• Published 12th Dec 2013
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My Little Investigations: The Gemstone Godfather - Metool Bard



Some jerk is trying to shake me down for gems, but he won't tell me who the buck he is. Why me of all ponies? I have no idea.

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Illuminated Shadows

July 13, 4:14 PM
Everfree Forest
Access Tunnel
***

We walked through the tunnel in silence for a time. The only sounds that could be heard were the clip-clop of our hooves, the magic from my horn, and Mare-Do-Well's heavy breathing. Every once in a while, Derpy looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was behind us. I don't really blame her for that. After all, there really isn't anything stopping Dodger from following us down here. Nevertheless, we appeared to be alone for the time being. Good. I think I've had my fill of action for one day.

We were about halfway through the tunnel (to my best estimate) when Mare-Do-Well spoke up.

"Hold on. L-let's rest for a moment," she said. "We'll be safe here."

"Are you sure?" said Derpy, still looking over her shoulder. "That Dragonvest meanie is gonna be pretty ticked at us when he realizes his gems are gone."

"We won't have to worry about him here," said Mare-Do-Well. "Trust me."

Derpy looked at me, and we exchanged shrugs.

"Okay, if you say so," said Derpy, setting Mare-Do-Well down. I did the same.

"Thank you," said Mare-Do-Well, taking a few breaths. "Now then, I think this is a good a time as any for me to explain myself."

"Yeah, about that," I said. "What exactly brought this on? Your necklace?"

"Well, yes," said Mare-Do-Well sheepishly. "Ms. Sparkler, do you know what a ponunculus is?"

"A po-nun-what-now?" asked Derpy.

"Yeah, I'm with Mom on this one," I said.

Mare-Do-Well sighed. "Right. Well, a ponunculus is an artificial pony created by magic, and that is what I am. This vial here is my core; in layman's terms, my heart. I cannot survive without it."

She pointed to the vial that hung around her neck. From the cracks in the vial, I think I understand why she appears to be so weak right now.

"Well, that's all fine and dandy," I said. "But, who created you? And why did you disappear for so long?"

Mare-Do-Well obscured her eyes with her hat. "First of all, my creator is not a subject I wish to discuss. It's a long story that, reopens some old wounds. Secondly, I'm not the same Mare-Do-Well you remember from many moons ago. That was just an act performed by a group of friends in order to teach one Rainbow Dash a lesson in humility."

I, guess that makes sense. No wonder she disappeared after Rainbow Dash chased her off; she probably found out the truth. Though I find it strange that somepony would create a pony based on this isolated phenomenon.

"So, wait. You're not an alicorn?" asked Derpy, tilting her head. "Because the old Mare-Do-Well was strong, fast, could use magic, and could fly."

"That's because she was played by several different ponies," said Mare-Do-Well. "My framework, however, is solely based on a pegasus."

"Huh," said Derpy. "Well, you learn something new every day, I guess."

"Mmm," I said, furrowing my brow. "Um, do you mind if I ask you some questions?"

"Of course. Just, don't ask me about my creator."

"What were you doing in Ponyville? You kinda dodged the question when I first asked you about it."

Mare-Do-Well sighed. "Well, here's the thing. As a pony who is dedicated to protecting others, I get into a lot of fights; much like the one we just experienced. As such, my core gets damaged. There's only one pony I trust to repair it, and she happens to live in Ponyville."

Something clicked in my mind. "This pony. I'm just going out on a limb here, but does she happen to be Princess Twilight Sparkle?"

Mare-Do-Well nodded. "Impressive, Ms. Sparkler. How did you guess?"

"Well, she's the only pony I can think of who would know what the heck a ponunculus is," I said with a shrug. "I take it she's also the friend you plan on giving the gemstones to."

"Correct," said Mare-Do-Well. "She's actually one of the few ponies I trust with my identity. Oh, speaking of which, I have something to give you."

Mare-Do-Well reached into her cloak and pulled out a scroll. When I opened it up, there was a little note taped to it. I read as follows:

Sparkler:

The spell on this scroll lets you see through illusions. My friend says that you might need it. Let me know if things get too heavy for you, and I'll do everything in my power to help.

Signed,
Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship; Former Bearer of the Element of Magic

Ah, now it all makes sense. Princess Twilight's mysterious informant was Mare-Do-Well. That's why she knows what's going on. It also explains why she isn't investigating herself. Mare-Do-Well probably warned her against it because of the threat of an international incident, just like she told me. I think I'm starting to get a clear picture of Mare-Do-Well's involvement in this mess.

"So, let me see if I've got this right," I said. "You were just on your way to Princess Twilight's house when you noticed my mom getting attacked, so you went to save her. And from there, you decided to try and solve this mystery."

"That pretty much sums it up," said Mare-Do-Well with a dry chuckle. "I know it sounds like quite a big coincidence, but that's why the word exists."

"Well, why didn't you tell me?"

Mare-Do-Well sighed. "Again, I'm not comfortable with sharing my identity with others. I was actually hoping that it would remain a secret this time around."

"This time around?" I parroted. "You mean you've been in this situation before?"

