It was freezing in Ponyville that day. F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G. Twilight had done her very best to bundle up accordingly for the weather, but what she didn’t realize was how big a difference having wings would make.
Sure, the princess had been an alicorn for a while by then, but she had yet to experience as harsh a winter as this one since her transformation. Back when she was just a unicorn, all she’d needed to stay toasty was a scarf, hat, boots, and sometimes an extra coat for the chillier days. She had all of those same garments on now, minus the coat since she couldn’t figure out how to fit it over her wings, but for some reason they just weren’t cutting it like they used to.
It was those infernal wings she’d gained. Yes, she liked her wings, and while they usually made her life more convenient (after she learned to control them, that is), they came with a downside: they were one more large, temperature-sensitive part of her body exposed to the cold. Twilight swore she could physically feel the cold wind trickling through her feathers and down her spine, even when she kept her wings tightly closed against her back.
Of course, her companion for the afternoon, Pinkie Pie, didn’t let the cold slow her down in the slightest. It would take far more than a little snow and frigid air to make that mare chill out.
“Oh, Twilight! This one, this one!” Pinkie shouted excitedly, bouncing up and down in front of a towering pine tree.
Twilight stared up at the evergreen, flinching when it exposed her face to a gust of frosty wind. “Th-that’s a little big, don’t you think, Pinkie?”
“Even for your castle?” Pinkie pouted. “I think it’s perfect!” She wrapped her front legs as far around the rotund tree’s prickly branches as she could, recoiling and pulling away. Her legs were covered in sharp green needles.
Huffing a small laugh that turned to mist in the air, Twilight approached her. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” the mare seemed to have recovered, brushing the needles away. “But on second thought, this tree’s kind of a meanie. Let’s try another one!”
Pinkie bounced off with renewed enthusiasm into the yard of Hearth’s Warming trees. Ponies of every age milled about, scrutinizing each tree as they went. None of the ponies in attendance, not even the energetic young fillies and colts, had quite the same level of enthusiasm as Pinkie Pie.
Shaking her head to herself and smiling, Twilight set off after Pinkie at a more reasonable pace. How did she end up with such a wild special somepony?
A sneeze tore past Twilight’s lips, interrupting her affectionate thoughts. If this kept up, she was bound to catch cold…
The alicorn caught up to Pinkie several rows of trees ahead. The pink pony was closely scanning over a tiny, thin-branched cedar tree, walking in circles around its spindly trunk and thoughtfully rubbing a hoof on her chin.
“This one’s pretty trembly…” Pinkie thought out loud. She abruptly leaned in close to the pathetic cedar and challenged, “Are you tough enough to stand up to the harsh winter weather, mister?” She pulled back and giggled to herself. “Just kidding, you’d be inside away from the winter weather.”
“This one probably won’t work either,” Twilight joined Pinkie Pie beside the undergrown tree. “Look, lots of its needles have already fallen out! It might not even make it to Hearth’s Warming.”
Squashing the fallen, brown needles under her hooves, Pinkie admitted, “Yeah, you’re probably right…but you get an A for effort, lil’ tree!”
With that, she bounded off again towards another row, humming some upbeat Hearth’s Warming tune the whole way. Although Pinkie’s excitement was contagious, it did nothing to stop the shivers regularly plaguing Twilight’s body. Fruitlessly pressing her wings tighter against herself, Twilight pressed on between the families of other ponies in the yard.
The next tree Pinkie selected was a lopsided spruce with large, heavy branches. It looked like it was constantly battling against a windstorm, leaning to the right under the uneven weight of its limbs. It couldn’t even hold any snow, all of the piles of white mush having slid off.
Pinkie was standing right beside it, waiting patiently for Twilight to catch up. She was leaning back on her haunches with her front legs up in the air leaning far to the right to imitate the tree.
Chuckling at Pinkie’s antics, Twilight sidled up next to her and examined the tree. “I’m not sure about this one…it looks like any ornaments we put on it will slide right off!”
“But this one’s special!” Pinkie insisted, falling out of her pose. “Maybe it doesn’t need ornaments! We could just use lights.”
Experimentally pushing against the tree’s off-kilter balance, Twilight shook her head. “No, I don’t think it would support any of my lights either.” She turned to Pinkie, who was staring wide-eyed at her and implementing her patented cutesy-eyes trick to win Twilight over. “Unless you want to have a Hearth’s Warming tree without any decorations at all?”
Blinking and thinking it over, Pinkie looked helplessly at the tree. “Well, it isn’t much fun to have a tree that you can’t decorate…” she conceded.
“Besides, that castle needs as much lighting as it can get,” Twilight added. “There’s barely enough light to function in some of its rooms. I’m not sure how you live with it whenever you stay over.”
Sensing an opportunity, Pinkie grinned mischievously. “It’s because…you’re the twilight of my life,” she winked, waiting expectantly for a reaction.
A warbled laugh escaped Twilight and a soft, pleasant blush stained her cheeks. “Pinkie, if you keep making sweet puns like that, I might just…pie.”
Recognition slowly crept onto Pinkie’s face as the pun registered. Letting out an exuberant snort of a laugh, she clapped her hooves against the ground. “Oh my gosh, you made a pun! I can’t believe it! I really am rubbing off on you!”
“I guess our friends were right about that,” Twilight agreed. “So not this spruce tree, then?”
“I dunno…” that mischievous smirk had returned to Pinkie’s face. “A tree without decorations might spruce up the holiday a little.”
Another genuine chortle escaped Twilight, immediately followed by an out-of-control series of dry coughs. The freezing air had entered her lungs too fast for her to handle, and she was left wheezing for a few moments.
Putting a concerned hoof over Twilight’s shoulder, Pinkie asked, “Twilight? What’s wrong?”
“N-nothing,” Twilight chattered out, her teeth clacking slightly as another shiver swept through her. “I’m just a little cold. These wings have so much surface area and are so sensitive to temperature, I…” Another tremor overtook her body. “I’m just not used to it. I’ll be okay.”
That did absolutely nothing to dissipate Pinkie’s concern. Remembering something her friend had told her, she examined Twilight’s wings. “You know, Rainbow Dash told me that pegasi fluff out their feathers to trap and warm air for body heat. Maybe you could try that?”
That idea hadn’t occurred to Twilight. It was worth a shot…
“O-okay, I’ll try it,” Twilight decided. Spreading her wings a little and flinching at the cold air it let in, she flexed out her feathers as best as she could. She waited for as long as she could stand to, her shivering intensifying as the cold air accumulated. Seconds after she pulled her feathers back in, relief washed over her. Pockets of air were indeed trapped under her feathers, and her body heat was warming them wonderfully in a feedback loop.
“There ya go!” Pinkie cheered. “All toasty now?”
“I’m much better, thank you,” Twilight sighed out, relishing the gathered warmth along her back.
“Good!” Pinkie chirped, planting a small surprise smooch on Twilight’s lips and skipping off to the next tree.
Smiling as warmly as she now felt, Twilight trotted after her with a spring in her step.
It took a dozen other trees before Pinkie selected one that really was just right, a sturdy, medium-sized fir tree with vibrant branches and a perfect cone shape. Now at a comfortable temperature, Twilight was up to the challenge of using her magic to carry the tree back to her castle, Pinkie excitedly jabbering about all the different ways she and Twilight could decorate it once it was set up.
Thus ends the fifth day of Christmas.