• Published 26th Jan 2018
  • 2,116 Views, 32 Comments

Who-dunce-it? - RB_



It's always a bad sign when the highlight of the party is the murder.

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The Incisive Investigation

All was silent for a few moments.

“My word,” Fancy said at last. “Is he alright?”

“Someone check,” Fleur said.

No one moved.

Thankfully, they didn’t have to. The doors opened again, and the butler entered. He looked around.

“Has His Highness still not arrived yet?”

“Oh, he’s arrived, all right!” Mrs. Orange said. “And he may have just left!”

“Down there,” Fancy Pants said. “He’s collapsed!”

The butler peered over, spotted Blueblood’s leg sticking out from behind the table. He rushed over and knelt down beside him, put his ear to his chest, and listened.

“Celestia’s wings,” he said after a moment, “he’s dead!”

Silence for a moment more, then:

“Dead? He can’t be!” Mrs. Orange blurted out.

“Preposterous!” the Major cried.

“Yes, you must be mistaken!” Mr. Orange said, standing. “I donated funds to a medical school once, let me have a look at him!”

He strode over and did much the same thing the butler had done, placing his ear against Blueblood’s chest. He listened for a few seconds, his face screwed up in intense concentration.

A few moments passed.

Then a few moments more.

“Well!?” Rainbow cried. “Is he dead or not!?”

“Quiet!” Mr. Orange said. He listened for a few seconds more, then:

“Well, I can’t seem to find his heartbeat,” he said, standing, “so the question remains unanswered.”

Rarity, meanwhile, had stood up and had taken Blueblood’s glass. She held it under her nose and sniffed. Her eyes lit up, and she turned to Fancy Pants.

“Fancy, you’re quite the connoisseur when it comes to wines, yes?”

“Well, I certainly dabble,” he said.

“Take a whiff of this, then.”

He took the glass and did so.

“Why, this has an aroma quite unlike any variety I have ever encountered!”

Rarity hummed. She turned to the butler. “Excuse me, could you tell me what was in this glass, exactly?”

The butler took the glass, eyed its contents, then took a whiff of his own. His brow crinkled.

“Ma’am, I have personally sampled every bottle in His Highness’s collection,” he said. “Er, off the record, of course. I can say with complete certainty that this is not one of them!”

“Ah,” Rarity said again. “Well, in light of that information, I think we can safely assume that our host has been poisoned!”

There was a shriek, and several glasses went flying across the table.

“Now, now, no need to panic!” Rarity hastily added. “We’ve all been drinking from our own glasses for the last ten minutes or so! Blueblood took one sip, and keeled over less than a minute later!”

“She’s right!” Rainbow said. “And we’re all fine! We probably weren’t poisoned!”

“Now, aren’t you all being a bit hasty,” Mr. Orange said. “We still don’t know if he’s dead or not!”

“I think it’s fairly obvious at this point!” Rainbow said. “Look, he’s turning grey!”

“That doesn’t mean anything. Why, I turned grey just last Wednesday, and—”

“Mosely, sit down and shut up.”

“Yes dear.”

“I will send a servant out to collect the police immediately,” the butler said. “Until then, I am afraid none of you will be allowed to leave! I will lock the door behind me on my way out.”

“And how long will that be?” the Major asked.

“Well, the nearest village is several miles away,” the butler replied, “so it may be some time. Several hours at the least.”

“Several hours!” Mrs. Orange cried. “You can’t keep us locked up in here for hours with a dead body! It’s, it’s improper!”

“And how can you keep us here with a murderer in our midst?” Fleur added. “What if they decide to strike again!?”

“Forget that,” Rainbow said, hovering over them. “Once the police get here, they’ll spend hours questioning us! I have flight practice tomorrow! How am I supposed to be rested enough to fly at my best if you keep me here half the night!?”

“Darling, I think a little adjustment of your priorities is in order.”

They all turned. Rarity was standing at the head of the table—though, not very close to the body—and her head was held high.

“Now, the way I see it,” she said, “our host has been murdered. Now, he may have been an insensitive, idiotic, brutish, insignificant little—”

Rainbow coughed.

“—but he deserves better than to be left on the floor while his murderer sips champagne!” she finished.

The Major looked at her. “And just what do you plan to do about it, miss?”

“Why, I plan to find the culprit, and bring them to justice!” she declared.

“You just want to get out of here faster,” Mrs. Orange said.

“And so do you, so don’t complain,” Rarity said, not missing a beat. “If we can provide the police with a confession when they arrive, then they won’t have much to question us about, now will they?”

“Pardon me, Miss Rarity,” Dela Crème said, “but perhaps it would be best if we left this to the professionals?”

“Hey, Rarity is a great detective!” Rainbow Dash said. She flew over to Rarity, hovering just below the ceiling. “She saved my bacon once! Another Wonderbolt tried to frame me for something I didn’t do, and she had the whole thing figured out in less than an afternoon!”

“Are you talking about Wind Rider?” Fancy Pants asked. “At the opening of the Royal Gardens?”

“That’s the one!”

“I heard about that,” he said. “Quite the close call, indeed! That was your doing, Miss Rarity?”

“It was,” she said.

“Well, then I have no qualms about her taking a crack at it,” he said. “What say you?”

Dela frowned beneath her veil. “Fine.”

“But wait,” Mrs. Orange said, also standing. “What if she’s the murderer!?”

She then jerked back, her snout suddenly less than an inch away from a fuming pegasus’s.

