• Published 20th May 2015
  • 14,330 Views, 3,125 Comments

Shifting Melodies - Thadius0

He's a unicorn accountant in service to a smuggling ring. She's a high-ranking Thestral in the Day Guard. Together, they fight crime. Too bad one of them's lying.

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Chapter Four - A hive of Activity

Midnight frowned as she stared at the wall. Over the last few days they’d made some progress, Narrow had convinced her friend about telling the truth about his bastard child, and even arranged a meeting.

And it had gone quite well, yeah, his wife had been pissed but a mistake was a mistake and she knew her husband still loved her. They eventually settled on joint custody of the foal and everyone was one big happy family. He’d agreed to stop supporting Toll Taker and had even arrested a few of her goons when they swung by for a progress report.

What was annoying Song though, was that she was still stuck on the damned sidelines like a sexy cheerleader, and while she looked really good in a cheerleader uniform, it wasn’t really her thing.

She stared up at the wall, several lines had been removed or replaced, showing what they’d done so far and how they’d affected Toll’s wrong-doings and whatnot.

“This is quite the substantial amount of progress,” Ledger said as he pulled a few more black strings off the wall. “Next up, when is Narrow going to confront her guards about their divided loyalties?”

“Soon I think,” Midnight replied half-heartedly. “She’s organising a Longtrip, oh, that’s a type of training where you go out into the wilderness for a few days. She’s taking the suspected ones and confronting them without fear of interruption or interference.”

“Good,” the unicorn said as he turned to some of the ones he’d just altered and pulling more than a few red and blue lines off the walls. “The spider must be getting nervous now that her web is coming undone around her,” he observed. “And she is looking into everyone...all the lower-ranked guys, anyways. She figures it’s a rookie with a heart of gold and a long muzzle. The ones closer to her have too much to lose if she goes down, so I’m safe for a little bit longer yet.”

“You know,” Midnight sighed as she lay her head on the desk. “It’d be a lot easier if you’d just tell me your secret. I won’t think any less of you, you know?”

Ledger paused for a moment, before looking at Midnight and sighing himself. “I can’t,” he said simply. “Not with things the way they are. It would metaphorically destroy me if I told you my secret. Which is why she has to go. She knows, and would not shy away from telling the world if she suspects I have any hoof in her demise.”

“Fine, whatever,” Midnight pouted. “Be all cryptic and crap.” She stood up and walked towards the door. “I’m going to take a walk, all this sitting around will make me resemble a cockatrice victim soon...”

“Just be careful out there,” Ledger said as she left. “She’s not above having you injured if you make it obvious that you’re a part of what’s going on. I daresay she’ll start trying to have her goons ambush members of the guard.”

“Would she really be that brazen?” Midnight questioned. “Whatever, it’s not like they could take me anyway.” She gave a brief flick of her tail and left the stallion to his thoughts.

“Once Narrow comes back with a force that doesn’t listen to Toll?...Oh yes. She’ll assume the worst...And that worries me greatly.”

He still got the occasional pat on the back from random stallions on his way to his office at work for what he’d done a while ago. Toll might seek to capitalize on that...which only spelled trouble.

Midnight walked the streets, a small frown creasing her brow as several thoughts pervaded her mind. She saw Narrow headed for the city gates, nearly a dozen mares and stallions following her, laden down with several days worth of camping gear.

“Well, best of luck Ma’am,” Midnight muttered as she headed for her new favourite restaurant. The now familiar bell chimed as she walked into Fredrick’s establishment. She crossed the wooden floor and plopped herself down on a barstool, her head coming to rest on the countertop.

“Fred... drink~” she whined in a low tone.

“Somepony is having a bad day,” the griffon observed, surprisingly forgoing the flirting this time. “How hard a drink are you after?”

“Nothing too hard,” she replied, not even looking up. “Gimme one of those fruity, filly drinks.”

“Coming right up,” he said, ducking behind the bar to grab all of the ingredients. After a solid minute of him shaking, stirring, and pouring various fluids together, he presented Midnight with a reddish-orange beverage.

“I call this one a Soothing Sunset,” Fredrick said. “Apple, banana, mango, and just a touch of rum. Too many will sneak up on you, but just one should be fine.”

