Dear Princess Celestia,
I’m glad you finally allowed me some parchment and a pen, so if the guards reading this are kind enough to accept another request, do thank the princess for me when you give this to her. Thank her for dooming my life to darkness and giving me but one candle with which to see with a day. I may write this now from the deepest, darkest dungeon in Canterlots' underbelly, but I think you may wish to reconsider your judgment, if you have the time to read this poor sinners account.
Since you threw me in here without trail or due process let me go ahead and inform you, my name is Finders Keepers. It isn’t the most useful name for a pick pocket I know, but I suppose it is appropriate isn’t it? And I had gotten away with all my crimes up until the fateful day your lackey found me.
My crimes are too numerous to count, I’ve stolen gold and jewels from the rich and the poor, from ponies and griffons and dragons, and let me tell you I’ve never felt complete. No, from the time I stole my first bit to last night. No matter what I got my hooves on, it was never enough.
Oh don’t get me wrong, it was never boring and I always had a certain pride when I pulled off the most skillful heists, but I wanted more. Money and objects are sweet like candy, but I needed something real, something with substance.
You see I tried stealing something very valuable last night. I tried to steal a heart, the heart of your niece Cadance. I’ll admit it. I am a scoundrel and a fiend who abused the youth and innocence of your dear…
Well, you don’t want to hear all the gory details do you? It took a month of planning, talking, joking, and promises, but your ward gave herself, her body, heart and mind, to me of her own free will.
Oh yes I told her I was a Knight Errant who had climbed up the tower to whisper sonnets of love and to woo her in private. I lied to her, told her I owned a castle, and a fortune, (This only a half lie though. I do own a fortune and I could travel through any castle as if it were my own.) But nonetheless despite whatever she says I forced nothing out of her. That kind of classless crime takes very little skill, and I would never be caught committing such a clumsy sin.
I heard that she was quite cross with me though, so do tell her I am sorry for causing her anguish once you see her again. Despite myself I did get quite attached to my quarry. I would be saddened if I caused any kind of lasting injury. However, I suppose I taught her a lesson that another colt would have eventually taught her anyway. So in a strange way, I guess you should be thanking me.
But I did not write this just to apologize, and this is not to plead forgiveness either, nor to offend you. (Though I have been doing quite a lot of that haven’t I?) I wish to bargain with you, for as you will soon hear, or perhaps you already have,(as I am not quite sure when you will read this) your niece has gone missing. Or, more accurately, has been kidnapped.
How do I know this? Well, because in the night, as I slept in my cell, I awoke to the clatter of a few figures walking outside my bars.
And what should I spot but the motionless body of Miamore Cadenza on the back of a tall mare. She was with others, and they spoke of many things…
What did they say you ask? You want specifics? You want to know where your niece has gone too? Who took her, and where to find her?
Well I want out, and I want a reward. I don’t want a million bits though or a hundred acres of land or even an apology from your lackey… what’s his name?... Shining Armor? No I just want what I came for. I want the Promise of Cadances’ hand in marriage.
I suppose this may seem like a lot, but if you don’t think her life is worth it then you can leave me here to rot.
And I suppose you may see this form of extortion as heartless, but it is in my nature Princess. It’s my very name. I have found my way out. And I am going to keep it.
Finders Keepers Dairy-Introduction.
The common mystery starts with a detective finding clues and ends with the reveal of the criminals sinister plot. The common fantasy starts with a knight in shinning armor going after a terrible monster. This is not either of those stories, for I am not the clever detective nor the shining knight, but the criminal and the monster, and you will be graced with my point of view.
To steal a heart is what I crave. Love. It is something I have never found; only tasted.
But who? What heart was I to steal?
Well in a room full of jewels why not grab for the biggest and the brightest?
Princess Cadence, practically the very patron saint of love, was the most beautiful mare in all of Equestria, or so I had heard.
But there was one problem with this endeavor. Her childhood friend and supposed lover, the captain of the guard. The romance was so perfect it made me nauseous. Celestia herself must have arranged it.