“Are you calling my friend a murderer?” Rainbow said. “Because if you are…”

“Now Rainbow,” Rarity said, “it’s a perfectly valid—if absolutely untrue—thought.”

“…It is?”

“Of course.” Rarity strode around the length of the table. “There’s nothing saying I’m not.” She came around to Mrs. Orange, who eyed her with suspicion. “Nothing, except for one crucial detail!”

“And that is?” Mrs. Orange asked, her face level with Rarity’s.

“This dress doesn’t have pockets. You can inspect it if you’d like. And, unlike you, I did not bring a purse.”

“So what?”

“So where do you think I would be hiding the poison?”

Mrs. Orange blinked. “Well, I can think of several places—”

“And I suppose you’ll be wanting to search these places yourself?”

“I—well—ah.”

Mrs. Orange sat back down.

“Besides which, Rainbow and Fancy can vouch for me,” Rarity said. “I wouldn’t use poison.”

She turned to the butler. “Now, might I suggest we move to somewhere else? A library, or a study, preferably with an adjoining room? Somewhere away from, er—” she fluttered a hoof in the direction of the end of the table “—that?”

The butler considered this.

“I see no harm in it,” he said. “There is a library just down the hall, with an attached archive room. I will escort you there. All of you, if you would follow me, please…”


The butler led them down the hall to an another grand set of doors, pausing for a moment along the way to notify a servant of what had transpired.

The library itself was as grand as its doors (and everything else in the house), filled with ceiling-to-floor bookshelves, a chandelier that cast the room in gentle gaslight, and a comfortable reading area in the center of it all with enough chairs for all of them. A fireplace and chimney divided its back wall.

All of the books on the shelves were perfectly and neatly ordered, with crisp spines and straight pages, which was precisely how one could tell none of them had ever been read.

As the others got comfortable, Rainbow turned to Rarity.

“Hey, Rares, I know you can handle this, but… are you sure you can handle this? A murder’s pretty different from a fake letter.”

“Relax, darling,” Rarity said. “I have utmost faith in my methods. The devil is in the details, as they say, and so we will find the devil among us by following the details. My only regret is that I didn’t bring appropriate costumes this time. Would you mind staying out here and stand guard?”

“Sure thing, Rarity,” she said. “I guess this means you don’t think I did it then, huh?”

“Of course not, darling,” Rarity said, “you’re nowhere near subtle enough. Now then!”

She turned to the butler, who was standing in front of the doors. “You said there was an archive room?”

“Yes, just through there,” he said, gesturing towards a door set between two of the bookcases.

“Perfect,” she said. She turned to address the others.

“I would like to speak with each of you privately. A simple interview. Is that amenable to everyone? Good. You first, Fancy, if you wouldn’t mind.”


“So, Rarity said, “Fancy. Tell me everything you’ve done this evening since arriving at the mansion.”

“Everything?”

“Spare no details.”

The archive room was smaller, about the size of an office, and filled with drawers and shelves. A table sat in the middle of it; Fancy occupied a chair on one side, Rarity stood on the other.

Fancy leaned back in his chair.

“Well,” he began, “Fleur and I arrived at six o’clock—we took a carriage from the last town, you see. We were some of the first guests to arrive, I would say.”

“Go on.”

“Well, there isn’t much to say, quite frankly,” Fancy said. “We mingled and ate hors d’oeuvres until you arrived, and, well, you know what happened after that. Surely you would be more interested in what I saw after we had been summoned?”

Rarity shook her head. “We’ll get to that, but I would first like to hear everything that led up to it. Were there any points at which you left Fleur?”

“Only once,” Fancy said. “I went to procure more drinks for my wife and me. I found that the bar needed restocking, so I paid a visit to the kitchens.”

“Oh, really?” Rarity said. She leaned forwards ever so slightly. “And when was this?”

“Around seven, I should say. I found my way to the kitchens, after asking someone—it might have been our friend, the butler—for directions. I was there for some time, as well; I ended up striking up a conversation with several of the staff.”

“What about?” Rarity asked.

“The proper preparation of pufferfish. I’ve been quite curious about the subject recently, you see.”

“Ah,” Rarity said. “They’re quite poisonous, yes?”

“Only if prepared improperly,” Fancy said. “You see, all of the natural poisons are concentrated in the liver, as it turns out, so all you have to do is—”

He stopped, and his eyes bulged.

“You’re not suspecting that I was the one who poisoned Blueblood?” he said, steamrolling through his words. “Because I can assure you, there is quite the difference between knowing how to procure a poison and actually committing the act—"

“No need to worry,” Rarity replied. “Now, how long would you say you had this discussion?”

“Oh, for only about five minutes or so,” Fancy said. “They gave me a demonstration, you see. After that, I said my farewells and returned to the garden with drinks in tow. You were there for my return, you’ll recall.”

“Indeed I was,” Rarity said. “Let’s change topics. What can you tell me about the Major? You seemed acquainted with him in the hall.”

“Major Mustardgrass? Well, quite a bit, really; he was quite the figure in the Zebraharan conflicts. Led the third company, to great success. Why—”

Rarity cut him off with a wave of her hoof. “I’m afraid we don’t have time for his entire life story. What do you know about him and Blueblood?”

Fancy frowned. “I confess, I don’t know much about Blueblood’s military career. It hardly seemed worth studying; he was only enlisted for three months.”

Rarity pursed her lips. “What about the end of the Major’s career? He said he had been demoted?”

