Garotte was taken from her musings as the swinging light of Pinkie's interrogation room vanished. She looked up to where the light should have been, from her awkward position of being nearly upside down and leaning against a steel folding chair, to see The Pink One glowing above her.
"Well, it's time to pay rent or move out!" Pinkie smiled, offering a hoof to her.
Deciding not to overstay The Pink One's 'hospitality', Garotte took Pinkie's hoof. She then helped her stand up in another room, and the doors of said room promptly opened a moment later.
"Pinkie! There you are!" Twilight huffed, having been galloping literally all over Canterlot looking for her friends. "Wait, why was Garotte on the ground?"
"Please don't ask." Garotte wearily replied, which was awarded with strange looks from both Twilight and Pinkie Pie.
Twilight looked questioningly to Pinkie, whom shrugged.
"Don't ask me; she's weird." Pinkie stated plainly.
Twilight shook her head. "We don't have time for this! Princess Celestia has summoned all of us to her court!"
Garotte gulped, and Pinkie Pie took this moment to don a curled and powdered white wig with accompanying gavel.
"Not that kind of court, Pinkie." Twilight deadpanned. She was used to the antics of her friend, but this was no time for jokes.
"Awww." Pinkie then threw both items behind her shoulder, which never made the accompanying sound of actually hitting the ground.
"Am I needed as well?" Garotte asked, hoping to be able to avoid the situation and report to Overlord Aether about the situation. She was still evil, after all. It would be rude to not put forth her best henchpony effort when the situation presented itself.
"Yes! You especially are needed." Twilight then brooked no argument as she lifted Garotte with her magic, and left the room with Pinkie hopping just behind.
"Do you have to carry me?" Garotte asked in level tone; she was floating aimlessly, and was starting to get motion sick.
"I don't think Princess Celestia would be very happy if I lost the Elements of Harmony and the pony I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on."
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Twilight! It wasn't your responsibility to look out for all the elements. Just your own! In a way, it's all of our faults that we didn't see this coming!" Pinkie explained cheerfully, still making bouncing noises as she followed Twilight's canter easily.
"Pinkie, that isn't helping."
"Oh look, the door!"
Twilight turned from Pinkie to see that they had arrived at the Day Court far sooner than she was expecting. She chalked it up to her worried state, and not the reality warping abilities of her Pink friend.
"Oh good, you made it!" Fluttershy quietly cheered.
"Do you think this is about the 'Elements' situation?" Rarity asked.
"That's definitely the reason. I just hope she won't be too angry with us about it..." Twilight replied.
"Well I know that I didn't lose my Element, so they must've been stolen!" Rainbow Dash complained, her forehooves crossed against her chest, as she hovered a little off the ground in agitation.
"That's what worries me, Rainbow Dash." Twilight said ominously. "Well... It's now or never."
The six and Garotte all looked to the large double doors, decorated ornately with alternating gold and silver, (one for each door). The theme was that of Day and Night combined, and by entering one door or the other, the petitioner would be moved to the appropriate court. The Day Court was for the every day askance of everypony from Commoner to Noble, and usually took all day just to deal with a few ponies. By reflection, the Night Court was held, obviously, by Princess Luna. The goal of the Night Court was more focused on global affairs, trade agreements, tax code, and other managerial matters. Rarely any ponies or beings otherwise would visit Luna's court, however, as the Lunar Princess was known to be quite unforgiving with her time being wasted; She had a great deal to accomplish every night in service of her subjects.
Still holding Garotte in her magical grasp, Twilight used a forehoof to gently push open the door, if only to stay the coming anger of Princess Celestia a moment longer. Opening inwards towards the throne, (Completely against all fire code regulation, Pinkie noted,) the group meekly walked towards Princess Celestia, whom was patiently waiting for them to get within 'indoor voice' distance. Their hooves made little noise against the red carpet leading up to the Diarch.
Deciding that this was taking far too long, Celestia spoke up. "Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, Fluttershy..." Her eyes narrowed, her tone having been stern and disappointed, "and Garotte." she finished with disdain.
The six bowed as they reached a comfortable, (anything but,) distance from the angry Princess. Garotte, however, was still floating helplessly in Twilight's magic.
"Could I be let down?" She asked tentatively, not wanting to anger Celestia any further, as the Alicorn could wipe her from existance with a thought. Literally. Ask Nightmare Moon.
Princess Celestia glared at Garotte, before nodding. Twilight then rose from her position of supplication along with her friends, and unceremoniously dumped Garotte onto the soft carpeting.
