless you mean riding in a boat while others do the actual sailing.” She shrugged, looking Blueblood over again for a moment. “As for myself, I’ve sailed both, but the skies tend to have more freedom in my opinion.”

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~~~Ice Storm~~~

 

 

 

Ice Storm was a bit more relieved when she heard Dunnie tell her that it was her life choices and that she actually enjoyed moving from place to place and she wasn't as wanting for bits as it sounded like. In fact it seemed that she was doing pretty okay the whole time. She also told Ice that she enjoyed getting to see the world and the like. Of course she couldn't help but giggle a bit when she said that she could tell her about the ship and she wouldn't tell, but she also understood security. "Well, that's good that things worked out. But just remember though. Just cause we aren't lovers any more doesn't mean we aren't still friends. If you're ever in a situation where you need help, just ask!" she smiled. 

 

It was then that she heard another voice behind her. It was a familiar voice, and one who kinda springboarded everything into motion. He said that it would hurt his heart if the didn't think that she could trust anypony here, and if his judgement had been misplaced. Ice couldn't help but roll hey eyes with a small laugh. "Oh Swift, some things never change. It's not that I don't trust anyone here, but a Hearth's Warming event is hardly the place to talk about military tactics and locations. Trust me, I've been pushing for the betterment of Equestria and moving to keep her even better defended. I have not been wasting the gifts that you've given me," she told him.

 

"That being said, how have you been? Are you still an officer in the REN? If so, you should be able to find The Shadow's location pretty easily. I'm testing her in conjunction with the REN. Oh, and if you want to talk to your superiors and see if they wanna switch to my prototype destroyers, I can start having some made for the Navy proper. They're faster and better equipped," she responded with a smile.

 

Then Twilight greeted then and Blueblood told her that at this point she had become a peer of the realm and was a pinnacle of what modern nobility was supposed to be, and then told Twilight that it was high time that they established new houses of nobility. This made Ice Storm blush a bit. She could definitely say that she wasn't expecting that at all and she smiled. "Oh please, I'm nothing special. Just doing what's right and trying to make sure others do that to," she said with a smile before the was finally directed towards the donation table. She nodded to everyone, "Alrighty, let me go drop this off and make a few other rounds and then I'll be back to talk more," she said with a smile.

 

From there she went over to the donation table and set the check that Wind Dancer had given her for the Ponyville Hospital and Ice herself was donating an assortment of things. Most of what she was donating was toys, games and entertainment items for the youth of Ponyville. She was also donating school supplies, and then a sizable fund for the homeless committee. After being homeless for a bit herself early in her life, she knew how much it hurt. As she finished setting everything down, she made her way over to the unicorn that had arrived before her and Raven. "Hey there! I'm Ice Storm! I couldn't help but overhear on my way in that your from overseas?" she asked politely with a smile.

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"Hmm?" The unicorn turned towards her addressee with a curious expression, having grabbed a drink from the concessions table to pass the time. She wasn't quite ready to engage anyone here until this 'Icy' approached her.

 

She looked the unicorn up and down, briefly furrowing her brow as she senses a strange aura about her, but ultimately shrugged it off with a cordial smile, taking a sip from her glass before answering. "Yes I am, miss Storm. From the good old salty seas of Andalusia." She gestured towards the castle interior, her smile waning just a bit. "As you can imagine, I'm pretty far from home here. Being landlocked is an experience I haven't felt since... "

 

She gained a far off look, then. "... A very long time."

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~~~Ice Storm~~~

 

 

 

Ice Storm watched the mare's reaction to her as she seemed to be taking a mature of her worth, or at least, that's what she presumed that she was doing. She was relieved to see a cordial smile as the mare spoke up, telling hey that she was from the salty seas of Andalusia. She added that she was pretty far from home and that it had been a long time since she'd been landlocked like this. She smiled again. "You and my mom would get along swimmingly. We didn't always see eye to eye growing up... my father driving me to run from the family entirely with his actions, but mom and I have made up at least. She runs an aquarium and a matinee sanctuary in Hoofington. You should check it out sometime," she told hey with a smile.

 

"With that said, I would love to hear more about your homeland if that's okay. I'm always curious of foreign cultures and think many Equestrians could stand to learn a thing or two by embracing some of them," she finished with a smile. 

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Slowly, she took another, longer sip from her glass, considering the mare and her outgoing attitude. Starting off a conversation with 'my mom' just sounded a bit too personal for being total strangers, but perhaps she simply didn't understand the Equestrian mentality quite yet. "An aquarium, you say?" she chuckled, smirking at the thought of what marine life these ponies saw fit to put on exhibit. "I may have to go give it a look sometime, although I get the feeling your marine life may be a little smaller than the ones I'm used too."

 

"Let us find a place to sit down, mi amiga. Mine's a story best told over a cold glass and warm seats. Have you heard of Queen Moor, by chance?" She said, as she began to make her way for any sort of booth or table, although she didn't expect to find the former in a place like this. 

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Blueblood's smile did not falter, though once again, he had to supress a deep internal sigh.  "No, no, the sea is where I go to be truly alone, relying on my own sailing and navigational skills.  I very nearly ran off to sea, actually, right after getting my cutie mark.  A ten minute head start could have made my life go quite a bit differently.  Perhaps I would have ended up on your ship, though perhaps not so much if you're a flyer.  I suppose I can understand the greater freedom offered, but after my parents-"  He blinked, shaking his head.  Now was definitely not the time he wanted to think about such things.

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"Well, I stand corrected then. Guess I was judging a book by it's cover there, so sorry." Scarlett shrugged apologetically before continuing. "I would've gladly taken you aboard with your love of sailing, maybe you could've led a water-bound ship of your own." 