“I confess, I told a small fib in the hallway,” Fancy said. “I had heard about his demotion—and his unofficial discharge. I didn’t want to bring it up.”

Rarity leaned forwards over the desk. “Oh?”

“Apparently, he got greedy towards the end of his time in charge—or so the rumors say, you won’t find this in any book. Supposedly, he was caught smuggling gold out of a mine in Zebraha that his troops had been using as a base of operations.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. He was stripped of his rank and quietly shuffled out of power, or so they say. His superiors likely tried to keep this quiet out of respect for his legacy. This would have been seven or eight years ago, I would expect.”

“Fascinating,” Rarity said. “Back to the matter at hoof: tell me, at any point while we were in the dining room, did you see anyone move towards Blueblood’s glass?”

“No, I most certainly did not.”

“Did you see any odd telekinesis, then?” Rarity asked.

“None.”

“Anything else odd? Anything at all? Perhaps something that might have slipped under your attention?”

“I really cannot say I did,” he said.

“In that case,” Rarity said, “This interview is concluded. One last thing: would you mind turning out your pockets?”

“Not a problem at all,” he said. He stood and did so, turning out each one individually and laying their contents onto the table. The folded-card invitation to the party, two bits, and a length of cord, frazzled on one end.

“Wonderful. That will be all; you can go now.”

“Splendid. Does this mean I’m free of suspicion?” Fancy Pants asked, standing. “As it were?”

“Something like that.”


“Are you alright, Daring?” Rarity asked. “You look dreadful.”

“I-I’m alright,” Fleur said. It was her in the chair, this time. She kept her hooves together, and her forelegs rubbed against one another seemingly of their own accord every so often. “Just… a little shaken, that’s all.”

“I can’t blame you,” Rarity said. “Anyone would be, in this situation.”

“Not you,” Fleur said. “You’re the very picture of composure!”

“One becomes very good at faking it in my industry,” Rarity said. “Besides which, I have other things to distract me. Now then, tell me everything that happened from the time you arrived to when we met in the garden.”

“I’ll try,” Fleur said, a waver still in her voice.

Fleur then narrated everything from the time she left the carriage to the time Rarity had arrived in great detail, running through exactly who she’d had conversations with in the garden, what they’d talked about, the approximate time Fancy had gone to get drinks and what they’d been drinking at the time, and all without stopping for breath.

It was a downpour of details, an avalanche of an account, a crashing cavalcade of a conversation, albeit one-sided. It also told Rarity nothing that Fancy hadn’t already.

“Does any of that help?” Fleur asked, once she’d finished.

“I’m… sure at least some of it will,” Rarity said. “Now, once we’d gotten to the dining room, did you see anything unusual, at all? Anyone moving near Blueblood’s glass, anyone doing anything at all odd?”

Fleur thought for a moment.

“I can’t say that I saw anyone do anything to Blueblood’s glass,” she said. “But there was one thing…”

“Yes?”

Fleur bit her lip. “Well, I wouldn’t want to cast doubt where there may not be any, but the ponies who sat closet to Blueblood’s glass were Rainbow Dash and the Major, and I know you’ll vouch for Rainbow Dash…”

“You think the Major may have done something?”

“No, no! Just that he was in the place to be if he had… and that he chose that place himself. He sat down before the rest of us.”

“Interesting,” Rarity said. “But what about Dela Crème? She was sitting next to him on that side, across from me. It wouldn’t have been that much harder for her to administer the poison, especially if she was keeping him distracted through conversation.”

Fleur’s face had grown progressively paler as Rarity had said this. By the end of this, she was as white as a sheet—impressive, considering how light of a shade she was normally.

“I assume you can vouch for her character, what with you two being such longstanding friends?”

“Ah… yes, of course.”

Rarity hummed. “In that case, there is only one more thing.”

“Oh, really?” Fleur said, relief flooding into her voice.

“Yes. Could I see your purse, please?”

Fleur blinked, and the colour that had been ebbing back into her face faded again. “Why… you cannot think that I poisoned him, can you?”

“Of course not,” Rarity said, reaching across the table and laying a hoof on Fleur’s shoulder. “But it is a detective’s job to be thorough, and I always was a method actress.”

“I… I see,” Fleur said. She levitated the purse up and began to empty it of its contents. First a few bits, then her invitation, still in its envelope, then a make-up case—this Rarity inspected closely—and, finally, a handkerchief, with “F.d.L.” embroidered on its corner. She then put the purse itself onto the desk, which Rarity picked up and looked through.

When Rarity was satisfied, she placed the purse back onto the table and allowed Fleur to return her things to it.

“That will be all,” Rarity said. “Unless you have anything else you’d like to share?”

“N-not at all,” Fleur said, and hurried towards the door.


“So,” Rarity said, putting her hooves on the table. “Enough of this charade, hm? Who are you, really?”

“I have no idea what it is you’re referring to,” Dela said, adjusting her veil.

“Oh, I think you do,” Rarity said. “You see, two years ago, I was hired by the mayor of Vancouver to make a wedding dress for his daughter; he had seen my designs a year prior during a meeting of state in Canterlot. While I was there, I was treated like royalty. I was invited to a great many parties, far nicer ones than this one.”

“Your point being?”

“My point,” Rarity said, “being that, although I met almost every pony of any note on the entire western coast of Equestria, your name never came up. Which is why, earlier, I asked you from where south of Vanhoover you hailed.”