"Thanks." Garotte said quietly, attempting to shrink into her suit jacket from the gaze of Celestia. Thankfully, the Sun Princess shifted her ire to the six.
"You know that I have gathered you to speak about the state of the Elements of Harmony." She said evenly. "Are you aware of how they have gone missing?"
Everypony gathered had flinched at the implications of this, Garotte especially. She was in the process of attempting to hide underneath the rug, but Celestia herself took hold of Garotte in her magic and placed her directly between herself and the Six.
"Do you have anything to say on the matter, Ambassador of Evil?" Celestia emphasized.
Garotte whimpered, covered her eyes and curled into a ball with her ears attempting self preservation behind her head. "I-I do!"
"Then speak." She clipped, her anger barely contained. She should have expected this, honestly. It was Garotte's job to be evil, and associated with those that were evil.
"T-they were t-taken by Overlord Aether!" Garotte stammered, hoping for at least a painless death.
The six gasped, having met 'Overlord' Aether in person at the massive party he had held in the Zebrecan desert earlier that year.
"But he was such a gentleman!" Rarity said in disbelief.
"And he paid for everything we bought there, too!" Fluttershy pointed out, before receiving looks from the other four ponies. She then promptly felt too much attention was on her, and shied away from everypony with a 'meep.'
"The fault is my own, my little ponies." Celestia admitted suddenly. "I should have dealt with the threat of a fourth Alicorn far sooner; Especially one created artificially by a changeling Queen. I should have known that he would turn to evil."
"Nopony could've seen this coming, aside from the fact that he blatantly declared himself as evil and even has television adds on CNN of him being evil, and that he attacked Ponyville, and that he made two more changeling Queens, and that he has an army of orphaned lawyer foals." Pinkie reminded those gathered.
Garotte chose this moment to add to the conversation with a raised hoof, still held between the Diarch and the Six. "Are you implying that all changeling Queens are inherently evil?" She then received withering glares from all but Pinkie Pie, who nodded happily with an affirmative noise.
Deciding that self preservation was more important at the moment than explaining how bigoted that was, Garotte promptly shut up and resumed her impersonation of a hermit crab.
Twilight then spoke. "Garotte, do you know where the Elements of Harmony were taken?"
Pinkie Pie then answered before Garotte could speak. "I asked her about it earlier, and she said 'He has them hidden in the darkest of vaults; the most secure of fortresses. A place where neither criminal nor royalty may pass without permission of the lords and ladies that preside over it. All tremble in fear at their calling, and all pay their tithes unwilling.'" with complete accuracy.
The six were confused by this, but Celestia was old and wise enough with her millennium of knowledge and experience to easily decipher the riddle. She glared at nopony in particular, grimacing.
"I know where he has taken the Elements." she growled.
Filthy Rich, the stallion with all the money, (As his namesake would imply,) and owner of every bank in Equestria, was at a loss for words when he had been called to Canterlot by Princess Celestia herself. Well, 'called' would be a generous use of the word. He was practically willed into existence via teleportation by the Sun Princess and fell to the tiled floor mid-trot.
He had looked up to see the faces of the Elements of Harmony, made famous by various news outlets and traveling bards, Princess Celestia, and a grey mare held in the air by Twilight's magic. She seemed very distressed, and the others were more than aggravated.
"Filthy Rich?" Celestia asked politely, looming over the stallion with her mane billowing in ethereal winds.
"Y-yes, Princess Celestia!" He blurted, finding himself just in time to bow.
"I have need of your unique position."
Rich then looked up from his bow with a curious expression.
"I need to open the safety deposit box of one of your clients."
Filthy Rich was now in the middle of a policy conflict. Any being that banked with him had done so under the direct confirmation that none of their assets were able to be seized by anybeing, regardless of rank, status or divinity. This included Princess Celestia. He was practically obligated to decline.
"I apologize, Princess Celestia. We here at Rich Banking are unable to open the vault of another without them being present." He recited with practiced smile, before his brain registered the very unamused death glare coming from the Alicorn that controls the Sun. "Aaand of course that means that since you're the Ruler of Equestria, we can completely void and nullify that on your say so!" He quickly reached into his front pocket, as he always wore a tie made of the finest material bits could buy, (Which included a hidden compartment), and produced a document that he hastily unfolded. "If you'd sign here, I can personally see to it that your wishes are fulfulled!" He was now giving a desperate smile, holding out a paper and quill.
"What is this?" Celestia asked, taking both items in her magic to examine them."
"Oh! This is just a document explaining to the customer of Rich Banking that their private possessions, belongings, artifacts, mementos, and otherwise precious items have been forcefully raided by the most powerful being in the land, and that to avoid the unneccesary loss of life, we were forced to assist them."
