These ponies aren’t too bad, but I know when a skeptic is coming by my room simply by the volume of their hoofsteps. It’s hard to get most of their calligraphy down, even after days of study and I’ve been at it for nearly two weeks.
Luna visits every other evening to see how I’m going, but my progress slows to a snail’s pace as she quizzes me on current tax laws and the absentminded clacking sound of beads on her abacus while she’s checking my work. Speaking off…
The click of every single bead is a test of my pati…
“You are doing far better this time,” she commented. “You made this margin last time though. Why are you?”
“I did most of my work on my own, especially my finances. What I always did was collect a small lump sum to pick up the slack and find where things are falling through. Also, if I read all of the past samples correctly then isn’t Manehattan suffering a financial crunch and Stalliongrad isn’t paying all of their taxes.”
“That was indeed the case. I’m sorry Zack but I cannot share current policies.”
“Naturally, I’m a flight risk, but how did this get sorted out when it was current?”
“I tried a similar idea, where I found the issue and Manehattan is doing very well now.”
“What about Stalliongrad?”
“Well, they’ve recovered from the fines I made sure they were levied. You did this all the time though?”
“Yes, it may have cost me last time but it works beyond a doubt. By managing your funds with an overflow you can find where the problem areas are…”
“…and fix them, I know. How are your forgeries going?”
“I can get most of the writing styles down, but I’m having issues with Rolean’s and Janisar’s signature nuances. I found something interesting though, ‘rolean’ is part of ‘Carolean’ and ‘janisar’ is part of ‘Janissary.’ I find it curious.”
“How is it curious,” she asked as she examined my copies.
“Caroleans and Janissaries are soldiers of different nations from my world. Caroleans are soldiers from Sweden during the late 17th century. Janissaries were Ottoman soldiers and the first musketeers in the world.”
“You can recall information like that off the top of your head?”
“I studied military history in college. I really enjoyed writing that term paper on the 14th century Ottoman Empire.”
“You didn’t favor the studies though, you make an excellent forger.”
“Some of my best work came from understanding history. Once, I slipped a proper copy that looked more like the original than what I stole. I made no money on it, actually I lost quite a bit, but it felt like too much of a crime for something to have such a bad replica.”
“So you’ve done acts of charity in addition to theft?”
“I’ve done things to at least make a person’s collection look real when it had an obvious fake in it. It would be a crime not to make it a proper collection.”
“What was it?”
“A painting, and I love paintings more than anything else I’ve stolen.”
“What about the original?”
“In a museum, I stole their replica and gave it to the collector.”
“But if you had the original…”
“It would be a crime to have a poor collection,” I repeated musingly.
The lunar princess blinked. “Every time I think I’ve figured you out you surprise me once more. Unfortunately I’ve found a flaw in your counterfeits, they lack a magical feeling.”
“Since I can’t do magic then I can’t make a perfect forgery. Believable at first glance, but it can’t stand up to thorough scrutiny then. Seems like such a shame to write it and never be capable of making it indiscernible. How thorough do you think Blueblood will look it over?”
“Since his mother has tried to keep him out of the academy I would say every last detail.”
“Then I’ll need to refine the signature for both Rolean and Janisar and I’ll need someone to falsify the magical aura.”
“Or you could convince them to sign it.”
“You think they would listen to both a stranger and an unknown species?” It’ll be just like that bible I stole, I silently added. I’m not Catholic, and was I surprised that I could pass as clergy at all. I was amazed that it worked long enough to finish the job.
“Try to be charming,” she added pleasantly before leaving.
After I heard the door shut, I groaned in frustration, I needed a miracle. I had no clue where to begin with nine ponies. I’ll need to have a word with Celestia in the morning…
The sun blared in my eyes when I woke up. Long nights and I wanted to wake up at sunrise, what was I thinking? “I need coffee,” I mumbled to the empty room. I looked at the bags under my eyes in the mirror. “Lots of coffee,” I added to my bloodshot reflection.
I didn’t expect anything on such a short notice from a pony tailor, but everything fits in all the right places. Well, shirts are a little too firm at the shoulders but I can’t complain too much. After running a comb through my hair, I headed down to the dining hall, praying to run into the solar princess on my way. As the trip went by however fate decided to complicate things.
“Hey,” called a voice down a side hall.
I froze. Damn, why didn’t I take the route that goes past the car? “Yes,” I asked as I turned to see one of the guards I recognized as Wing Sheer.
“I thought you were supposed to stay in your room until you were done,” he said as he grew closer.
“How am I supposed to give Princess Celestia a progress report if I’m isolated in a thirty foot area surrounding my room?”
“Well, um… yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“I got up early so I could make sure Princess Celestia knew how I was going. And I’ve got something to talk to her about.”
“What is it?”
“Something I need to personally talk to her about.”
“Yeah, I get it; you’ve made your point. Let’s go, we should be able to get to her before she starts court if we hurry.” He broke out at a brisk canter and I ran after him.
“Nearly to the dining hall Zack,” he called back to me, “she should still be here.”
I was panting hard, had to be halfway across the castle from my room and it better have been worth the run. Was I out of shape? Not really, but I’m working on less sleep than I should. It’s been days since I had a descent night’s sleep. All the work, all the examination, all the study, this sort of thing isn’t done overnight and you work when you have time. However, getting to her good side and getting what I needed was enough to keep me going.
No sooner did we near the doors than they swung open, enveloped in a pale golden light.
“Is there something I can help you with,” she asked me as her eyes met mine.
“I wanted to report my progress your highness,” I replied with a hint of hesitation.
“Princess Celestia,” added Aureus nervously, “we have a very busy schedule today and I think this shouldn’t be discussed lightly.”
“Actually I’ll just be brief.”
“Then we’ll walk and talk Mr. Raes,” Celestia said politely as she passed me.
I turned on my heel and followed her. “According to your sister, I’ve hit a snag in my project.”
“Oh, and what kind of snag is that?”
“One I can’t work around, there’s no magical aura about the papers. I have them nearly complete, but they’ll be under heavy scrutiny and that means-”
“They need to be perfect, I know.”
“Is it possible to forge a magical signature?”
“Forge magic,” interjected the earth pony, “that’s nonsense!”
“The problem is I can’t make them perfect without these signatures being perfect. Since I can’t perform magic myself then there’s a serious problem.”
“I can make time to examine your work later,” Celestia remarked with a pleasant smile. “We can address the issue then, now get some rest, you deserve it for making it this far Zachary.” She went left down a side corridor, leaving me at the crossroads.
If I continued down the path I would quickly be back at my room, where my bed was beckoning for me to get back to sleep. At that moment however, I was practically floating on air. Princess Celestia, one of my harshest critics, called me by my first name. It was such a minor thing, but at the same time, it meant the world to me. I practically drifted down the corridor and barely recognized that I was back in my room before long, passed out on my bed.