Midnight’s ears suddenly flicked at the mention of the word ‘mango’, a reaction that did not go unnoticed by Fredrick. She lifted her head and took a tentative sip of the drink, before shrugging and downing the rest of it, savouring the fruity taste.

“Mm, not bad little birdy,” she hummed. “Well, guess you’re my favourite for a reason.”

“I bet you say that to every male that gets you a drink,” the half-bird said with a wink. “So, feeling a little better?”

“A little, just wish they’d stop treating me as useless,” she muttered as she cradled the now empty glass. “I’m not useless you know!”

“Of course you aren’t,” the gryphon said, seeking to placate the mare. “But are you sure that’s what they’re doing?”

“I don’t know...” Midnight sighed. She knew that her friends wouldn’t do something like that on purpose. “It’s just... argh!” She slammed her head back down on the countertop with a solid ‘thunk’


“Well you can either wait for an explanation, or do something about the situation yourself,” Fredrick proffered. “Though usually-”

“That’s perfect!” Midnight sat up, her eyes blazing with righteous determination. “If I just take her out, then all this goes away!” She leaned forward and gave Fredrick a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks for the pep talk Freddy~ Gotta fly!” And with that, she became an armoured blur as she dropped some coins on the counter and flew out the nearest window.

“Something tells me that whatever that was will not end well,” the gryphon said as he picked up the bits.

“I bet Toll has to do some legwork at some point,” she grinned, as she hid on a rooftop near Pegasus Air’s main building. “Tail her, and when she inevitably does something illegal, take her down.” Midnight squeed as she clapped her hooves. “It’s the perfect plan~”

About twenty minutes would pass before the Thestral saw any activity out the front door. First, two pegasi came out the main door and looked around, even taking to the air to make sure nobody was watching.

“Hmm, just what are you up to?’ she murmured, taking cover as their gaze wandered past her position. Once they’d finished, she poked her head up again. “C’mon Toll Taker, come out and play~”

Almost as though she’d been beckoned by the batpony’s words, the cream coated unicorn walked out the front door next. The two goons landed next to her and conversed for a moment. After which, the mare nodded and the three of them headed off to...who knows where.

“Well paint my butt white and call me Celestia, she actually came out,” Song sounded quite surprised. While this was a decision based on a whim, she wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass her by. Once they were a distance away, she took to the air, soaring up above the clouds, her thestral vision keeping track of the trio.

The three of them appeared to be heading to a local bar, of all things. Though if the frown on the mare’s face was anything to go by, it wasn’t to get drunk. Once they arrived, the two goons stood outside the front door, while Toll went inside.

“Damn, now what do I do... oh, duh, backdoor!” she dropped down from the sky, landing almost silently in the alley next to the bar. Taking a peek to make sure the goons hadn’t seen or heard her land, she made her way to the rear of the building. The door was locked, but it didn’t take long to pick the lock. It opened with a light squeak and she tiptoed inside.

The bar was dimly lit and she carefully sidestepped around a few discarded bottles until she reached the door that led to the main room. Opening it ever-so-slightly, she peeked in…

“Now Mister Malt, I’m sure you understand my position, yes? For some reason, the guard is closing in. I need to know what you told them.”

There was a whimper of pain, before a stallion spoke up in response. “I didn’t tell anypony anything! I know the rules! Please, it feels like it’s about to break!”

“Oh, you haven’t felt pain yet,” the too-nice voice returned. “You’re certain? Not a whisper to anypony outside of the company?”

“Not even so much as a mutter to myself, miss!”

So this guy was in on it too? And she said his name was Malt... Midnight would have to check the board when she got home. Well, she was being rough, but nothing worth arresting her over... C’mon, all she needed was one slip of the tongue, anything!

“Good stallion. I’d hate for little Single and Double to come home and wonder why daddy wasn’t breathing.”

The male whimpered again. “Please, ma’am...I told nopony! Please don’t hurt my family!”

“Of course not,” the mare’s voice said. “But I’d keep a good watch on your foals. I’d hate for them to not come home one night, wouldn’t you?”