"Huh?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"It's saying that Princess Celestia fully understands that she is robbing my bank." he explained.
"That's crazy! She's not robbing anypony, she's protecting all of Equestria!" Rainbow yelled in defense of the Princess.
"Oh? Then what if everything you owned was suddenly seized by another, when you had been assured beyond all doubt that this was impossible?"
"Um... well if it was for the good of Equestria then I wouldn't mind... much." Rainbow replied, mollified.
Garotte chose this moment to quietly laugh, attracting the attention of the ponies gathered.
"What's funny?" Applejack asked accusingly.
Garotte was still held in Twilight's magic, but she was able to raise a hoof to make a point. "I just find it funny that the 'Heroes' are resorting to blatant robbery to 'save the day' from 'evil'. Isn't robbery normally our jobs?"
Her amusement was quickly dragged out back and shot when she caught Celestia's look. It took all of Garotte's limited willpower to avoid crying on the spot. She instead managed a semi-dignified squeak of terror.
Celestia then turned her gaze to Filthy Rich. "I understand what you're attempting to say, but this is for the good of everypony."
Rich wasn't convinced. "I'm sure that's how it starts. First it's just 'We only need these things this one time.' Then before we know it, everypony's funds and belongings are being given to the crown for some unseen reason or threat, and all we have to go on is your word that it's for the best."
Rich was then immediately reminded just whom he was speaking to, when Celestia took a single step towards him. "You will understand in time, Filthy Rich." She said with a voice dripping of venom. She then practically threw the document and quill into his chest, and moved past.
Shaking in place, he watched as the other seven ponies followed Celestia right past him. He also then realized that he had to help them find whatever it was they were looking for. He just hoped it wasn't all of his money and belongings.
"So... do you know which vault you're looking to pilfer in particular?" Rich asked over his shoulder, having been forced to lead from the front. Only his managers were allowed into the true vault of the bank, and he was required to personally oversee the robbery. Policy, you understand.
"This just doesn't feel right. Ah' know we're doin' this for good n' all, but we are takin' something by force. Even if it is ours to begin with." Applejack vented.
"The Elements of Harmony are crucial to the defense of Equestria." Celestia answered, following directly behind Filthy Rich.
Garotte was following behind, her presence having been ignored for the most part now that the attentions of everypony else had been directed towards the banker.
Actually... this is my perfect chance to escape!
Garotte then trotted in place, leaving the rest of them to obliviously continue on without her. Smirking, she then quickly galloped out of the bank's expansive vault in search of the Royal Guard.
The bank was being robbed, after all.
"You must at least know the name of whom you're robbing?" Rich insisted on needling the Princess. He knew he was playing with the sun, but he was also needed to keep the economy of Equestria in what little balance it had achieved after the discovery of Queen Aze's funding. News of Princess Celestia selecting vaults at random to look through would cause everypony to scramble for their money at the same time, and they simply didn't have the physical currency to back up the numbers.
"Overlord Aether." Celestia replied curtly.
Rich stopped in his tracks. "Who?"
"Do not play games with me anymore than you have been, Filthy Rich." Celestia threatened.
"No, seriously! I don't know who that is! Nopony has opened an account by the name of 'Overlord Aether' here. I would remember!" Rich insisted.
"Maybe it's at another bank?" Fluttershy suggested.
"No, I am made aware of all that bank with us. My memory is exceptional." Rich preened.
Then, to everypony's surprise, A gruff voice yelled from behind all of them, accompanied by several sets of armored hooves stampeding across the ground.
"Stop right there, Criminal scum! You've violated...the... law?" The guard captain was baffled, having slowly degraded from his full gallop to an uncertain walk before finally stopping in his tracks.
"Took you long enough! We've been getting robbed for the past twenty minutes!" Rich angrily yelled at the guard, before Rainbow clonked him on the head. "That's assault!" he complained.
"We..." The captain began, before shaking his head free of confusion. "We were just informed by a helpful citizen that the Rich Bank was being robbed... We didn't know that it was just Princess Celestia and the Elements of Harmony." The guard said abashedly.
"They are robbing us! Look!" Rich complained, moving past Applejack to give the document Celestia had signed to the guard.
Celestia herself then facehoofed.
"You know, I'm beginning to think that it's really an unseen plague that explains the nature of Heroes." A familiar voice said from behind the guard captain, smugly revealing herself to be Garotte. "All that brain trauma from smacking yourselves in the face!"
"Garotte? What are you doing?!" Twilight asked in disbelief.
"Being evil?" Was her simple reply.