"Once or twice," said Mare-Do-Well. "That is to say I've worked with ponies to solve mysteries such as this one."

"You don't say," I said. "Tell me, do you always act so wishy-washy around your partner, whoever that may be?"

Mare-Do-Well tilted her head. "I, don't understand the question, Ms. Sparkler."

"Ever since I met you, you've kept giving me mixed signals," I said. "You say you need my help, but then two seconds later you say I don't have to get involved if I don't want to. So which is it?"

Mare-Do-Well twiddled her hooves. "Well, how do I put this? In the past, I haven't worked well with other ponies. I either come across as a pest by forcing ponies into situations they're not comfortable with, or I underestimate a pony's resolve and try to handle everything by myself when I clearly cannot. So, with you, I decided to take the middle ground and abide by your choices."

I nodded. "Well, that was kinda stupid of you."

Mare-Do-Well did a double take. "Pardon me?"

"Don't get me wrong; it's very nice of you to take my feelings into consideration," I said. "But, try thinking about your own needs every once in a while. It's absolutely okay. If you think I can help, just ask me for help. Don't take this wishy-washy approach and say I can help 'if I want to.' Especially since you really did need my help back there."

"That's, true," said Mare-Do-Well. "But I don't want to put you into danger you can't handle."

"Well, I'll be honest with you. There have been a few times where I felt like I was in over my head," I said, brushing the back of my mane. "But if you really needed my help, which you did, then you should've been more assertive about it. Half the reason I've kept going is that I knew in the back of my mind that you were in the shadows protecting me. And while that was nice and all, a little verbal encouragement wouldn't hurt, either."

"But, is that what you want?" asked Mare-Do-Well.

I sighed. "Ms. Mare-Do-Well, this isn't about what I want. It's never been about what I want. I've dedicated myself to solving this mystery because I feel that it's something I have to do."

Mare-Do-Well grew quiet for a moment, and then nodded. "I see. You've certainly given me a lot to think about, Ms. Sparkler," she said. "Thank you."

"Eh, don't mention it," I said. "So, all rested up? 'Cause I think it's about time we..."

I trailed off when I heard another set of footsteps echoing through the tunnels. From behind, I noticed the light of a lantern flickering in the distance.

"Someone's coming!" Derpy squeaked, looking every which way for a way out. "What do we do?!"

"This," said Mare-Do-Well.

She then got up and tapped her hoof on the wall, revealing a small panel. Suddenly, right before my eyes, the wall disappeared and revealed another tunnel.

"Quick, this way!" she said.

Too confused to argue, Derpy and I followed her through the new passageway. Once we were all through, Mare-Do-Well tapped a panel on the wall, and a slab of rock covered up the entranceway.

"Um, you mind explaining that?" I asked.

"Shh, later," Mare-Do-Well hissed, placing her ear against the wall. With a shrug, I did the same.

"Hey, did you hear that?" asked a grumbling voice I didn't recognize.

"Kinda," said another rough, scratchy voice. "Maybe we've got a few other guys in transit. You know how it is."

"Yeah, I guess," said the first voice with a sigh. "I still can't believe we've got to do this."

"You and me both, buddy," said the second. "But we've got our orders."

"I know, I know," said the first. "I just wish she wasn't such an annoying brat."

Well, gee. That doesn't sound suspicious or anything. I can deduce that these guys are a couple of grunts sent down here to do someone's dirty work. What that dirty work is or who they're working for, I haven't a clue. After all, I can only hear what's going on.

"Look, I hear ya," said the second voice. "Just let me do the talking. I'll set her straight."

There was then a rumbling sound, probably from another hidden passage opening. It was then that I was treated to a third voice. This one was clearly feminine, and also kinda, familiar.

"Ah, you guys must be with room service. It's about time. Do you know how long we've been waiting here?"

"Don't you start," snarled one of the grunts.

"Now is that any way to treat a guest?" said the female voice. "I'll have you know that we've been stuck here for Celestia knows how long without even one decent meal. And no offense to my roommate here, but she's been giving me strange looks."

There was suddenly an odd sound that I couldn't quite place. It was, kind of like a squawk, but not really.

"On the plus side, she makes a great conversationalist," said the female voice. "If it wasn't for her, I'd be bored out of my skull down here."

Ah-ha. Now I recognize that voice. I know that kind of snark from anywhere. It was Limestone Pie, whom as I recall was abducted from the Pie Rock Farm last night. And that squawk was probably Crackle; the wandering watch-dragon Sykes Silvervest hired. What were they doing down here?

"Listen, we don't want any of your nonsense, pony," said one of the grunts. "Now c'mon. We're relocating you."

"Oh, so you did get my request for better accommodations," said Limestone. "Goody. I was hoping not to get your manager involved in this."

"Shaddup!" barked the other grunt.

"Okay. I'll shut up," said Limestone. "Why should I keep talking if I'm told to shut up? I mean, Pinkie's the one in our family who won't shut up. Seriously, she's just like yap yap yap yap yap yap yap all day long. But not me. No, sir. When I'm told to shut up, I shut up. In fact..."

"Shaddup shutting up!" the first grunt barked.