To win my prize I made a deal with the devil, you see, in my last letter to the princess I did lie just a little.
It was true that I had wooed sweet Cadence, and it was true that Shining Armor caught me and exposed me. But my failure was all part of the larger victory. I had seen those dark figures, but not in the dungeon. I had met with them a mere week before in the dark alleyways of Canterlot.
You may know the beings as changelings. I call them friends with many faces. You see, they had their own plans for theft, their own want for love, and I could relate to their plea. They wanted a kingdom. I wanted a mare. A kingdom for a mare seamed like a fair enough trade, but they had a thorn in their side as well.
You guessed it. Shinning Armor.
That dolt was not only a foe to me, but the only thing standing in the way of their takeover. We needed him gone.
He needed to die, but how? While I had taken a life or two before, the whole debacle had left me disappointed. Why take a life if you cannot keep it after? It wasn’t my cup of tea.
The changelings were confidant that they could kill him if he was alone, and I myself wanted no hand in it. The further I was from the deed, the better.
So I made a plan, a plan to kill that Stallion and steal his mare out from under him. What was the plan?... Well, I already told you the first step. You, the reader of my tale, will have to learn some patience. All good things in time my friend.
Day one of rescue mission, Captain Shinning Armor.
We made good time today, if the criminal is to be believed we will be by our destination tomorrow. The chariots had to fly low for fear being discovered, but there is still no sign of any kind of formal defense so we should still be able to take them by surprise. I continued to question Keepers throughout the day, and his story has remained the same. If it is all a lie, it is a very practiced one.
I realize that it was I who suggested he travel with us, and I thank you for supporting my judgment, but I am beginning to think this colt wants to be here. Despite the fact that he came unwillingly, he now seems very calm. He is still gaged and tied, being carried by two of our guards, but I can almost see a smile on his face when I thinks I can’t see him. Maybe... maybe he planned all this.
Or maybe I am imagining things. You know how close Cadence and I were, and I am so worried for her I sometimes see her face when I look at the clouds in the sky.
We have four unicorn, two pegasus, and four earth pony guards in our troop. The other two pegasai have hopefully delivered this message to you safely. I would send it magically, but I fear it may be intercepted. Our ‘source’ says that the enemy (whom he has yet to define to my satisfaction) is not capable of magic, but I will stray on the side of caution. I will send another message when I feel it is safe enough, until then, trust that I am doing my best to return your niece to you.
Below is a transcript written of my interrogation of Finders Keepers. I include it because while I hold distrust and distaste for his character, I know his words are the closest thing we have to saving Cadence. There is also a description of his appearance, to store in our records. We were not able to process him formally before we left, but I would like the file to be stored with the others. My secretary will know what to do with it.
Private 1st class Bronze Phalanx, reporting on the interrogation of Finders Keepers.
Captain Shining Armor conducted his interrogation in the cab of the Chariot as we flew to an area within a day of our destination. He ungagged the captive and asked questions to further clarify the facts given at the palace.
The Criminal known as Finders Keepers is an earth pony with a dark gray and brown coat. He has a slightly lighter color mane. His cutie mark is very distinctive in it’s nature for he has a different image on either side of his flank. On one side is a golden key, and on the other, a golden lock. I personally have never seen anything like it, but the mark seems quite normal in every other way.
Shining Armor: “Please restate what you know for the record.”
Finders Keepers: “What? You didn’t get it the first time? Fine. They said they were going to a forest a few days west, they have a base there, or something. Hay, I only heard half of what they were saying.”
Shining Armor: “And where are they specifically holding the Princess?”
Finders Keepers: “A cave, at the base of a large valley. Nice and secluded, hard to find.”
Shining Armor: “And what is the physical description of the kidnappers?”
Finders Keepers: “Like I said the first time, it was dark and quiet down there. I can hear a lot in silence, but I can’t see much in the dark. I’m pretty sure they were ponies though.”