 

She paused for a moment after that, scratching the back of her neck a bit before she remembered the whole charity thing they were doing at the party. She dug around in her coat, eventually pulling out a large bag of bits with a little tag on it that read 'For the poor.' She wanted to let them have enough money that they could have the freedom to choose where to go with their life, being trapped into some job they don't want just because they need the money sounded horrible to her.

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Dunnie grinned wide as she was acknowledged by the alicorn princess herself. They had met before, but she couldn't help but be star struck still. "Yes, I keep a close eye on him. Keep him out of trouble." She paused a moment, rethinking her words,  "Or if he is getting into trouble, I make sure to join in and keep him safe."

 

Dunnie's ears flicked at the familiar voice. She looked to the unicorn and smiled, "Oh, hello, Swift." Though, her smile dropped a little after his gaze lingered on her longer than expected. Twilight raised a good point, too. Where was Fire? But she didn't want to press, he certainly heard the princess.

 

Before Icy left, she waved a wing at the unicorn, "Yes, I'll try not to be a stranger. The same goes for you, if you need help feel free to reach out. Or even if you're in Canterlot, I usually make more than enough food." She giggled lightly, "It was indeed good to see you, and I'm glad you're doing well."

 

"New houses?" Dunnie asked, surprised, "Can you do that? I'm gonna do that, declare myself a princess and get myself a crown."

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The way that Ice dismissed what he said, made Squall's face twist into a furious snarl. Only once he as like this during this holiday - when they were confronted with rube of a dragon.

Before he could shout some angry words, he was jumped by Blueblood and Twilight. It was nice, yes, and it helped him restrains himself - which was for the best. But he still wasn't finished with Ice.

"She's and our daughter doing very well. Doing preparations for our wedding at home due to....you know." noblepony explained before walking past royal ponies and pursuing Ice again.

"Never was in REN. Never went into proper service in any branch military at all*. Mine skyships are better. And we.Are Not....." Swift words were slow and calm, but it clear there was restrained anger underneath it....

Squall paused and inhaled deeply. Ice won't like what will comes next, but this was something she needs to hear nevertheless....

"You ask to 'Trust you'. But it appears to be one-way-street lately." he continued. "You holed up in hat casino of yours, for months, not answering to letters or anything...." noblepony

".....Not realizing that some may be WORRIED SICK ABOUT YOU!"   Swift self control finally crumbled. "All for 'security reasons' APPARENTLY. Yet STAR Commander deemed it fine to be confidential with a pony, who - if I recall - BACK-STABBED HER OWN HOMELAND!" swordstallion continued with accusations.

"...All for sake of secrecy. And yet you couldn't keep it away from me, the rich boy! Yes Ice, I knew for a long while by now." he confirmed "Yet I kept my trap shut. Convincing myself that I have to be silent, that you had reasons, that it was important for you. Because you were my friend........"  Swift finally quieted down, but the look of hurt and disappointment.

 

Then, his gaze shifted towards Twilight.

 

".....And you, you 'Your Highness'...You knew as well. Yet didn't saw fit to say what was happening to my EPIC teammate. Fire DID told you how worried I was, didn't she? And regarding the...partner....of Ice here...." his look steeled. "Forgiving this pony, I can swallow, you certainly know things that I did not, to decide that. But by all that is holy, why didn't you pressed for any restrictive order when it comes to working with military hardware?! There are second chances, and there is naivete!" he asked, beside himself.

"I HAD to repel this pony, from doing to Blue what they did to Celestia, Luna and your Sister-in-Law! Which Blue can confirm."

 

 

 

*

Spoiler

 

Squall was first trained ordinary REA solider, before being personal hoof-picked by then Colonel Pummel for the Honor Guard training (Which are Equestria equivalent of SAS or Delta Force).

He however went AWOL just before 'graduation', and thus never entered a proper service.

 

 

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~~~Ice Storm~~~

 

 

 

Ice Storm heard the voice that was behind her approaching, and it appeared that Swift Squall was upset with her. He started going into a long rant on how he actually wasn't in the REN and that his skyships were better. He said that the road of trust was a one way street with her and that it was all for security reasons yet STAR had employed the very pony that had back-stabbed her homeland. He told her that he had known and known for a while and that she was locked in her casino for months at a time with no replies to any letters or anything to let anypony know how she was. Her blood was boiling at this point as the veiled truth in his words were spoken. This had nothing to do with her agency at all and everything to do with Tempest. "Excuse me," she said to the other mare that she was talking to. Apparently getting to know more about her homeland was going to have to wait a bit.

 

With a look of pure anger and disappointment she turned around, and as she did, the spheres unsocketed from the amulet and began orbiting her. As much control as she had over them, they were still powered by emotion. He said that he did all of this for her because she was a friend and she wasted no time lashing back. "Then you've got a pathetic way of showing friendship and how much you care about anything other than yourself. I didn't want to go down this road tonight, but since you insisted on dragging me down it tonight, lets go. I will forever be grateful for the gifts that you've given me, but you do NOT, get to sit here and lecture me on security, friendship, or hardships. Do you wanna know why I never answered any of your letters? because not a single one of them was asking about how I was doing. Every single one of them was about Tempest and complaining that she was in charge of things. Not once did you show any concern for me other than constantly asking if I was being manipulated by her. A question that didn't even warrant contemplation, let alone an answer. I've known exactly what I've been doing and have been doing it my way the entire time," she started.

 

"Do you know what the difference between Tempest and Me is? Do you? The Storm King found her first. Ponies like her, and ponies like me are the exact reason why I founded STAR. Because for every pony like Twilight and me whom are willing to look past the mistakes of another to see the pony that's underneath it, there's a pony like you who is only focused on everything that happened, and will turn their backs on them again. Did you have the same reaction to Luna when she came back from being the nightmare? Did you ridicule Celestia for giving a pony another chance? Do you still hate the changlings even though they've been reformed? What about the Caribou? I specifically remember you saying immediately after the attack on the spire that all caribou were vile and destructive and had no place in Equestria. You never forgive anything and instead choose to hate rather than to understand," she continued.

