A Hearth's Warming Carol

by Jay David

Chapter 1: Funeral for a Partner

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Scrimper was dead, to begin with.

Even within the walls of this old building, the cold air outside was making it's way inside, rendering the place borderline freezing. The sun was already setting outside and that, coupled with the very small number of lit candles, created a very dour tone for this place. But then, being a funeral, that was perhaps appropriate. The hall it was taking place in was almost completely empty, a stark contrast to how most might want such a ceremony to be. The only ponies that could be seen were the minister, an elderly unicorn, the stallions carrying the casket, and a solitary earth pony stallion standing to one side. As one might expect, all were dressed in black, and as the pall bearers set the casket down at the end of the hall, the minister finally finished reciting his words, no doubt practiced many times. Words of farewell to the one who had passed on.

When those words were spoken however, he looked upon the lone stallion, who had been standing quietly this whole time. He was quite elderly, even more so than himself, and his black attire was a cheap, but nevertheless upper-class-looking suit, complete with a top-hat. He was grey in colour and bore white mutton-chops on the side of his head. His cutie mark was that of a trio of gold coins, suggesting some skill in finance. But his expression was completely blank as he stared intently at the open casket. Seeing that he had been the only one to attend this funeral, the Minister cast a glance over at the pall bearers before giving them a nod, a quiet declaration that they had permission to leave. Nodding back to him, they did exactly that, giving brief bows of respect to the silent stallion as they passed him by. The Minister then walked over to him and placed a hoof upon his shoulder.

"You have our sympathies, Mr Scrounger. Will...will you wish to speak a few words to the departed in private?"

The stallion did not look up at the Minister, but after a while he simply nodded, giving his answer. The Minister nodded back before giving him a quick pat on his shoulder, after which he began to withdraw from the chamber. Now, it was just Scrounger and the casket. Taking a few deep breaths, the stallion took a few steps forward, reaching the edge of the casket within mere moments and looked within. There, lying peacefully, was another earth pony stallion. Even older than he was, he was dressed in the finest suit the funeral services could offer. Upon his eyes were two coins, a tradition for departed souls it was said. But what drew the eye most was that there was a long white bandage, which appeared to tie the stallions mount shut, having been tied in a knot at the top of the head. Looking upon the unmoving form before him, Scrounger let out a deep sigh before speaking.

"Well then. I suppose this is it, eh Scrimper? Honestly, when they first told be you'd passed, I couldn't quite believe it. But..."

Looking down at the cadaver, Scrounger's face twisted into a very serious expression.

"...here you are, as dead as a doornail."

He let out a chuckle, albeit a very dry one.

"It'll be strange, running the business without you there. We've been partners for years, and now..."

Looking down upon his now-deceased partner, Scrounger's expression became somewhat sour.

"Ha, listen to me. Talking to the dead. If you were still here, Scrimper, you'd accuse me of sentiment or something. Still..."

His expression became one of discomfort, showing a clear lack of being used to saying such things as he was about to.

"You were a fine partner. Never gave em an inch. Always put the business first. I admired that. Few in this world have such conviction to their work, old friend."

A look of surprised passed Scrounger's eyes, causing him to let out another chuckle, though this one was more genuine than the first.

"Friend. It occurs to me that you're one of the only ponies I've ever been able to call that. Perhaps I should have said that while you were still here, but..."

Looking away briefly, it was obvious to anyone with sight that this was not a stallion who was comfortable in having to talk this way to anypony, even one he'd had a long business relationship with. However, as he pondered on all of this, his face became a somewhat disgruntled one, as he looked back down at the dead pony before him.

"You should hear what all those ponies we know have been saying to me recently, Scrimper. Oh, it's so TERRIBLE for this to happen on Hearth's Warming Eve! You must feel DREADFUL! As if this holiday somehow changes what happened or makes it worse. It's always the same, every year. You know me, Scrimper. I could never do with that kind of talk. And now...

He couldn't bring himself to finish that sentence, instead looking around. Gazing upon what remained of his old partner was becoming increasingly difficult for the stallion, that much was clear. He knew he had to offer himself some kind of distraction for all this, and so looked around, eventually gazing upon a piece of paper near the casket. Scrounger knew this immediately as one of his duties as a witness to this ceremony. The certificate of death. Sighing, he took a nearby quill, dipped it in an inkwell and then wrote his name at the bottom of the page. A rather grim duty, but one he had to perform all the same. However, his eye then caught a nearby bottle of wine, standing on a lone table on the other side of the room. A thought came to him as he began to make his way over to it, opening the bottle and pouring himself a modest glass before returning to the casket. Raising the glass, he spoke to Scrimper once more.

"Well, here's to you, partner."

Taking a sip of the drink, Scrounger looked upon his old partner, his expression somewhat softer than he was used to giving, before speaking in a hushed tone.

"Here's hoping that, wherever you are right now...you'll be rewarded for all the work you put into this life."

Next Chapter: A Bitter Evening Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 18 Minutes
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