Midnight suppressed a growl, oh this mare was a real piece of work. She threatens foals and apparently isn’t above getting her own hooves dirty from the looks of it. Midnight weighed her options of whether she should bust in there or not. Taking Toll down meant an end to all this... but there were so many variables, Ledger’s secret, the safety and whereabouts of the kidnapped foals... The more she thought about it, the more this was looking like a bad idea.

“Now when will my next shipment be in? I’m running low on ponypower, in case you were wondering about why Bludgeon isn’t the one doing this,” the mare spoke again.

“Ah! Usual time! So long as the money gets to them, your things come to me!” The stallion said. “Do...do you want me to deliver them this time? I mean, without Bludgeon and all…”

There was a gasp of relief from the stallion, and the sound of somepony moving around in the next room. “Mmm, this is why I like you, Malt. Always willing to help...when provided the right incentive. Do that, and I can promise your family won’t be the victim of my little gathering units.”

Midnight decided, once Toll left, the thestral would have her own little chat with this Malt fellow…

“Of course, ma’am. Is there anything else you need, ma’am?”

“Yeah, keep an ear and eye out for me. I’ve got a rat around, in case you hadn’t noticed. And while it might not be you, your bar is a favorite of the company. You hear anything you think I should know, you tell me.”

“Yes ma’am. I know the rules, ma’am.”

The sound of one pony leaving slowly filtered over to Midnight. She smiled as she peeked in, poor Malt had barely gotten his heart under control before a voice spoke from behind him.

“Okay Mr. Malt... you’re going to tell me every little detail about that mare~”

The Earth Pony stallion shrieked and turned, holding one hoof over his heart and backing up rapidly. “What...what mare? I don’t see no mare here,” he barely got out as he fought to keep his heart in his chest.

“Don’t lie to me,” she cooed as she stepped closer, her face still hidden by shadows, save for her glowing golden eyes. “A thestral can tell when you’re lying... a thestral can tell when when you’re scared... and believe me~” she stepped from the shadows, her fangs glinting wickedly. “You haven’t even begun to know fear~”

The stallion’s second scream brought with it the attention of one of Toll’s goons, though. Apparently, she’d sent him back for some reason...and now she had a lean, angry pegasus in the doorway. “And you would be the local hotshot,” she heard growled out at her.

“Well crap, didn’t count on Malt being a little filly about all this,” Midnight scowled at the pegasus. “Hmm, don’t think we’ve had the pleasure. Don’t mind me, just after a drink and it seems my appearance is a little off-putting to some ponies.”

“Yeah right,” the stallion replied, dropping into a lower stance right away. “Malt, you keep your trap shut and leave her to me.”

The Earth Pony nodded and made for the stairs, leaving the two to...whatever they were about to do.

“Aw, do you really wanna dance with me?” Midnight replied as she unsheathed her wingblades. “I prefer my dance partners to be a little on the intelligent side.”

“I’ll keep it quick, then,” the stallion responded, keeping an eye on not the blades, but the wings they were attached to, along with where she was looking. “You either get outta town now, and maybe your little colt-toy will live if he wasn’t doin’ this on purpose, or Toll will bring the pain down on you both, little bat.”

This was dumb, now Ledger was in trouble because of her... provided this guy was allowed to live-NO! She wasn’t going to... She shook her head and stared back at him. “That guy? Hasn’t said two words to me since I got here, and he isn’t even that good-looking.” She had to steer the blame away from him. “If you idiots removed the labels from your boxes, I might not have even been here.” She observed her opponent, particularly his wings and shoulders, if they so much as twitched, she’d strike.

“Let me lay it out for you reaaaal simple-like. He’s a part of the company, you ain’t. You were there, he wasn’t. So the way we figure it, if nobody else fesses up to being the rat, it’s your roomie, and one of you’s dying because of it.” The only parts of him that moved were his mouth and lungs, he kept his wings and the rest of his body perfectly still. He sure as Tartarus wasn’t going to make the first move!

They were right to keep her out of it, she really was useless and dumb! And now Ledger was going to get hurt because of it!

“Then let me make it simple for you,” she replied. “I’m going to take you in now!” she rushed forward, her blade making a sweep for his wing, while the other aimed at his foreleg. The stallion jumped back enough to clear the ringing metal, before giving his wings a quick flap as he jumped at the mare, one hoof pulled back to punch her in the face.