 

"Tempest was completely abandoned by everypony that called themselves her friend. I was abandoned by my family as a foal. I lived in Canterlot for 6 months homeless living out of the park. I know exactly what it's like to suffer the same kind of pain that she felt, the same kind of pain that Luna felt. And you presume to stand here and tell me that ponies like her don't deserve another chance? What does that mean for a pony like me that's suffered the same way, or others that have? If someone is offered an opportunity to make things better, they don't care where it comes from, they take it. Attacking a place that turned it's back on you is a no-brainer for someone like that. But you know what happened? If I recall," she said looking to Twilight, "It was Tempest herself that stopped the Storm King, not you yourself Princess Twilight. In fact I believe the exact wording of the report was that Tempest intercepted one of the very crystal balls that she used on the other princesses that was targeting you after you had believed you defeated the Storm King and turn your back to him? It was Tempest braking the crystal and joining with the king in order for him to crystallize the way he did. So believe me Swift Squall, I firmly believe that she has earned a second chance, and if The Princess of Friendship can trust her, then so can I. And I will also tell you this. You're lucky it was Tempest he found and not me. You've seen what I can do, and you've only made me even stronger than I was. Now, give me nothing to lose. The only difference wouldn't have been, the Storm King wouldn't have anything to betray me with."

 

"Do you know how many ponies that I have in STAR because they wanted to defend Equestria but were rejected by all branches of the military because they could be a liability? They either didn't pass a physical or they didn't answer a question right? About sixty-five percent. If a pony wants to defend our homeland, I'm not going to tell them no, and what better way to make ammends for a land that you invaded than by helping defend it. Another twenty five percent were ponies that were homeless that Equestrian Society had turned their backs on. Just recently I had justice brought against an entire noble house because they swindled and swined so many ponies into that very situation, a few of them I now employ. These ponies made a career out of ruining the lives of others. You know what I gave to the ponies who's lives were destroyed by ponies like that Swift? What Tempest and I both gave them? Three hots and a cot that was more like a queen sized bed, and enough payment that they could live comfortably on their own. You know what we also allowed? Ponies to live outside of HQ and not have to be restricted to the base. Many of them still did though because I don't charge ponies for living on base and helping with production and basic day to day regiment. And I'm not just restricted to LP. I have outposts all over the mainland so if a pony needs something closer to home, I can get them there."

 

"Do I agree with what she did? Of course not, but I understand the why. And you know what? Maybe if more ponies took the time to understand the why the we can prevent things like this from happening in the future. Yet another reason I founded STAR.  HOWEVER, one thing I will say though is that Tempest was/is a tactical mastermind. Tell me Swift? Where were EPICs forces when the attack happened? Most of us just happened to be on an insurgent mission in Neighpon when that attack happened. Where were our guards? Our Navy? Any Branch of our military at all? She knew exactly where, when and how to hit us to get an entire fleet on Canterlot undetected. That attack, and Tempest was the very reason I founded STAR, and I kept it secret because at the time, Equestria needed plausible deniablity in case we needed to do something drastic under the radar. Tempest was able to show me exactly where the flaws in our systems were so that I could fix it. Not to mention, one of the oldest military tactics in the book is to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I had a direct line to Princess Luna and Princess Twilight the entire time. If I thought anything were amiss, I had more than enough means to deal with it. I knew exactly what I was doing."

 

"And I don't know where you get your information from, but I would recommend that you do a little bit better fact checking, because right now, you are the exact kind of nobility that I'm bent on Tartartus on reforming. Since I've founded STAR, I would like you to know that I've still been doing rounds in Canterlot as a guard. I was one of Princess Luna's personal guards before she retired; I have the custom fit armor to prove it. Of course I didn't wear it tonight because I wasn't expecting to have to defend my honor from the likes of you. I've also lead two expeditions into the Frozen North, and helped give many ponies in Equestria that have no where else to go a home. A home that I was never given. I have made countless, countless appearances around Las Pegasus, Canterlot, Ponyville, and even back at the Crystal Empire where all of this started. I've been remembering everything that's happened, and been taking the precautions to make sure these travesties against Equestria don't happen again. I have earned every single one of my accolades with sweat and blood, and I very much have not just been sitting on my flank for the past several years. I'm appalled that you would think that I would be like that," she said vehemently at this point, tears of anger and hurt welling in her.

 

"You call yourself a friend, yet on a night that's supposed to be the one special night of the year where we are supposed to be together and spread friendship, you stand here with hurtful accusations calling me a traitor to Equestria. You have not a single piece of evidence to support this claim aside from a decision to put a very qualified pony in charge of training the members of my order. A pony that wasn't you. A pony whom has since retired and gone to live in the Crystal Empire with her marefriend and is trying to get a second start to a life that left her behind. But does that matter to you at all? Ponies that have been down finding happiness? I suppose you wouldn't know that. You wouldn't know what it's like to come from the nothing and have your name dragged through the mud..." she said taking a deep breath, her words dripping with both hurt and venom as she spoke them. There was a lot of things that Ice Storm could brush off and let flow off her back, but for somepony to stand here... Somepony that she thought was a friend, to stand here and accuse her of being a traitor. She wasn't going to stand for that. That kind of behavior and political slander no longer had any place in this Equestria, and if that's the game that Swift was now trying to play, then he just made Ice Storm a mortal enemy.

 

"You can take a moment to reflect on your accusations here tonight and there's a chance we can salvage any friendship we had, but as of right now you're showing your true colors here tonight. If you were that overly worried about me as you claim to be, you could have oh I don't know, come to the casino, come to my watch, come to any one of my seven desert stores that I own and check in on twice a year. Yet you never did. You want to call yourself my friend? Then start bucking acting like it and stop trying to slander my name because I gave someone else a chance that wasn't you. It makes me beg the question whether or not you were a friend at all, or whether you were just trying to use me as a means to an end to further your own interests," she said taking a deep breath trying to get her emotions back under control so that she could get the orbs to stop orbiting her. As it was, the air around her was already drastically cooler and the floor under her was frozen solid.

