Once Blueblood had finally regained his breath, he returned to the landscape from earlier. “See here,” he said, pointing to a larger figure near the front of the crowd. “That looks to me like Ms. Henn. And there, that’s Lord and Lady Rings. I find that rather suggestive, don’t you?”
The Doctor absorbed the picture carefully. “I dunno about ‘suggestive’,” he said slowly. “She told me he was a financier of the company. ‘Course, given what I jus’ found out, that might mean a bit more than it sounds.”
Blueblood glanced at the Time Lord. “What do you mean?”
“White-collar crime,” he replied. “Fraud, embezzlement, out-and-out number fudgin’. This place owes yer aunties more’n a few bits. Least, that’s what it seems.”
“What?” Blueblood gasped. “How do you know that?”
“Pages from both sets o’ books were all around her body,” the Doctor said quietly. “‘Ooever killed her wanted her crimes to be known.”
“Like with Rings and his adultery,” Blueblood said slowly. "Or the phony designs around his wife."
“Exactly. They want revenge.”
“But adultery, counterfeiting, and fraud? It’s fairly unlikely that the same pony would be the victim of all three of those crimes,” Blueblood said.
“All three of those crimes, yeah. But what if there was another crime? Something all of ‘em were in on?” the Doctor asked. “Something that couldn’t be proved, or something that would jus’ be too much trouble?”
Blueblood frowned. “Like what?”
The Doctor nodded at the painting on the wall. “Echo Quarry. Great big disaster. Several dead, dozens wounded. Some bodies were never recovered, but apparently nopony involved faced much in the way of consequences. Sound like a good enough reason for revenge?”
Blueblood regarded the painting with wide eyes. “Some sort of cover-up, you suppose?”
“Seems pretty likely, yeah,” the Doctor replied. “And any o’ them in that picture could be in on it.”
The prince stared at the crowd. Dozens upon dozens of faces were depicted. A few he knew by name. Several others he recognized vaguely as faces seen bobbing in a crowd at any number of social functions. Most, however, were complete mysteries. “If any of them could be in on it,” he said slowly, “then any one of them could be the next victim.”
The Doctor nodded. Blueblood stared at him. “We can’t protect all of them,” he said.
“So where do we go from here?”
“Tartarus,” hissed a voice from behind them. “Along with all your snobby, rotten friends.”
The duo spun around to face the voice. Down the hall stood a large, pony-shaped creature, its flesh mottled and craggy like rock. With horrified fascination, Blueblood realized that whenever it moved, pebbles and dust crumbled off it. “Who are you?” the Doctor demanded. “What do you want?”
The creature’s eyes flashed green. “Revenge!” it snarled, leaping forward.
“Run!” the Doctor yelled, but Blueblood was already halfway to the stairs. They raced down, down, down, the gargoyle hot on their hooves.
“What is that thing?” Blueblood shouted.
“This thing has ears!” the beast roared, leaping to grab the prince’s tail. A swift kick from the Doctor sent it stumbling, but not for long. In moments it was after them once more.
Blueblood glanced back. “It’s gaining!” he warned.
The Doctor glanced up. “Teleport it away or something! Levitate it!”
“I can’t!” Blueblood replied desperately.
The Doctor glanced from side to side. “Right. ‘Ang on tight.” He grabbed the prince around the barrel and leapt onto the railing.
The gargoyle halted in surprise. Then, it grinned a craggy grin. “Jump, if you wish,” he invited. “It makes little difference to me.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I think we’ll pass,” the Doctor said. “Blue, hold on tight to the railing.”
“Wait, what?” the prince asked, and then the Doctor let go and he found himself sliding down the banister at a preposterous clip. He screamed. It seemed the appropriate thing to do.
The gargoyle blinked in astonishment, then snarled, racing after its quarry, but it was no match for their speed. Glancing around, it too leapt atop the railing and propelled itself over the edge… straight toward Blueblood. The unicorn let out a startled yelp and fell back onto the stairs. There was a loud, whirring screech, and Blueblood felt several small projectiles strike his coat.
After a few seconds, the prince found that he had, somehow, not died. He peeked one eye open. No gargoyle. He sat up. Still no gargoyle, but an astonishing amount of gravel. He glanced up at the Doctor, who stood a few steps up, pocketing the sonic screwdriver once more. The Time Lord looked up and grinned. “Nothin’ like a good screwdriver, eh?”