The corner of her mouth turned up.

“And you answered ‘Griffon’s bay’, which any native would know lies to the north of Vanhoover. So I ask again!” She slammed her hooves on the table. “Who are you, really?”

Dela said nothing.

“I should warn you, if you don’t tell me, I will make a point of informing everyone else. I’m sure they’d all love to ask you some questions at that point. I can assure you they will be less professional about it than I.”

Dela smiled. “You’re smarter than I gave you credit for,” she said.

She pulled off her hat and veil. She looked to be in her late thirties, but scar that crossed half her face made her look even older.

“My name is Stalwart Guard,” she said. “I work for the Peryton Detective Agency.”

“You’re a police-for-hire.”

“Some would say that. Others would say ‘pig’.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to insult the pigs,” Rarity said. “I imagine you don’t do much actual detecting, considering I’m the one asking you questions.”

“Bodyguarding, mostly.”

“Bodyguarding whom?”

“Can’t say.”

“And why not?”

“Because of a little thing called ‘client confidentiality’,” she said, her eyes narrowing. “You seem to like playing detective. Figure it out yourself.”

“Fine then,” Rarity said. “Tell me how you got that scar.”

“This?” Stalwart said, wincing unconsciously. “The unfortunate result of an accident during basic training, back when I served in the military.”

“Guard or standing?”

“Standing. I served for eight years.”

“The wound. Sword or spear?”

“Sword. A soldier I was training with’s grip slipped.”

“And this was while you were serving under Major Mustardgrass, or before?”

“Before—”

Stalwart’s eyes widened, and she jerked back in her seat.

“How could you possibly know about that!?” she exclaimed.

“A hunch,” Rarity said. “He didn’t ask you for an introduction when he met you at the door to the dining room, supposedly for the first time. This means he already knew you previously—but he knew enough not to say anything about it. Obviously, you had met before.”

Stalwart face betrayed her bewilderment, but she continued. “Well, er—this was before that.”

“Tell me about him.”

“He was as good an officer as any ever had,” she said. “Sharp, no-nonsense, and proud, very proud, of his country and his work.”

“So proud of his work that he chose to smuggle gold out of the country he was supposed to be protecting?” Rarity said. “Well, I suppose—”

Stalwart slammed her hooves on the table, the noise and motion of it making Rarity flinch.

“The Major had nothing to do with that!” she roared. “It was a setup! They framed him!”

The door to the library slammed open. It was Rainbow.

“What’s going on!? I heard shouting—ooh, nice scar.”

“Calm down, please!” Rarity said. “Both of you! Rainbow, everything is fine; please shut the door.”

Rainbow pulled the door closed slowly, keeping her narrowed eyes on Stalwart. Stalwart, for her part, sat back down in the chair and brushed off her lace.

“Now then,” Rarity said. “We were just discussing the exploits of the Major in Zebraha, weren’t we? You say that he was framed for the incident that earned him his demotion?”

“He was!” Stalwart said. “I have no doubts.”

“And you have evidence to back this up?”

“The only evidence I need is the five years I spent under him,” she said.

“So you would testify to his character, then.”

“Of course! He was an inspiration. The best commanding officer I ever had the pleasure of serving under, and the most loyal to his country. I tell you, there is no possible way he could have done what they said he had.” She punctuated this statement with a nod, as if agreeing with herself.

Rarity frowned. “And who is ‘they’, exactly?”

“His superiors,” she said.

“And why would they do that?”

“To cover up who was really smuggling gold out of Zebraha.”

Rarity leaned forwards, folding her hooves on the tabletop. Her eyes narrowed to a point.

“And that was…?”

Stalwart smirked.

“You’re the detective,” she said. “Figure it out.”


Dela—veil replaced—stepped back through the doorway into the library, and Rarity followed her out. She hadn’t been able to get anything further out of the mare. Her shoes made click-clacking noises on the wooden floor as she crossed it and sat down.

“Everything’s alright then?” The butler asked. “We were all a bit worried, when we heard the shouting.”

“Just fine,” Rarity said. “A minor misunderstanding, that’s—”

She stopped. Her nostrils flared.

“Why am I smelling smoke?”

“It’s probably the fire,” the Major said.

“Fire? What…”

It was then that Rarity’s eyes landed on the fireplace. It had been empty, before, but now a healthy blaze had been lit in its bosom. Its warmth bled out into the room.

Rarity almost screamed. This would have been most unladylike, however, and so she settled for just running over to the hearth and dropping to her knees. She snatched a wrought-iron shovel from a rack to the side of the fireplace and began digging through the embers.

“What’s wrong, Rares?” Rainbow asked from behind her.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong!?”

Another pile of embers shifted.

“You lit a fire! That’s what’s wrong!”

The Major coughed. “I was a little chilly, so I asked our stallion if he wouldn’t mind putting a fire together. My old bones, you see—”

“I don’t care about your bones, or how old they are! You may have just ruined everything!”

She wrenched something from the fire with her magic, sending embers skittering across the floor. She paid them no mind, instead throwing whatever it was she’d retrieved to the ground and stamping on it until it ceased burning.

“I suppose it was kind of a silly idea, lighting a fire in a library,” Fancy said.

“That’s not what I mean at all!” Rarity said. She peeled the thing she’d retrieved off of the ground. It looked to be a piece of paper, or rather, the remains of one.

“I mean,” she said, “that you’ve given the murderer a perfect means of destroying evidence! None of you saw who did this?”