Her tongue suddenly shot out, grabbing his hoof and yanking down while she pivoted on her left forehoof, bringing her hind leg down towards his head. He twisted as much as he could in her grasp, but was still dealt a glancing blow that made his head swim. With a firm yank, he pulled himself free of her appendage and backed up, shaking his head to try and clear the ringing from it.

Midnight’s tongue slipped back into her mouth as she spat on the floor. “Urgh! Wash your hooves more often,” she spat again. She raised her sword and brought the flat side down towards him. She needed to end this before his buddy showed up. Coupled with the earlier blow, the stallion fell, but wasn’t out totally...as evidenced by his reply to being knocked down.

“Hey...calling on your twins is cheating…”

“You should only be so lucky,” she smiled, before rendering the stallion unconscious. She sighed and sheathed her swords, looking around for Malt, but he appeared to be long gone.

“Feh! Figures... at least I have you to chat with now,” she smiled. “Now I just need to get you back to the station... alone... buck.”

The door to Ledger’s apartment slammed open and Midnight galloped in, her eyes darting around. “Ledger? Please tell me you're here and not dead!”

“I have no intention to die just yet,” the unicorn said as he walked out of the kitchen, a glass of lemonade hovering in front of him.

“Oh! Good, whew!” Midnight breathed a sigh of relief. “For a minute there I thought Toll’s goons would have-” she jammed a hoof into her mouth to stop her talking.

“...Did something happen?” the stallion asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Well, um,” she took a deep breath. “I may have followed Toll to a bar owned by a guy named Malt and confronted him, but he screamed and one of her goons came in so I beat him up and arrested him when he said he’d kill yoouuuuu....” She said in a single breath, wheezing slightly once she was done.

“That…” Ledger sighed and shook his head. “You realize somepony’s going to have to tell Narrow when she gets back, right? And tell me you stuck him in some sort of isolation.”

“I did and I will and I’m sorry,” Midnight hung her head. “I... didn’t mean for this to happen it’s just... I thought if I could catch Toll in the act, I could arrest her and this would all be over...”

“Toll is nothing if not careful when she can be. When she needs to be, she’s remarkably brutal when it gets hooves-on.” Ledger took a sip of his lemonade before continuing. “In a way, while I loathe what she uses it for, I have to admire the construction of her elaborate empire...before we started tearing it down, of course.”

“Yeah,” Midnight sighed. She just knew he was disappointed in her carelessness. “At least I found out how she has leverage over a pony name Malt, and that he’s the one in charge of the foalnappings from the look of it.”

“Malt?” Ledger pursed his lips as he thought, before shaking his head. “No, doesn’t fit. He’s a single father, he would never kidnap another’s foals. I don’t know who the mother was...but the reason she has leverage over him is because she funds the school his foals go to.”

“She threatened to kidnap his foals herself, or use some guy named, uh, Bludgeon!”

“Ah, I know that one,” Ledger said with a nod. “Bludgeon’s her chief enforcer. Earth pony. Doesn’t talk much. And he hits hard and leaves nothing standing when he does.”

“He sounds like a real charmer,” Midnight said with a soured tone. She sighed and looked at him. Might as well get this over with now. “So when do you want me to leave?”

“...What are you talking about?” he asked, puzzled by the question.

“I put your life at risk because I got jealous of not doing anything!” she yelled. “Why? Why would you want a useless mare like me around when all...” Her voice dropped to barely a whisper. “When all I do is cause trouble...”

“You are not useless,” Ledger responded. “If nothing else, I at least know to watch my back when I go into work tomorrow. And let me ask you a few questions to make certain of your not-uselessness. Did Toll sound annoyed, nervous, impatient?”

“Definitely annoyed,” she muttered, staring at the carpet. “She knows it’s somepony in her company... doesn’t know who though.”

“In the time I’ve worked under her directly, she was only ever mildly peeved when I told her something shouldn’t be done,” Ledger said with a small smirk. “She’s breaking as her empire collapses around her.”

“And that’s a good thing right?” Midnight questioned. When a pony became irritable or angry, the less predictable and more dangerous they become.

“She’s going to make a mistake, Miss Song, and when she does, I will finally be free of that…” He glowered for a moment before shaking his head. “The only word I know that might work to describe her is in Changeish, and I just can’t say it. No pony can, really.”