Shining Armor: “We all want Cadance to be back, and safe. If there is anything else you remember, please tell us.”
Finders Keepers: “Well, since you asked so nicely, I’m pretty sure at least one of them was a Pegasus, so I think it would be best to arrive on foot and not in their air.”
Shining Armor: “Thank you. Now, I’d like to ask you about your personal life.”
Finders Keepers: “What? You didn’t bring a book? All right, I guess I’ll entertain you. What do you want to know?”
Shining Armor: “How about Family? Is there anyone you want me to contact for you? Parents? Siblings?”
Finders Keepers: “My parents left me as soon as they could, I have no family and no friends. Oh don’t give me that look, I’m going to acquire a whole new family once this is over after all.”
Shining Armor: “Yes, right. Well, do you have any skill that would aid us in retaking Cadence?”
Finders Keepers: “I’m not too shabby at picking pockets, I can spot another thief from a mile away, and I could get in and out of any vault you could think of… but I don’t think you need any of those traits.”
Shining Armor: “If I do then I’ll make use of you. Until then, you are going to have to stay tied up.”
Finders Keepers: “Come on! What’ll it take to earn some trust around here?”
Shining armor proceeded to re-gag the prisoner.
Finders Keepers Dairy, Day 1 of the heist.
If you are lucky enough to have found this, you might have also found the Captians log as well. I snuck a peak at the letter before it was sent off and while I had planned for this entry to be a description of my plans and plots, I will have to shorten my discourse in order to clarify a few facts.
The interrogation was not held in the cabin of a Chariot. It was conducted on the cold hard ground, at least, that was where I was.
Before they ungagged me one strong fellow kicked my face in. I smiled it off. And when they ungagged me I said coyly, ”What’s wrong? Forgot which way’s west?”
The guard struck my stomach that time. The Captain himself did not touch me, no, he was too high and mighty for all that. He asked the questions. “Please restate what you know for the record.”
“What? You didn’t get it the first time?” At the third strike to my ribcage I decided that the guard was quite humorless. “Fine.” I coughed, “They said they were going to a forest a few days west, they have a base there, or something. I only heard half of what they were saying.”
“And where are they specifically holding the Princess?”
“A cave, at the base of a large valley.” I decided to throw in, “Nice and secluded, hard to find.”
“And what is the physical description of the kidnappers?”
One of the guards added, “And no lies this time!”
“Like I said the first time, it was dark and quiet down there. I can hear a lot in silence, but I can’t see much in the dark. I’m pretty sure they were ponies though.” It was the hundred and first time I said the lie, but I tried to make it as convincing as the first.
“You know more then you're telling!” said the same guard, putting pressure on my head and pushing down with his hoof.
Shining Armor waved him off. When the others had taken a step back he asked, “We all want Cadance to be back, and safe. If there is anything else you remember, please tell us.”
With a smile, I wiped some dirt form my cheek, “Well, since you asked so nicely,” I spat, “I’m pretty sure at least one of them was a Pegasus, so I think it would be best to arrive on foot and not in their air.” I needed them to approach by ground, and I also wanted their trust, so I threw in the lie to make it believable.
The Captain seemed quite amiable after that. Maybe he thought he was making a connection with me. How naive of him, “Thank you. Now, I’d like to ask you about your personal life.”
“What? You didn’t bring a book?”
“No sass!” My smart comment earned another kick to the side.
“Enough!” the other guard backed off at the outburst. The Captain continued. “He is under my custody. You will not lay a hoof on him until I give the order.” I was surprised by his mercy. Or maybe he took the blow as an insult to his authority? I responded cordially as if it were the former,
“All right, I guess I’ll entertain you. What do you want to know?”
He smiled, “How about Family? Is there anyone you want me to contact for you? Parents? Siblings?”