None of them had.

The paper was laid out onto the table. Everyone stood and gathered around, eager to lay eyes on this latest clue, this newest bit of evidence. Could it be the one to reveal the culprit? Could it be the final piece to the puzzle? Most of it had been rendered unreadable. What hadn’t been…

“Oh my,” Rarity said, her cheeks suddenly growing pink.

“That is, er, that is to say,” Fancy said, “ah… yes, what she said. Quite.”

Fleur turned away, a fierce blush taking over her own features. The Major said nothing, but he didn’t need to; the upwards vector of his eyebrows said plenty. Dela seemed to have no interest.

“I can’t say I’ve ever thought to try something like that,” Mr. Orange said.

“I didn’t think you could do that with a pineapple,” his wife added.

“I don’t even know why you’d want to,” Rainbow said.

Rarity snatched the scraps up. She coughed into her hoof, then turned to the butler.

“Right. Excuse me, did Blueblood have a room in which he did business? A study?”

“Yes, of course,” the butler said.

“Could you show me the way there, please?”

“If you insist, ma’am, but whatever for?”

“I have a hunch,” Rarity said. “Rainbow? Would you care to join me?”

“Uh… what about…?” She jerked her head back at the other guests.

“Never mind them,” Rarity whispered, “If they were going to do anything, they already have. This is more important.”

She turned back to the butler. “Well, shall we?”


Blueblood’s study was clean. This was the first thing that struck Rarity and Rainbow as the butler gave them entrance. He remained by the door as they moved inside, keeping watch.

The room was wood-paneled, and much of it was taken up by two desks. One, massive and mahogany, with endless brass-knobbed drawers and a smooth coat of varnish. The sort of desk that puts the “executive” in “executive official”, the “bureau” in “bureaucrat”.

The other was a small writing desk with a stool and noticeably more papers atop it. It was the sort of desk that put the “clerk desk” in “desk clerk”.

It was towards this one that Rarity moved. She began to shuffle through the top layer of documents.

“What are you looking for, Rares?” Rainbow asked.

“I’ll tell you if I find it, darling,” Rarity said, then, a moment later: “Ah-ha!”

She pulled a sheet out of a stack of similar sheets. A blank piece of stationary, with a decorative border. She held the scraps of the letter up next to it.

“Just as I suspected,” she said.

Rainbow came up beside her. “What?”

“Look, there. The border on the stationary. Yes? Now, look at the border on the burnt paper.”

“They’re the same,” Rainbow remarked.

“Exactly! Which makes it fairly obvious who the author of this particular, er… diatribe, was.”

“But hang on,” she said. “The hornwriting isn’t the same.”

“Ah, but that hardly matters,” Rarity said. “I’d expect he had two different servants write these. What is important is that the stationary is the same.”

“Seriously? He has servants just to write letters?”

“He’s the richest stallion on the continent,” Rarity said. “I’d be shocked if he’d had to write anything longer than his signature in decades.”

Rainbow considered this. “Y’know, the fact that that letter was dictated only makes it more gross.”

“I quite agree,” Rarity said, returning to the pile. She shuffled through a few more layers, and then withdrew another paper.

“Look at this,” she said. “It’s an invoice. From the oranges, by the looks of it.”

She scanned it. Her eyebrows shot up.

“A hundred bottles?” she gasped. “The Oranges weren’t lying; he really did enjoy his orange wines! Just look at the price tag!”

The butler lit his horn and snatched the paper out of her magic. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I must ask that you keep your snooping to the matter at hand; we’ll have the lawyers in to deal with all of this.”

“Oh, I can assure you, this is very relevant,” Rarity said, snatching it back. She held the invoice out to Rainbow. “Here, smell this.”

Rainbow took it without question. “Mmm… oranges?” she said. “But, like, fake oranges?”

“Precisely,” Rarity said. “Like what ponies think an orange is supposed to smell like, not what it actually smells like.”

“Yeah, just like that!” Rainbow said.

“Good; I was worried I was imagining things.”

“Really, ma’am,” the butler said, “I must insist you leave His Late Highness’s affairs be!”

“I don’t think he much minds, being dead and all,” Rarity said, but nonetheless she returned the invoice to its place on the desk. “Regardless, I have what I needed. Now, shall we return to the—”

She paused. The picture behind the bigger desk, which had previously been ignored for being yet anotherpainting of Blueblood, had now caught her eye. Mainly because it wasn’t just a picture of Blueblood.

Oh, he was in it, certainly; he stood front and center, his self-absorbed smile illuminated by the same spotlight sunbeam that set him apart from the rest of the scene. He wore military dress, although his seemed to fit him far worse than the Major’s.

And standing next to him was a rendition—somewhat more sloppily done—of the Major himself.

“Oh, that’s interesting…”

Rarity crossed the room and stood in front of the portrait, inspecting every inch of it. There was a brass plate affixed to the bottom of the frame:

Zebraha, 1032

“Eight years ago,” she muttered. “Hm…”

“Is that the Major?” Rainbow asked.

“It would appear so,” Rarity said. She spun about to face them. “Oh well. Let us rejoin the others.”


“Splendid, splendid.”

“You’re not listening,” Mrs. Orange hissed. “I never—”

The door to the library swung open, and both she and Fancy Pants turned sharply towards it.

“Are we interrupting something?” Rarity asked, striding in, followed closely by Rainbow and the butler. “Please, continue.”