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The discussion of new noble houses certainly tickled Twilight. There hadn't been a new house in generations and that was for good cause- the nobility found it harder to connect any part of their lineage to Celestia, let alone Luna. Now with Cadance and Twilight things were different. In theory, any branch of their family, any connection at all, could be made nobility. And a family could be elevated into nobility by Princess fiat. Of course, Twilight didn't really see a need for new noble families. The nobility that existed had only recently managed to make themselves both well known and well liked. For centuries the nobility just...sat around. Now they did things. That was good. But she'd rather ponies head into government and do their
work there than have titles. But then again she was young. "I wouldn't count on any new houses just yet, but the future is long. Who knows what it holds?" She said politely.

 

Which is more than she could say for Swift Squall, who managed to light a small match in the room. He was an excellent stallion who had an unfortunate love affair with dramatics, and he decided to light off a match next to a bomb named Ice Storm, one that wasn't too hard to set off herself. His anger at Tempest Shadow's easing into positions of influence and her forgiveness was bad enough. But her ears bristled at him bringing EPIC- an organization supposed to be secret- up in public, and his general attitude. Yes, that was bad enough. And then Ice Storm lit into him and why wouldn't she? But as she did so, Twilight saw her friend's spheres come unsocketed and- okay, this was going far enough.


"ENOUGH!"
Around her shot out a bubble of purple energy that enveloped the two of them and pulled them closer to her, before the bubble finished forming around them and only them. It was a sphere of silence and one that would allow her to quickly and succinctly reorient them in private.
First, Swift Squall.
"Swift- How dare you do this! This is a public Hearth's Warming Eve Celebration and you're bringing your personal issues with how things are done? Would you have done this during the Grand Galloping Gala or any other event that was held in Canterlot? If it was Celestia? Or are we simply so familiar you forget that there is a time and place? Well, it isn't here, and it isn't now.
But if you want to have this discussion now, Swift Squall, we'll have it now. Fizzlepop Berrytwist, AKA Tempest Shadow, is an Equestrian- and without her aid, there would not be an Equestria for you to be angry in defense of. The clemency for her actions was agreed to by Celestia, supported by Luna and Cadance, and argued for by me. As for her position? Her talent and skill at military matters would be wasted in any other role. If you have a problem with that I understand, but how dare you do this here. The fact that you wanted to bring this up at a party of all places-"
Then her eyes bugged out momentarily, "and that you would mention EPIC in public," she said before her eyes narrowed again "-is stunning to me."

She turned to Ice Storm.
"Ice, I understand why you are frustrated. I am too. But- again, why mention EPIC, I don't understand- you cannot allow yourself to get riled up. You know as well as anypony else that Swift here is a stallion of...dramatic phrasing. And especially when you get riled up, look what happens?" She said, pointing to her unlocked spheres. "You need to relax."

 

She sighed, running her head with her eyes closed.

 

"I am flabbergasted I have to have this conversation with the two of you. Swift, you need to apologize, and the both of you need to relax. You both know the other loves Equestria and we have all done our fair share in its defense," her eyes shot up at the both of them, "what is wrong with you? Why mention EPIC!? Are you two even aw- ugghh," she said, shaking her head. "No matter. Apologize, relax, do what you must- and try to enjoy the party?" She asked as the spell came to an end, the sphere of silence leaving them.

 

"My apologies, everypony. I must take my leave- have to swear in some new elected representatives from across Equestria!" She said with a cheery smile. She turned to Blueblood, her eyes leaden with concern and hidden behind the smile that only slowly left her. "If you could handle matters here for a few minutes?"

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Well, that was something. Scarlett gave a low whistle as the bubble went up, looking over at it. That was quite the argument over there, but now that it was on hold, she took the chance to put her donation on the table. After making her way back towards Blueblood, the bubble disappeared and the princess left the unicorn in charge. 
 

“Looks like you’ll be pretty busy now, so guess I’ll leave you to it. Maybe we could talk more of sailing later!” She said, giving a wave as she walked off again with her wings ruffling a bit. She decided to approach the first pony that had arrived, who had decided to wear naval attire. At least it looked like the kind of thing she’d seen in foreign navys. She hummed slightly, looking over the other mare for the moment. 
 

“So, a Navy mare, huh? Interesting. Name’s Scarlett, and you?” She asked, watching Rose. 

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After leaving Blueblood and following Icy to the donation table, everything seemed to happen very quickly. Raven felt her blood start to boil, though Icy lost control first... followed by everyone involved getting a stern talking to from the princess... She took a few deep breaths, and wrapped a leg around Icy. "Let's... Let's go over here... get some punch... before we end up in a bigger scene..." She said, looking around. She could feel her horn crackle with the aether Icy had accidentally put out, and she was glad it had been defused... If she had added her shadowsun to the mix... It wouldn't have been great...

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Prince Blueblood

It had all been going so well.

 

His old friends were all chatting with each other, the newcoming sky-captain had just brought out her charitable gift, and Twilight had passed over his idea of new noble houses.  Well, never mind that.  Blueblood had a private tea with Twilight coming up, he was pretty sure, and he planned to lay out what he hoped would be a convincing pitch for his project going forward.  Dunnie, at least, seemed interested.  "Oh don't worry about that,"  He leaned in and whispered, "I have plans to make a 'Princess' out of you, for sure.  Just have to arrange things with Twilight after the holidays."  All of the warm fuzzy feelings from the love and friendship in the air were layering themselves over his heart like warm, peppermint-scented blankets.

It had all been going so well… right up to the point where it wasn’t.