“My parents left me as soon as they could, I have no family and no friends,” he gave me the sorriest look a colt can give another colt, “Oh don’t give me that look, I’m going to acquire a whole new family once this is over after all.” His face showed an instant of rage, but was quickly dulled and hidden. He was a poor actor, but had great self control.
“Yes, right.“ the comment had obviously made him flustered, ”Well, do you have any skill that would aid us in retaking Cadence?”
I teased, “I’m not too shabby at picking pockets, I can spot another thief from a mile away, and I could get in and out of any vault you could think of… but I don’t think you need any of those traits.”
Again, to my surprise, the Captain nodded. He must not have detected my sarcasm. “If I do then I’ll make use of you. Until then, you are going to have to stay tied up.”
“Come on! What’ll it take to earn some trust around here?” I was re gagged and put onto my feet. My hooves were tied so that I could walk but not run, and we continued down a dirt road towards our destination… and the Captains demise.
Was it the want for vengeance that made me feel joy at the thought of his death, or perhaps jealousy? It didn’t truly matter really; so I simply walked and enjoyed the irony for a few hours.
He failed at stealth. The day guard was trained to march, not sneak, and soon enough we were garnering unwanted attention.
The Captain stood tall to the right of me as we traveled onwards, and as my skilled eyes saw what they could not, I decided to make this an opportunity to gain more trust from my captors.
“Captain.” I whispered. We were far enough, and ahead of the group, so no one would hear or see me speak.
“What!?” he turned, surprised after a moment, “We gaged you…”
My gag was hanging from my neck. I had broken out of too many binds to let this one trouble me. “Can you count?” I ignored his implied question.
“W…what?” he dumbly whispered back, not knowing why we were being so covert.
“If so, look around and count your guards.” I whispered.
He looked back and kept walking. “Um… yea, 12 others. Four of ea…” he had a moment of dawning apprehension and turned back around. “But I sent two away…”
“Changelings.” I said under my breath. “They have been following us for the past few miles.”
“Why…” he asked, looked back.
“Keep your head forward.” I advised. He followed the command. “They are spys. This is how they scout. You can’t engage them directly, I doubt you would know which two are changelings anyway.”
“… What do we do?” he asked. “I have to warn the others…”
“No you don’t,” I said. I began to speak louder, “You know how to use a shield spell correct?”
“Wha, how long has he been…” started a surprised guard from behind them.
“I… wanted to ask him some more questions.” The Captain explained with a quick lie, and then he turned to me, “Yes of course. It’s the first thing we learn…”
“And you can make a barrier that stops magic, but nothing else correct?” I continued.
“Er, yes, that is the most basic combat spell.” He responded.
“Did you know you that could extend that?” I continued. “I have seen it used as a filter. Sometimes it can hold in air, or liquid, and nothing else.” I said. “It can even be used to separate magical connections… and push them back.” I stopped. Then the Captain followed suit, and then the others. Everyone went still “It can even be used to separate friend from foe, and truth from fiction.” I turned around, “We have only two pegasai present.”
The guards suddenly noticed the impossibility. The pegasai looked at their twins and panicked.
“Captian.” I called him. “Why don’t you try it out?” I looked to him. Shining Armor looked back at me awkwardly, and then at his guards. “Well… okay… here it goes…” He closed his eyes and a slight glow appeared at his horn.
Two of the pegasai immediately bolted into the woods.
“Stop them!” screamed a guard, built it was too late. They escaped.
“Wow.” Shining Armor started. “Was that me?”
“No, stupid.” I said judgmentally. “A shield is a shield. It isn’t omnipotent. But changelings don’t know that.” I smiled. He smiled back.
With the glow of his horn, my legs became free.
With no small amount of surprise, I looked to him again.
He explained, “That trick you pulled proved two things to me. One, you are skilled criminal, and I have to keep my eye on you.”
His demeanor changed and he gave a small smile, “And two, you really do want to help us. I have a feeling I will not have to fear you running away.”
The words of kindness forced a genuine smile from my face. I suddenly had little less joy at the thought of his death.
But only a little less joy.