“I was just telling Mr. Pants that a shipment I’d sent out using his company that hadn’t yet reached its destination,” Mrs. Orange said. “He claims no knowledge of it, of course. You know how it is with these shipping companies.”

“And I can assure you,” Fancy said, “that Fancy Freight is no mere ‘shipping company’, and that our employees are known for their competency and for their speed. Your package will reach its destination soon enough. You have my word.”

“Ah, well in that case I won’t disturb you,” Rarity said. She cast her eyes over the other inhabitants of the room.

The Major and Dela were chatting again, though both were doing so in lowered voices. Fleur sat off to one side in a lounge chair, staring into theؙ—now unlit and smoldering—fireplace.

And Mr. Orange had a book in his hooves. Rarity approached him.

“Doing a little light reading?” she asked. He started at her intrusion, pulling the book closed.

“Oh, just a little,” he said. “I do enjoy the classics.”

Rarity glanced at the cover. “Romeoat and Juniper,” she remarked.

“Ah, yes,” he said. “One of my favourite tales of all time.”

Rarity smiled. “Well, I must admit, I wouldn’t have pinned you for a fan of the Bard.”

“Who?”

“Spear Shaker?”

“I don’t follow.”

“Would you mind accompanying me into the archive room?” Rarity asked.

“Well, if you’re asking, I rather do, yes—”

“Come along,” Rarity said. “Rainbow? Care to join us? I’d appreciate the company…”


“Now, Mr. Orange—”

“Please, call me Mosely.”

“—could you recount for me everything that happened since you arrived here tonight?”

It was Mr. Orange’s turn in the chair, now, and he had made himself comfortable. Rainbow stood by the door to the room, leaning against the wall.

He tapped his hoof to his chin. “Well, there was an awful lot to get through…”

“Just do your best, please.”

“Well… we arrived late. Our carriage lost a wheel partway up the road, you see, and we had to walk the rest of the way. Oh, it was awful! But we arrived around six-forty.”

“And it was just you and your wife, correct?” Rarity asked. “Neither of you brought a guest?”

Mr. Orange nodded. “We had asked around, but no one seemed very enthusiastic about coming, for some unfathomable reason. It’s only the social event of the year, hosted by Equestria’s esteemed prince. Why would anyone say no?”

“I can’t imagine.”

“Neither can I,” he said, “but regardless, we were forced to come on our own.”

“A pity,” Rarity said. “And what did the two of you do after you arrived?”

“Well, we mingled, of course,” he said, frowning. “What else does one do at a party?”

“Not enjoy yourself, clearly,” Rainbow mumbled.

“And then…?”

“Then Blueblood’s butler came and collected me. He was awfully polite about the whole thing, a very good butler. I’ve always wanted a butler, you know. Valencia has always been against the idea, of course. I wonder, now that His Highness is no longer with us…”

Rarity found her attention drawn by a stain on the wall behind Mr. Orange. Deciding whether it was the result of a clumsy servant or something more sinister was proving more entertaining than listening to him. “And he brought you to the dining room door?”

“Yes,” he said, “And he told me to wait there.”

Rarity nodded, and opened her mouth to ask her next question—but then frowned.

“You say the butler came and collected you,” she said. “What about your wife?”

Mr. Orange blinked. “Ah, well, she was already there, waiting. And she wasn’t very happy about it, either! Of course, she almost never is—”

“So, hang on,” Rainbow said. “Mrs. Orange wasn’t with you?”

“Well, no; she’d gone to use the little filly’s room. Did I not mention that?”

“You most certainly did not!” Rarity said.

“Well, it was hardly important.”

“On the contrary, it might be the only important thing you’ve ever said!” Rarity leaned forwards, her eyes now focused. “Around when did she excuse herself?”

“Well, um, I’m not sure I could say,” Mr. Orange said, his demeanor suddenly breaking under the full force of Rarity’s attention. “Around seven, maybe?”

“And how long before you saw her again?”

“Oh, er… five minutes or so? Ten? I can’t quite recall—”

“And do you actually know where she went?”

“Well, no, I don’t make a habit of following my wife to the bathroom—”

“So you did not actually see her go into the restrooms?”

“No! No, I did not. You don’t think—

“What I think will be revealed in due time, Mr. Orange,” Rarity said. “But for now, this interview is concluded.”


“So,” Rarity said. “Valencia—”

“Mrs. Orange, please.”

“—could you tell me what exactly happened after you arrived here tonight?”

In contrast to her husband, Mrs. Orange sat ruler-straight in the chair. You could have verified a level off of her posture. A protractor, too.

“Nothing much,” she said. “Mosely and I arrived, we mingled, we were taken aside by the butler, brought to the dining room, and told to wait. And then we waited. For half an hour.”

“Together?”

“What do you mean, ‘together’?”

“Well,” Rarity said, “you seem to be insinuating that you and your husband were together the entire time. Is that true?”

“Well, no. I took a trip to the restrooms, and it was on my way back from there that the butler found me. Mosely caught up with me after that. It hardly matters.”

“We shall see,” Rarity said. “May I have a look inside your bag?”

“If you have to. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

The bag was passed over, and Rarity began to sift through it. A makeup case. A coin purse. Some pens.

“Tell me about your dealings with Blueblood,” Rarity said. A notepad. A lens. A packet of breath mints—Rarity regarded these with extra scrutiny.

“Well, it’s as I said earlier,” Mrs. Orange said. “He was our biggest buyer of orange wine. And he paid quite well for it, too.”