 

For reasons known best to himself, Swift Squall had apparently decided to play the part of that uncle at the holiday gathering.  And they hadn’t even been serving anything stronger than cocoa.  The Prince’s trained ears had picked up a precursor to the verbal abrasion that was about to occur in the green unicorn’s tone, and he hastily made to take his leave from Scarlett to defuse the situation before it exploded-

Not hastily enough, as it happened.  Now, in all fairness to Icy, she didn’t start the argument.  And Swift was being a little teeth-gratingly arrogant in dragging him into the mess, particularly to support the suspicions upon a mare he had already himself forgiven, and was hopefully on the way to befriending, after their little tete-a-tete after Applejack’s wedding that summer.  It was a slight upon his judgment, however intentional it was, and he felt the sting.

Icy seemed to feel it worse, though, and unfortunately the massive amount of power she held, ironically thanks to a gift by the selfsame pony who antagonized her, was about to escalate the situation beyond what he could handle!  Fortunately, there was an alicorn on-site, and he breathed a sigh of relief when Twilight put up a shield of silence and quieted the argument and magics.

He did his best to pick up the smile from where Twilight was letting it slip in front of him.  “Don’t worry, I’ll keep this party running smoothly-”

 

“Ah yes, because you were doing *such* a bang-up job of it already.”  The scraping sound of sarcasm like a skate blade over ice drew his eye over to the door, where:

 

Spoiled Rich

 

Was waiting, having seen at least part of the argument.  Clenching his teeth to fix his grin in place, he beckoned over to Dunnie.  “Dunnie, please escort miss Rich to where Twilight will conduct the swearing-in.  And, also, would you kindly fetch Captain Crusader?  I should like to have her down here as well.”  *Just in case I need to end another argument by having her sit on the instigator.*

 

Leaving his guard to handle the mayor-elect for now, he slid back over to the site of the altercation.  Fortunately, Raven was already taking Icy off to cool down, as it were, while the room warmed back up.  Sliding over to Swift Squall, Blueblood pulled him aside gently, speaking in a low tone.  “I will judge whom I will judge, and show mercy upon whom I shall show mercy.  Kindly, I ask you as a friend, do not presume upon or undermine my judgment in public.”

Having done his part to hopefully smooth over some troubled waters, he pulled back to address the rest of the party.  “Thank you for your patience everypony.  The Donation tables, as said before, are off to the right.  The swearing-in ceremony will commence in a few moments, but it needn’t take long.  If you’re visiting from out of town, feel free to drop by Wind Dancer and Sky Sailing’s show in the town square.  They should still be holding their meet and greet, and free hot chocolate is being provided!”

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"I'm back and I have it!"
 
Fire Walker had been a very busy pony this day!
 
She had to visit both her obstetrician and psychologist. One for the upcoming future foal and the other for her previous mission that was just too silly! Normally she could handle such nonsense, but that trip to the islands was just beyond crazy go nuts. There were talking princess pigs, giant ghosts, large teen-aged Sirens with valley-gal accents, and the talking melon with the googly eyes. Her partner was very experienced in the realm of the super-nonsensical and was able to handle everything far better than the red Pegasus. Once that was taken care of, she needed to bring back a few barrels of the beloved holiday beverage, the drink that united Equestria and sent the Raptorians packing. While Cider was the drink of summer, anything stuffed with pumpkin spice was for fall and wheat beer was for spring, Jubel was the drink for the most festive of holidays, Hearth's Warming Eve! Especially when given a good mulling.
 
It was made of love, which consisted of: seasonal spices, Rambling Rock Ridge water,  wahoo bark, propylene glycol, mandrake root, sweet flag root, syrup, acetone and red dye #2, which gave it the perfect color for the holiday! There was also the special ingredient that was added between the wahoo bark and syrup, which was FRIENDSHIP. This was a special beverage her good friend Muggo could acquire through his usual sources. Unfortunately, when she made her way over to the earth pony's tavern to pick up her barrels, she learned that his usual delivery was very late. So she tracked the delivery wagon's route and noticed it passed near an noted Diamond Dog lair! Oh no! However, a quick visit to the lair did not prove to be fruitful as the Diamond Dogs were all very good boys! Yes they were! She did learn from one of the dogs that there was a gang of villains menacing a nearby village. Cordovan hat and little black mask wearing scoundrels! A quick visit to the village did allow her to reunite two warring families, help the sheriff with his stutter and to teach the local miser that friends were important than bits. This permitted her to defeat the scoundrels with the aid of the village and all the other ponies she helped. Unfortunately this was the wrong gang of nogoodniks! Her gang wore red masks! Diamond Dog were color blind! Six villages, two gangs and one lonely harpy later, she found Muggo's delivery and along with that, the Jubel! Huzzah!
 
Along with Princess Twilight, there was an assortment of other ponies. Good ol' Dunder....Dunnie...She probably won't get used to that. Prince Blueblood. A rather cute little tan-coated bat-pony. If Swift (who was also here) could read her mind, he would have shouted Aerion! She preferred bat pony. It was fun to say. Ice Storm. And..oh-oh...She noticed Princess Twilight was doing that thing with her face. That facial tic she has when she had just shouted. The officer did not get to say hello as the Princess had princess stuff to princess. And Fire Walker had two barrels and a cart she borrowed from Applejack. Hopefully she was not yelling at anypony she knew. And hopefully it was not Swift. He was very passionate about certain topics.
 
"Swiftie, could you lend me some magic." She really really hoped the purple pony had not yelled at her ever-dramatic hubby to be. She needed to get the barrels to the little dining room area they had. Jubel must be served and friendship will be made even stronger! His ever useful telekinesis spell could get the barrels to their spots just in time!
 
 
 
 
 
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Dunnie would grin wide, wingtips fluttering softly at her stallionfriend's words of making her a princess. Though, now those thoughts were pushed to the back of her mind.