Midnight nodded and sat on her rump. “Still... I really messed up on this one. It sounded like a good idea at the time...”

“Oh no, trust me, I thought along similar lines when I learned what she did,” Ledger said as he took the couch and sighed. “The problem is, that Toll doesn’t make mistakes. When she’s got time to herself and thinks to check all the options, she never gets caught.”

Midnight buried her face into a cushion and screamed. After a minute or so, she finally lifted her head, her face flushed red from the lack of air. “Okay! I feel a little better now...”

“Get some rest,” Ledger said. “Wait for Narrow to come back...and I’ll try to help intercede on your behalf. I know Pegasi hate being told to sit still. So we can probably make a case for that with your actions.”

“Yeah... sorry again,” Midnight replied as she headed to her room. What she didn’t tell him was that the goon knew her, knew that she’d been interfering in their plans, and that she was close to Level Ledger.

“No matter what,” she mumbled to herself as she closed her door. “I’ll keep him safe... I’ll keep all my friends safe.”

Ledger drained the last of his lemonade and sighed. “She shouldn’t apologize for being herself...There’s only ever one you.” Here he chuckled weakly. “Well, unless you’re me, I suppose.”

A few days later, Captain Narrow finally returned, along with a troop of guards that looked defeated, dejected and remorseful. But more importantly, Narrow had shown then the reasons why they had joined Celestia’s guard, and why betraying that trust was a very bad idea.

Her victorious mood had deflated somewhat when she learned of Midnight Song’s little escapade, and had marched straight over to the shared apartment to get the finer details.

“Rookie! What the flying buck did you do!?” she yelled a she practically kicked the door in, still disguised as Ledger’s ‘sister’.

“And hello to you too,” Ledger said as he levitated a cup of fresh coffee over to himself from the dining table, newspaper in front of him. “Please, do come in. Don’t mind me.”

“Level! Where is that bat, so I can skin her alive,” Narrow growled as Midnight cautiously entered the room outside of her field of vision... by walking along the ceiling.

“I’d rather you didn’t, she is a remarkably good houseguest and has promised to pay her rent on time,” Ledger said before putting two sugarcubes in his cup of coffee and sipping from it.

“Her rent is covered by the government,” Narrow sighed as she closed the door and looked up. “As long as nopony knows, you’ll still get it.”

“I ah... can explain?” she said sheepishly.

“Oh, you’d better have a good one,” Narrow replied, grabbing the mare’s tail and yanking her down to the floor with an unceremonious thud. Ledger sighed and got up from the table, his coffee still on it. With a sparking of his horn, both mares were encased in his telekinetic field.

“Now I don’t want to have to hurt a mare. I really don’t. But if the next few minutes are not followed by the both of you calmly talking about your issues, then one of you is getting thrown out my window, status in the Guard be damned.” With that delivered, the unicorn sat himself back down at the table, pulled the newspaper open again, and let the mares go. “Now, try not to interrupt my daily coffee again, please.”

“Never do that again,” Narrow said simply once he’d let go. “And I apologise, I’ve just spent the last three days whipping insolent mares and stallions back into shape, and I have no idea how Toll will react to this little upset.” She sighed as she sat at the table, pouring herself a cup of Ledger’s delicious coffee. She took a long drink from the mug and sighed happily.

“Right, now I’m better. Rookie, explain. Now.”

“I have no excuses Ma’am,” Song replied with a salute. “I got upset being stuck on the sidelines and tried to do something myself, and while obtained some valuable information, I also put myself and Level Ledger’s lives at risk. It was stupid, foolish and a completely rookie move.”

“Damn right it was,” Narrow nodded as she sipped at her coffee again. “And you can be damned sure you won’t pull a stunt like this again right?”

Midnight was silent for a moment. “I cannot make that promise Ma’am!”

Narrow paused as her eyebrow made it’s way up. “Oh?”

“I am impetuous, tend to follow my instincts, and have a terrible lack of respect for anyone’s authority aside from Princess Celestia. That said, I will promise to put more thought into my actions in the future to minimise collateral damage.”

“You really should know better than to ask a Pegasus or a Thestral to ‘sit still,’ miss Narrow,” Ledger said with a slight chuckle. “It almost always ends with them saying the wind pushed it over.”