Derpy stifled a giggle, but was quickly hushed by Mare-Do-Well. I'll admit, hearing Limestone make light of her predicament was kinda funny. In my experience, wisecracks are Limestone's greatest weapons against adversity. She's probably one of the biggest smart alecks I know. So it's nice to hear that she hasn't lost her edge.

"Okay, geeze. Take a chill pill," said Limestone. "So, what can you tell me about the new room? Does it at least have a bed? 'Cause if I wanted to sleep on rocks, I'd just stay home. At least bedrocks are comfy."

"Just come with us," groaned one of the grunts.

"But what about her?" asked Limestone. "She's gonna be awfully lonely without her roommate."

There was a squawk from Crackle.

"She's not your concern, pony," growled one of the grunts. "Now c'mon."

"Hey hey hey! Careful with the merchandise!" snapped Limestone. "You're mussing up my coat!"

The grunts paid her no heed as they assumedly carried her off (I say that because I didn't hear any hoofsteps). When their voices completely faded, I breathed a quick sigh and turned to Mare-Do-Well.

"Okay, it's clear that those guys are working for the culprit, whoever they are," I said. "But, what's this all about?"

"You mean the passageways?" said Mare-Do-Well. "Well, that's simple. I investigated this tunnel for a bit after I followed you. Turns out there are, let's see, one, two, three, and the one we just heard makes four hidden passageways down here."

"Why would someone do that?" asked Derpy.

"I have a few hunches, but we won't know until we explore one of them," said Mare-Do-Well. "Come, let's go."

Without waiting for an acknowledgement, she started off down the passageway. With a shrug, I followed at her heels while Derpy trailed behind. I guess this makes sense. After all, we can't go back the way we came.

***
July 13, 4:44 PM
Pie Rock Farm
East Field
***

When we emerged from the tunnel, I couldn't believe my eyes. I immediately recognized the location to be the Pie Rock Farm, meaning we must've come out of one of their underground mines that they use when there's a surface shortage (ask a rock farmer what that means). This was a big piece of evidence. The culprit wasn't just using that tunnel as a vantage point for Crackle to attack Derpy. He was using it to get around without arousing suspicion! Well, that and the Shroud Emeralds, but still! This is a pretty important clue, if I do say so myself.

"Just as I thought," mused Mare-Do-Well. "That network of tunnels was created by the culprit. They probably used Shroud Emeralds to avoid detection while they were constructing it."

"Yeah, it looks like we know how the culprit managed to pull everything off," I said. "But, we still don't know who the culprit is yet. Sykes Silvervest and Dodger Dragonvest could very well be lying to us."

"Well, I have a feeling that we'll find the truth tomorrow," said Mare-Do-Well. "For now, I should probably bring the Benevolent Animals to Princess Twilight and get my core repaired. After that, I'm going to check out the rest of these tunnels and see where they lead. From there, it should be obvious who our quarry is."

"You really think so?" asked Derpy, reaching into her mailbag and giving the gemstones to Mare-Do-Well.

"Indeed," said Mare-Do-Well with a nod. "Thank you both again for your help. And for, giving me something to think about."

"Hey, thank us when it's over, alright?" I said with a snicker.

Mare-Do-Well snickered herself. "Fair enough, Ms. Sparkler."

"Sparkler!"

Just then, I heard Pinkie's voice coming from across the field. I turned to see her running up to me with Marble by her side.

"It's good to see that you're alright," she said happily. She then tilted her head. "Um, did you just come from the mines? How?"

"It's a long story," I said. "Here's the short version. Turns out the culprit has a system of tunnels leading to several different places. I think this is how he's getting around without being noticed, along with the Shroud Emeralds."

"I see," said Pinkie, stroking her chin. "So, where does that tunnel go, exactly?"

"Again, long story," I said. "Listen, do you think you could take...?"

I gestured with my hoof and turned around. I was going to ask Pinkie if she would take Mare-Do-Well to Princess Twilight, but just like every other time, she was gone. I guess even with our bonding session, old habits die hard. That or she's about as stubborn as a mule (no offense to any mules out there).

"Take what?" asked Pinkie.

"Never mind," I sighed. "Here, let me tell you what we found out..."

***

We spent the rest of the day recapping everything for Pinkie, omitting a few things about Mare-Do-Well that she probably wanted to keep private. Pinkie and Marble were relieved to hear that Limestone was okay, and Marble said she'd get to work sealing off the tunnel so that the culprit couldn't strike the farm again. She also said that she'd see her older sister Maud about setting up some mud pits to detect Shroud Emeralds. Between the Pies and Carrot Top's up-to-date security system, I don't think this bastard is gonna get the drop on us again. At least I hope not.

So, with Mare-Do-Well indisposed and no other leads to follow up on at the moment, Derpy and I headed for home. Good thing, too. I'm completely exhausted for obvious reasons. It'll be nice to take a breather and unwind.

...

I just realized something. It's very hard to look forward to relaxing when you know in the back of your mind that someone's out to get you. Ugh, I really hope Mare-Do-Well's right about tomorrow. I don't know if I can take much more of this...