 

As soon as she saw a mouth turn into a snarl at Icy, Dunnie got down low, wings pomfed out and ready to charge at the perceived threat. Though, she hesitated upon realizing the green muzzle was indeed attached to the only green stallion there: Swift Squall. The hesitation persisted, turning into denial as she saw him go off on a tirade, practically unhinged as he went from roasting ice, to roasting her own stallion too.

She was going to intervene, until Icy started off herself. Going off on a polemic that contrasted Swift's anger with her own pain and sadness. And Dunnie listened to it all, taken out of the moment to feel bad for Icy. Her talk of abandonment reopening old wounds from years ago, wounds he thought he had just gotten over.

 

When Icy finished her counter, Dunnie was going to step in again, but Twilight was quicker on the draw. Besides Twilight being much, much more qualified for the argument, Dunnie was on the clock and her job was to prevent injury to Blueblood. There were only injuries against the prince's honor, which Dunnie could only potentially help. Still she watched the bubble closely, hoping that everything would be alright after the rather big scene two two had caused. Or at least, that they would be separated or Swift Squall removed completely from the party.

 

When the bubble dissipated, Twilight quickly dismissed herself and left Blueblood in charge. After twilight left, she wanted to pull Swift aside to talk to him, but another voice clawed at her mind like a griffon's talons. Instantly a shiver shot up Dunnie's spine, wings puffing up again in primal fear. She turned over, looking to see Spoiled Rich there.

 

When Blueblood gave her his orders, she opened her mouth, shocked. She pulled Bluey close with a wing, voice going low as she spoke directly to her stallionfriend "Really? My job is to guard you not..." She shot a glance over to spoiled, then turned her head back to Bluey, "Not follow this loahtsome mare around." She sighed hard and put a hoof to her forehead in annoyance, "Alright, I will go. But you owe me." She gave him a peck on the lips before turning to slide her mask on and descend the stairs in one swift movement.

 

That's when she saw another familiar face. Dunnie wasn't too surprised, but still. Two ex's for the price of fun she thought to herself as she switched from making way at a trotting pace to Spoiled to making her way to Fire. The brown pegasus gave her old friend a hug with both wings, "Heya, Fire. Hopefully everything's good with you." She kept her voice down still, though, "I'm on the clock but I still wanted to say 'hi'. Actually, I wouldn't normally do all this, but...er..." She trailed off, stopping herself from saying the wrong things, "Swift is a little upset, so you should go talk to him." Rambling a bit as she was one to do, unaware of how long she was taking. She gave Fire another squeeze then quickly trotted off to Spoiled, waving a wing at Fire, "I'll talk to you later!"

 

She trotted up to Spoiled and resumed her practiced 'Guardly pose.' "Greetings Mayor, I will be escorting you to the ceremony." She paused again, wings flaring out, "One more thing..." She sighed, but didn't mind an excuse not to be near the new mayor. Her wings flared out and she flew off quickly, zooming away, then returning shortly. "My humbles apologies. Guard business, I needed to request somepony to take my place at Bluey-- I mean Prince Blueblood's side." Hopefully she didn't catch that. "Lead the way, please."

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... Rose Compass took a sip of her drink, gazing dead ahead with a blank expression. The proceedings of the last minute or so were... Dramatic, to say the least. At least a year bad just been chipped off her total lifespan, she felt, and as her fellow soul of the sea approached her, she knew in that moment she couldn't hold a conversation and juggle what was rolling around in her head without a very strong drink, and lots of it. 

 

"Rose Compass," she greeted in turn with a cordial smile, downing her entire glass in one swig and floating over three more from the concessions table. "And I'm only technically Navy. Retired captain." Or her old life used to be one, at least. She still possessed all of her skills and most of her knowledge, but she herself, in her body, had not sailed a working vessel since she was conceived in that demented mare's lab.

 

"Excuse me, I could go for a bit of fresh air, and about a barrel of rum. Do you know where we could find some?

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Scarlett nodded at the introduction and explanation, looking over the apparently retired Navy mare. Fair enough, she supposed, she was retired military herself after all. With the talk of getting fresh air and a good drink, she rubbed her chin in thought for a moment before nodding. 
 

“Yeah, I think I know a place. Gotta go out a ways though.” She said, starting towards the door. She could use some rum too, it tended to make things more fun. 

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Rose deflated with a relieved sigh, eagerly tailing the red mare. "Oh, thank you. After that fiasco I need something buzzing in my head that isn't the bickering of apparent superpowers."

 

"Rank?" She asked after she got into a settled rhythm by her side. "you look to be a decently strong mare. And if I am not mistaken, you bear the forelimbs of a... griffon?" The word is spoken only in half-certainty, but she quickly waved that off. "I have only witnessed such a majestic creature once in my lifetime. They are not native to my lands, after all. How did you come to be?" She really hoped she wasn't overwhelming the mare, she just gets so excited at the prospect of learning new things, especially concerning anatomy!

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If one would say Squall was taken aback by what Ice staid was understatement. He did take it too far, did he? As he always did......

Squall stared for a ceiling for a bit, before making a quick glance at Dunnie. As he always did.....

Ice was right, he didn't knew her story. Oh sure, he was told about it but...it didn't really made it the same. He was just a rich colt who - at his puppy years - wanted his freedom to grow stronger in his talent....only to learn that with great power comes great responsibility.

 

"......Yes. Yes, it's hard to me to forgive. And so easy, to accuse those that I...I shouldn't. Everywhere I look, I see shadows and threats and daggers.... I ask 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes' every night.....About you Ice. About you Twilight. About myself." noblepony confessed the extend of his paranoia, taking advantage of privacy bubble granted them. He should....By Harmony...why it was so hard?