Narrow sighed as she refilled her mug. “Honestly, a pony with your accolades shouldn’t be so undisciplined... but you also delivered a valuable asset to my station and you and Level here are still breathing. So props for that... but,” she looked at the mare with a stern gaze. “I’m going to have to place you on temporary probation until things die down.”


“I won’t mark it on your record, in light of the information you discovered. But you will be confined to the inside of this apartment for the most part. Twenty minutes outside a day to stretch your wings.”

“Are you serious...?”

“You are a civvie for the next week or so, so get used to it,” she said with a small smile as she finished her coffee. “I can trust you to keep her reigned in Level?”

“I’ll brush up on my locking spells if need be,” the unicorn said with a nod as he lowered the paper. “We’ll start with ‘please don’t leave Midnight’ and work our way up from there as the situation escalates.”

“Good to hear,” Narrow nodded as she donned her disguise again. She totally wasn’t getting used to this and actually enjoyed it. Nope. Not one bit. “Again, thanks for the coffee little brother, and I’ll see you both soon.”

“Keep coming back, and ponies will start talking,” Ledger said with a snicker. “Maybe I should just give you my recipe, save you the trip.”

“Aw, and I thought we were friends now?” she winked. “Have fun you two.. and stay safe. I’ll be posting some plain guards in the adjacent apartment from today.. just in case.”

“Not a bad idea,” Ledger nodded, giving the departing mare a wave before closing the door behind her. The unicorn turned to Midnight then, one eyebrow quirked. “So. What do you wanna do?”

Midnight was pouting... adorably so. She was grounded and put under house arrest? “I wanna eat at Fred’s, come back home, and get very drunk. That is all.”

“Well, I can make a run to his place for a dinner for two,” the unicorn said as he got up from his chair and stretched. “I don’t much feel like cooking right now either, I’ll admit. Any preferences regarding what you want your dinner to be?”

“Well, she said I could go out for twenty minutes a day... but I guess I should lay low for tonight.” she tapped her chin and hummed. “Hmm, let’s try his rigatoni. I wanna see how good you are in comparison.”

“Ah, so one pasta dish with a side of my ego, check,” Ledger said with a small laugh. “I think I’ll have his salad today...which one I end up having is up to him, of course. All of them are good and tolerable if I’m warned.”

“Alright, oh, and tell him that he won’t win!” she declared triumphantly. “I’ll never be defeated, no matter how pretty he is!”

“I swear, you two,” Ledger muttered as he walked to the door. “You should just screw each other and get the drama out of the way.” Before Midnight could properly answer, he was already gone.

“No, cause then he’d win~” she chuckled... “Though, I’d prolly win as well~”

“Oh my Celestia, that food was good... it was like comparing the blazing glory of the sun... to a foal’s nightlight.”

“Good thing my ego regarding my ability to cook died a while ago,” Ledger said as he finished his salad. “I’m just glad you liked my version before you had his.”

“Aw, don’t worry~” she cooed, ruffling his mane. “Yours was very nice too.” Before the stallion could offer a rebuttal, she trotted off to a small cabinet and pulled out a large bottle filled with an amber liquid. “And now for the main event!”

“...I am starting to regret buying any liquor for cooking with at all,” Ledger ruefully observed. “Something tells me I’m going to be glad for my insurance by the time this night is over.”

“Oh don’t be such a little filly about it,” she said, slamming the bottle on the table along with two shot glasses. “The game is Truth or Dare... are you game?”

The stallion gave the bottle a long look, before looking back at the Thestral. “Nope,” he said, getting up and moving to leave. “Not happening.”

“Aw c’mon Level~” Song put on her most adorable pout, learned from Princess Luna herself. “It’s a harmless little game and I promise right now not to ask about your secret okay? You can ask me anything you want.”

“Huh,” he said, one ear flicking as he considered the offer. “Okay, that’s...better. But where does the drinking come in?”

“You can choose to substitute either choice in place of taking a shot. Also, if you fail the Dare you take a shot as well... or just take one for fun~’ she giggled as she downed her first shot of the night.

The rest of the night became lost in a haze of alcohol...

Author's Note:

Hey, what's that over there?

By golly, it's a distraction!

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