Then the Six, minus Pinkie Pie, facehoofed as well.
"Well... this document seems to be in order." The guard captain stated, before gulping and looking up at Princess Celestia. "Um... Princess Celestia?"
Celestia couldn't believe this. "Yes, Tower Shield?"
Tower winced that she had remembered his name. "Are... the Elements of Harmony your accomplices in this robbery?" he meekly asked. This conflicted with so many of his beliefs and values he was surprised he hadn't quit on the spot. However ridiculous the idea of arresting Princess Celestia was, it was his duty to uphold the law.
"No. This was all my idea. They were hostages." Celestia replied with controlled tone. She was going to see this through, even if she had unwittingly played directly into Aether's hooves.
"Princess Celestia, what are-?" Twilight blurted out, before she was silenced by Celestia's magic.
"No, Twilight. We must do this the proper way. Applejack was right. This was an error on our part. We must be better than the evil we seek to end." Celestia sagely replied. Internally however, she was close to erupting into a supernova of rage. This Alicorn was barely a year old! A year! She was out-played by a foal!
"Right this way, your highness." Garotte smugly waved a forehoof towards the exit. She was able to be confident, as the situation that Celestia had been placed in would be made immeasurably worse if she was attacked now.
As Celestia moved past with the guards and Filthy Rich, Twilight came to Garotte in shock. "How could you?"
"Twilight, when are you going to understand?" Garotte sighed.
"Help me understand, then." Twilight insisted, her anger barely held.
"I'll tell you a story, then." Garotte cleared her throat, taking in the looks of betrayal and anger directed towards her.
"Once upon a time, there was a Scorpion. This scorpion was attempting to cross a river, and had been carefully skittering along the edge between rock and water. Suddenly, the river changed, and the scorpion was swept into the water. Up above, a crow had seen the plight of the scorpion, and decided to intervene. Swooping down and plucking the scorpion from the water in its beak, it managed to ask if the scorpion was alright. In reply, the scorpion stung the crow, causing them to both fall into the water once again."
"Why did you do that?' the Crow asked, slowly dying from the venom of the Scorpion. "Now we're both going to drown!"
"I couldn't help it.' replied the Scorpion sadly. 'It's in my nature."
Finishing her story, and seeing the various states of confusion, she decided to turn around and begin walking away.
"Wait!" asked Fluttershy.
Garotte turned to look behind her.
"Which one are you?"
Garotte looked to Fluttershy and half-smiled with a sad expression before walking away from the group.
This couldn't be happening. This couldn't possibly be happening! Princess Celestia has been arrested?!
Twilight was in full panic mode. They were now sitting in a court room with a 'neutral third party' as the acting judge.
As the god of Chaos, he was not beholden to anybeing but himself, and he found the outcome of this trial to be completely enrapturing. Princess Celestia, Ruler of Equestria and Princess of the Sun was on trial for robbery.
And he was the judge!
This was almost too hilarious to even take seriously, but there wouldn't be any fun in the matter if he decided out of claw before it had begun. After all, it allowed him the opportunity to be freed from his imprisonment and to bear witness to the most absurd thing in the past millennium since his imprisonment in stone!
Coughing into his claw, Discord got the attention of the courtroom. He was wearing a powdered wig, a colonial era shirt with accompanying poofy tie, Aviator sunglasses and a tall Trottingham policepony's hat on top of everything else. He looked fairly absurd, but this was the point. The whole situation itself was completely beyond anything even he could've dreamt up.
"All rise!" He said officially, reveling in the moment. "We are gathered here today to witness the holy matrimony of these two-" Somepony whispered into his ear. "Oh! Right, sorry. Wrong ceremony."
Pinkie Pie giggled.
"The..." He forgot the fancy terms used to describe who did what, so he went with simplicity. "The one who is accusing the lovely Princess of Robbery, please state your case."
Then, looking for the first time, he noticed that the pony in charge of 'offense' as he dubbed it, was a trio of foals.
"Wait, are you serious? Pfft!" Discord couldn't take it. The 'offense' had sent foals after Celestia! The irony was priceless.
After Discord had the chance to calm down, the foal spoke. "It is owah objec-tiv to prove dat pwincess Celestia is guilty of robba-ree!" The colt dramatically declared, to the gasps of those who had wandered in and didn't know what all of this was about.
"Furtha-more, we ah here to proov da inno-cents of our client, Queen Aze!" a Filly announced.
Everyone collectively looked to the changeling Queen that had been disguised as the third foal.
"Hello! What is this room for?" she asked obliviously.
"Oh... this is going to be fun!" Discord purred with a malicious grin.