"And I...I realized how unhealthy that is. That I have a problem....... And I...I saw a doctor regarding this. She....she diagnosed me with PPD.....Please...don't tell Fire." he said quietly, finally getting to heart-to-heart part. Now they knew that he was slightly cuckoo. Great thing for pony with too much resources and power like himself.

 

"Fire. She....she's my greatest anchor, my reality check. Especially now that we are to become parents. But...but now I starting to fear what  can happen to our daughter. And...and I start to fear I will turn into knight templar of a father!"

 

Speaking this, he turned to Sparkle.

"Which is...why, I want to...take time out from EPIC. I shouldn't touch a sword...in public, for a while. Not until I...sort myself out. That and....I don't think it's working. If it did Ice...Ice here wouldn't feel a need to do what she did. There were no missions for year and a half. I have a feeling that the whole organization needs to be shut down or reformed from ground up. I also have a suspicions about commander-in-chief. Dexter Silverbeak is not a warrior, apathetic to dangers and I have a feeling that he puts Aquelia interests first, and world security sec...." Squall stopped, wide eyed, before face-hoofing. "Here I go again. But....but I still believe that EPIC needs new leadership, if you want to have it around. And there is one pony fit for it, the way I see it. She's standing next to us." he pointed at Ice Storm. "She was only other pony who gave a damn, and she was only pony who did something with it, unlike whining, like I did." swordpony pointed out.

"....I am sorry, you two." he added, as magical barrier dissipated, his head hanging down in shame....

 

Only to grow wide-eyed AGAIN, when he heard Fire coming. The worst of timings. Or the best, depending how you seen it.

 

"I am coming....DEAR! You shouldn't strain yourself!" he left two mares making beeline towards his wife-to-be, only to be barred path by Blueblood. Oh no...he mentioned him earlier did he?

Yes, yes he did. And now I was getting a justified scolding for all his venomous words.

"...I know. And...I am sorry." Squall said quietly...before pausing. Yes, Blue was his friends too, it was right for him/her to know too. "There....there is something you deserve to know. We talk...later, in private."  he asked, as he excused himself to help Fire with the barrels.

"Dear please stop straining yourself like that! I know you hardy-hard mare, but you have much more precious cargo then some barrels." Swift pleaded, as he effortlessly took out the drink from a cart and levitated it over everypony heads.

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~~~Ice Storm~~~

 

 

 

The feelings that were raging within Ice were those of hurt, pain, and anger. Slowly though those began to dissipate, even moreso when she felt the pull of the purple Alicorn and found themselves in a zone of silence. It was Twilight's turn to start digging in to the conversation and she was expecting a reprimand from her was well. She may not have been the one that started the mess but she sure as tartartus made it a whole hell of a lot bigger. One thing that was a bit unnerving to her though, was the fact that Twilight seemed more upset with the mentioned of EPIC than she was of anything else. She understood that it was a secret Agency, and one that she was technically still a part of, but she didn't think there was really enough there to warrant anything herself. Still, she remained quiet on the issue. Better to remain quiet than embark on another conversation that would further sour the night. Everything else she had said about the situation though was pretty much exactly what she was expecting to hear from the princess.

 

And then Swift started speaking again, and it was like somepony had reached in his head and flipped a switch. Okay, now she was actually a little bit concerned for him. This wasn't like the Swift that she knew, and this outburst that he had against her, while was something that he would totally do, seemed out of place as well. Still, she said what she had said and she had meant every single word of it. She listened to him apologize and tell her that she was right. That it was a lot easier for him to accuse and a lot harder for him to forgive than most. That everywhere he looked there were shadows and daggers and ponies that were waiting to strike. She didn't quite understand the question that he said that he asked himself, but she only presume that it meant 'will tonight be the night?'. He told her that a doctor had diagnosed him with PPD... she wondered if he was remembering that wrong and meant PTSD or PSD... Since PPD was a disorder that affected mares after foalbirth... but she got the point that he was trying to make. He had a condition that made him a bit more paranoid about things than others. She couldn't really say that she was too much different in that regard after the Faire. When he told them to not tell Fire about it, Ice nodded.

 

He then went on to say again that he wanted to take time away from EPIC. He said that given his mental state, having a sword in public would be a bad idea for him. With the outburst that he had tonight, Ice Storm could agree. At this point her own emotions had calmed down enough to where the spheres had reset themselves into the amulet that was for them. She listened as he started stating some of his grievances with EPIC to the princess, and most of them... were grievances that she herself agreed with. There was a reason that she broke away from the main force and started doing what she did. It was because EPIC wasn't good enough to be the force they needed to protect their homeland. When he said that she should be the one to lead it though... she wasn't so sure about that. Sure she was tactically sound and she had vastly more resources than EPIC, and she knew how to use them better, but... She was already the founder and the commanding officer of STAR and the Aeronautical Navy that came with it. She wasn't sure if she could handle running two organizations at once. She was happy that Swift came to his senses enough to realize that she was one of the only ones that was actually tying to fix things out of that group of ponies though and not just trying to further their own agenda.

 

It was at this point that Ice Storm felt a hoof go around her and she felt a small tug to find that Raven was pulling her away from the scene once the barrier had dropped and Twilight left to swear in new officials. Ice nuzzled into her marefriend before looking back to Swift. "The line that you crossed tonight was a big one Swift, but your explanation has at least left me not hating you. For now, however, I think that it's best we go our separate ways and revisit this another time. Disorders or not, it's going to take some time to get over being called a traitor after everything I've done and sacrificed for Equestria," she said as she followed Raven over to the punch bowl.

 

She poured herself a giant glass and she sat down next to Raven feeling a bit better, but still quite dejected. Were there more ponies out there that thought like that? That doubted her motives and thought that she was a threat to Equestria herself rather than it's protector? What did she do to get such a horrid accusation presented to her? Was it entirely because of Tempest... She leaned into Raven. "That was... just a one time thing.... right?" she asked looking up to Raven, a cascade of tears threatening to fall at the drop of a pin. "Ponies don't actually think I'm trying to betray Equestria right?" she finished clutching her hooves around Raven as the poison of the words now that she was away from the scene was starting to set in. Swift Might have apologized... but the damage was already done as Icy began to sob quietly onto Raven.