A pair of sewing scissors. An invitation.

“And that was all he ever bought from you?”

“That’s all he ever specifically bought from us, yes,” she said. “Of course, our fruits are shipped and sold throughout Equestria, so it wouldn’t be too far to think he’s bought something from one of our vendors. I don’t see how this is relevant.”

Satisfied, Rarity snapped the bag shut and placed it back on the table. “Well, one can never be too thorough. What did you think of Blueblood, personally?”

“He was an oaf, a buffoon, and a loyal customer. Do you actually have any relevant questions, or is this interview just as much of a farce as your credentials?”

“I’ve got a relevant question for ‘ya,” Rainbow said. “How’d you get that stick so far up your—”

Rarity clicked her tongue. “Now, Rainbow, no need to be crass.” She turned her attention back to Mrs. Orange. “One last question, and then you may go: did you cross paths with any of the other ponies in the library before you were brought to the dining room?”

“No.”

“Really?” Rarity asked. “I would think that, as you and your husband and everyone else at this party so enjoy mingling, that you would have spoken to at least Fleur and Fancy.”

“I never got the chance to,” she said. “We arrived late. Now, if we’re done?”

Rarity smiled. “We are.”


“So,” Rarity said. “Tell me how you knew Blueblood.”

“Bit of an odd question, isn’t it?” the Major said. He had reclined into the seat with the grace of the elderly, and the twine-wrapped package he’d been carrying around all evening reclined next to him.

“I hardly think so,” Rarity said. She smiled. “You met during your time in the military, I presume?”

“You presume right,” he said. “I had been serving for a decade and a half; he had been serving for two weeks.”

“And he was under your command?”

The Major snorted. “He was my commanding officer.”

“What?” Rainbow said. “How? That’s like… that’d be like if Spitfire was suddenly reporting to Songbird Serenade!”

“Money changed hooves,” the Major said. “The standing military isn’t nearly as inscrutable as the guard. Maybe that’s why we’re the only ones who ever get anything done.” His brow crinkled, adding an extra layer of lines. “Spitfire… You’re a fan of the Wonderbolts, Mrs. Dash?”

Rainbow puffed up her chest. “Not just a fan anymore! I’m a full-fledged member!”

“Oh? I’m sorry, I haven’t kept up on the rosters. You’re enlisted, then?”

“I’m a lieutenant, technically.”

“Well, good on you,” the Major said. “Remember to treat your CO with respect. No matter how hard they’re working you, they’re working double.”

“Unless their name is Blueblood?” Rarity said.

The Major snorted again. “Unless their name is Blueblood,” he repeated. “Stuck-up fool never lifted a hoof.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“He loved the power of the position,” the Major said. “He loved ordering us around—especially me and my soldiers, and he probably broke the chain of command more times than he broke a sweat. And we were stationed right in the middle of Zebraha, the hottest sinkhole south of Tartarus!”

He stopped to laugh, a dry, wheezy thing, then continued.

“What he didn’t like was the responsibility,” he said. “All he wanted was to play tin soldiers. So I ended up doing his work, and mine, on top of that catering to whatever his whim of the day was. It was enough to drive a stallion to murder—not that I’d ever contemplate such a thing, of course. Besides, he left the army not long afterwards. Got bored of us, I suspect.”

“And was this before or after your demotion?” Rarity asked.

The Major’s face fell.

“Now,” he said, his voice low, “there’s no need to go digging up the past.”

“I’m not sure you understand exactly what it is a detective does, Major.”

The Major narrowed his eyes. “Well, good thing you aren’t a real detective then, eh?”

“Fine then. What is that in that case you have, there?”

“Oh, this?” He patted the side of the package. “A present for the prince. I figured I owed him something, it being his birthday. Though I see no one else got him anything.”

“How generous of you,” Rarity said. “May I take a look at it?”

“Sure.” He dropped it onto the table; it landed with a muffled metallic clang. “Heck, you can keep it. I don’t want them, and he won’t be needing them.”

“Noted,” Rarity said. “Could you tell me everything that happened since you arrived?”

And so it went, with Rarity asking her usual questions, and so it went with the usual answers. He’d arrived early, and he’d mingled (“What is it with you ponies and mingling?” Rainbow had asked) until he’d gotten tired, and then he’d gone inside and found a spot to sit, whereupon the butler had found him. No, he hadn’t seen anyone go near Blueblood’s drink.

“Very well,” Rarity said. “That will be all.”

The Major got up slowly and, nodding on his way out to Rainbow, left the room, letting the door close behind him.

“He seems pretty cool,” Rainbow said.

Rarity circled around the table, pushing the chair out of the way and moving the case into the center of the table. “You would say that, darling.”

“He’s the murderer, isn’t he?”

Rarity took the twine that surrounded the package in her magic and pulled. It didn’t budge. “Whatever makes you say that?”

“Because last time I thought someone was cool, you found out they were evil,” Rainbow said. She had crossed the room now, and was watching Rarity’s struggles.

“I’d hardly have called Wind Rider—” Rarity grit her teeth. The package in her grasp continued to thwart her efforts. “Ugh. I’d hardly have called Wind Rider ‘evil,” darling, and a sample size of one isn’t a trend.”

“You get that from Twilight?”

“On one of our drinking nights, yes,” Rarity said. She dropped the package back onto the table.

“Need some help with that?”

“No need, darling,” she said. “Ah… would you mind turning away for a moment?”