“What— how— who—” Blueblood stammered.
“Sorry it took so long. Just had to find the right frequency to break it to gravel. Mind, it’s probably best that it was crumbling already, or that never would've worked in time.”
“Right,” said the prince shakily. “What was that thing?”
The Doctor’s face turned serious. “Look down there,” he said, gesturing over the railing.
Blueblood leaned over and gasped in shock. There were now two corpses at the foot of the stairs: Ms. Henn and her grey earth pony receptionist. “It killed him, too? How? When?”
The Doctor stared. “Blueblood. Th’ gargoyle didn’t kill him. It was him.”
Blueblood looked down at the corpse below, then back up at the Doctor. “That’s preposterous.”
“Yeah. Get used to it,” the Doctor grumbled. “When it isn’t ‘preposterous’, it’s usually plain ol’ impossible.”
He regarded Blueblood for a long moment. “Next question,” he said slowly. “What did you mean when you said you couldn’t magic that thing?”
The prince’s jaw tightened. “I’d prefer not to say,” he replied icily.
The Doctor chuckled without humor and shook his head. “No. This isn’t some bloody press conf’rence. This is important. Come to it, I don’t think I’ve seen you do any magic at all since we met. So go on, spill the beans.”
“This is extremely personal.”
“I won’t tell another soul. Promise.”
“If you laugh…”
“I won’t! Cross me heart.”
The prince let out a long breath. “When I said ‘I can’t’, I meant it,” he said quietly. “Ever since the day I was born, I couldn’t so much as illuminate my horn. I’ve never been able to do a single spell, couldn’t even try it. Doctors said it was genetic, completely incurable. Handed down to me by my illustrious ancestors, just like my worthless title.” He sneered. “Heir to the line of Platinum, the most famed unicorn family on the planet. Politically, magically, and in all other ways, impotent.” He paused. "Well, all ways but one, obviously, but let's not get into that..."
He trailed off. The Doctor said nothing. Blueblood stared into space for a long time. “So I stopped caring,” he said, practically to himself. “Why should I care? Look at me. Powerless, incompetent, idiotic… what more can I do with my life but waste it?”
“You’re not powerless,” the Doctor replied.
Blueblood scoffed. “You’re not!” the green stallion insisted. “And you’re not incompetent, and you’re no idiot either. Look what you did today. You got us out of jail. You helped figure out who the killer’s targets were. You stopped me from beatin’ myself up.”
“What good is any of that?” Blueblood demanded. “I can’t change the world like that! I can’t do anything of any importance at all!”
“Blueblood. Listen to me,” the Doctor said sternly. “A wise pony once said that every decision, every action, creates ripples. Bigger decisions make bigger ripples. What they didn’t say was that small ripples can change the way all the waves move. There’s no such thing as ‘unimportant’.”
Blueblood stared into space for another long moment. “Were you the wise pony?” he asked at last.
The Doctor smirked. “See? You can be clever when you put your mind to it!”
A faint smile crossed the unicorn’s face. “Thank you,” he said. “I don’t think anypony’s said that to me in… well. A very long time.”
“Well, you’re welcome,” the Doctor replied with a grin. “Now, come on. Let’s get back to the TARDIS. Our work here’s done.”
Blueblood frowned. “Are you certain?” he asked. “That seemed a tad… simple.”
The Doctor gestured downwards. “The killer’s dead. What more do you want? Sometimes, you do get simple answers.”
Blueblood shook his head slowly. There was something still nagging at the back of his mind. “It doesn’t make sense,” he muttered. “How would he have killed Rings? That butler that lied to us about Lady Rings, where does he enter into all this?”
The Doctor frowned. “The butler,” he repeated slowly. His eyes widened. “Oh. Oh no. Blue. ‘E wasn’t working alone.”
“How astute,” said a low, gravelly voice from just down the stairs.
The Doctor and Blueblood turned. Another gargoyle leered up at them.
Blueblood turned to the Doctor. “Are we going to have to run up all these steps again?”
“Looks that way.”
Blueblood looked at the sign. They were back on floor thirty-three. “Can we not just die, instead?”
The gargoyle roared and leapt after them. Blueblood screamed and pounded up the steps, the Doctor a few steps behind.