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Scarlett led them out of the building, digging around in her coat again once they were outside. Eventually, she pulled out some kind of rectangular box with an antenna and some buttons on it. She had to shake it a bit to get it working, but once it did she held down a side button and started talking into the box. 
 

“Yo, birdie, I’m coming by for some rum and I’m bringing company. Better get stuff ready for us.” She said, releasing the button and holding it closer to her ear. Immediately she laughed, shaking her head slightly and turning off the device before stowing it away. 
 

“As for your question, I think I made it to captain, but I wasn’t really paying attention to that back then. I’ve been the captain of my own vessel for a while now though, so that’s fine for me.” She shrugged, seeming to reminisce about her past a bit before continuing. “Yeah, I’m part griffin, it comes from my dad. Guess mom was into birds.” She added with a chuckle, looking over at Rose. 

 

“Where is that homeland of yours, anyways? I don’t think I’ve heard of it, and I’ve done plenty of traveling all over the place.” Scarlett was curious, to say the least, but maybe it was just some small place that doesn’t show up on maps or get talked about all that much. In any case, they continued walking towards the edge of town, with no signs of stopping there. 

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And there was that fated question again. Rose downed one of her three remaining glasses before speaking, blinking a couple times as the alcohol got to work. "What... Is that thing? The device?" She asked, still pretty steady. It seemed she could handle her drinks well. 

 

"And Andalusia. My home is..." She looked up into the sky, furrowing her brow. "Very far away. It's a wonderful place, full of both dangerous and exciting ponies, monsters, and pirates, but at the end of the day it's simply where I was raised. The waters there... The islands... The constant threat of discovery and looming promises of treasure... There was always something enchanting about it.

 

The sea calls out to me, even now, a thousand leagues away from me..." It was at this point, however, that she hung her head, ears pinning back and she recalled how she got here. "But I can never return now... You want to know more about Andalusia, but you'll never find it on any map, or hear of it from any mare. It's a special place, but hard to get to, especially when you've been cast out." By her own self, of all mares.

 

A bubble of rage and resentment rose to the surface thinking of that face... Her face... Twisted with malice and contempt. 

 

... When did she finish all three cups of her wine?

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Raven glared daggers at the stallion for a bit, before hearing Icy's words and sobs. "The only ones who would be capable of thinking that, are those that don't know you... or are foes... And you know what? Buck them. Buck them completely. I've dealt with those kind of ponies much too often... back before STAR... The kind that are willing to say and do anything to get what they want... even if they disguise it behind nice words... But we have each other now, and you have the approval of Princess Twilight. Who could ever say that what you're doing isn't good? Only idiots and fools." She said, venom in her voice from the passion with which she spoke. She hated to see Icy like this, and for her, anger was never too far away anyway, no matter how well she calmed herself. She took a steadying breath, and wrapped her forelegs around Icy, hugging her as she guided them to a bench nearby.

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Mythic Vision Bounced along happily, enjoying the show of magic that always accompanied Hearth's Warming. It seemed much more colorful in Ponyville than in Canterlot. She watched an interesting cloud of magic as it lazily floated on by. It looked like somepony was sending somepony else a Happy Hearth's Warming. She waved at the cloud, probably looking like a madmare in the process to the other, non-magic-sighted creatures around her, not that she ever paid mind to anything like that.

 

Her attention was suddenly diverted by a bright flash of magic coming from inside the castle. It looked like it was one of Princess Twilight's spells. She'd learned to recognize them by seeing her in Canterlot. It seemed like a pretty strong one, fueled by a frustration or something. She puzzled for a second, but by the time it faded out, she'd already stopped thinking about it. Whatever it was, she was sure the Princess had it well in hoof.

 

She looked at the donation boxes and frowned she hadn't thought of this part. The labels were simply invisible to her. She had thought to give her donation to a charity that helped the homeless, but she couldn't make manes or tails of which was what. She shrugged and tossed one bit in each box before going inside. Unfortunately, it looked like Princess Twilight wasn't here. Had she misidentified her magic, earlier? Or maybe she just left. Either way, a new pony she didn't recognize was standing to greet guests. She didn't really want to spend all that long talking to the door greeter so she just offered a cheery "Happy Hearth's Warming!" as she bounced along inside.

 

As she entered the grand hall, she was excited to meet all the new ponies... and non-ponies, she added to herself noting all the non-ponies milling about. You don't get to see that in Canterlot, often.

 

As she bounced happily, she felt a pang coming from another direction, and she turned to look. "Well, that doesn't belong at a Hearth's Warming party." she thought to herself. What she saw was a thick cloud of sadness surrounding somepony she couldn't see very well through the cloud. Accompanied by another pony's anger. There was also love mixed in, but the negative emotions were overwhelming. "Something's gotta be done about this." she said aloud to herself. She thought for a moment before she came up with an idea. 

 

Using her exceptional skill in illusions, she cast a spell to make it appear that it was snowing softly around the two, the snow seeming to come from nowhere, and falling only around them. Then, wanting to play on the love she could see, she made an illusory branch of mistletoe adorned with a beautiful red ribbon descend over them. Being illusions, the snow didn't stick to anything, just passing through the ponies and anything else there and the mistletoe was similarly intangible.

 

She let events play a they might between the two for a moment before she trotted up to them and spoke "I figured you could use a hoof. Are you okay?" she asked with genuine concern and caring. The mistletoe faded, by now, but the snow still falling. Her thickly clouded eyes giving away part of her condition.

 

(edit: i realised i didn't make it clear who she's interacting with. It's Ice Storm and Raven)

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