“…Why?”

“My dignity.”

“Um… alright.”

Rainbow turned to face the door. She stayed that way for a few moments. Upon Rarity’s announcement of “Done!” she turned back around, only to find that the packaging around the case had been removed, and the twine that had held it had been split cleanly.

“How did you—” she began to ask, but then Rarity opened the case. “Whoa…”

Inside were a pair of swords, sabers. They both gleamed in the light like it had just been finished that day.

Rarity lifted them out of the box with care. “Hm… exquisite craftsmanship. But why two swords?”

“They’re for dueling,” Rainbow said.She took to the air and snatched one of them from Rarity’s magic with her teeth. She swung it a few times, using her neck and wings to guide it. The maneuver was less “graceful” and more “dog with stick”, but it worked. She managed to keep a good two inches away from breaking anything, too.

Meanwhile, Rarity examined her sword’s edge. “Yes, I do believe you’re right,” she said. “Somewhat morbid for a gift, don’t you think?”

Rainbow spat the sword out into her cradled hooves. “Only if ‘morbid’ is another word for ‘awesome’!”

“It is not.”

“Then you need to get your dictionary checked,” Rainbow said. “Is the other one a pegasus sword, too?”

“A what?”

“A pegasus sword. Y’know, lightweight? Easier to fly with? Weird to see one this bulky in the handle, though.”

Rarity lifted the other sword up with her magic, testing its weight. “I should say not,” she said. “It’s quite heavy, really. Since when do you know so much about swordplay?”

Rainbow shrugged. “Swords are awesome. I’m awesome. Transitive property.”

“I believe that would make you a sword, darling, if my math is correct.”

“Your math just isn’t on my level of cool yet.”

“Still,” Rarity mused, “why would the major give Blueblood one normal sword and one pegasus sword? Especially as a matching set?”

Rainbow shrugged. “I’m not complaining. Hey, he said that we could keep these, right? Because I sculpted a fireplace for my cloud house this year, and I’ve been needing something to go on the wall over it…”

“Yes, of course, darling,” Rarity said, but it was clear by the way her voice trailed off that her thoughts were focused elsewhere.

After a few moments, she straightened up. “Well, that settles that.”

“What settles what?”

“The penultimate piece of the puzzle,” Rarity said, striding towards the door. There was an extra sashay in her step, one that had been noticeably absent the rest of the night.

“The pen-what?”

“The next-to-last piece.” Rarity set her magic on the doorknob, then turned back to look at Rainbow. She was smiling. A devilish, I-know-your-secret-and-I’m-going-to-tell-everyone sort of smile.

“You’ll see, darling,” she said. “You’ll see. I just have one more thing I need to check first.”


“Through these doors are the kitchens,” the butler said. “As you requested.”

“Thank you. I’ll just be a few minutes, and then I think we can wrap all of this up. Are you not coming?”

“I will remain here,” the butler said. “The kitchen staff and I… do not see eye to eye on some things.”

“In that case, could you gather the others in the east dining room, at the scene of the crime?” Rarity asked. “Tell them I will have an announcement to make when I return. I believe Rainbow and I can find our way back on our own.”

Rarity stepped through the swinging double doors and into the kitchens, Rainbow following close behind her. They’d come here straight from the library, but their route had necessarily taken them past the foyer, where they’d seen several of the other guests.

It had been evident from their faces and the nervous quality of their conversation that knowledge of the night’s occurrences had spread to the rest of the partygoers, though what form that took was anyone’s guess.

The kitchens themselves were, as one should have expected by this point, grand and well-furnished. Ovens lay below clean slate counters, shiny steel implements hung on carefully-organized racks, but these trivialities were hardly eye-catching at this point.

No, what really drew attention was the cooks. There was a whole team of them, and they ducked and wove around one another like dancers, darting over to one workstation, then to the next, in a display that could only be the product of either careful choreography or a dozen years of circus performances between them.

It was a shame that Rarity had interrupt it, but such was the price of justice.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Could I speak to the head chef for a few minutes? It’s of the utmost importance.”

One of the chefs broke off from the rest. “That would be me, ma’am. What can I help you with?” He was a strikingly tall stallion, with an equally striking mustache that twitched when he spoke.

“I’d like to ask you a few questions,” Rarity said. “If you wouldn’t mind.”

“I assume this is about the unfortunate incident which has befallen our employer?” he asked.

“It it indeed.”

“Then you must be that lady detective they’ve been talking about.”

“Only when it suits me,” Rarity said. “Are they really talking about me?”

“I think half the household has been! It’s not every day something like this happens, is it? Everyone else has gotten all excited. Me, though, I want nothing to do with it, no ma’am.”

“It may already be too late for that,” Rarity said. “Tell me, did a stallion come in here earlier? Shorter than you, wearing a suit and monocle? Says ‘I say’ a lot?”

“That’d be Mr. Pant’s you’re talking about?”

“He prefers Fancy,” Rarity said. “I understand you all gave him a demonstration of how to properly prepare pufferfish?”

“Aye, we did!” one of the other chefs called out. “He was keen on the subject, he was!”

“Good thing we had those extra fish in the larder!” another one said. “We had to show him three times before he was satisfied!”

“And how long would you say that took?” Rarity asked.

The head chef thought for a moment. “Oh, a good five minutes if I had to guess. Why? Is it important?”

“It very well might be.” She gestured across the kitchen, to a door opposite the one they’d come in on. “That door, where does it lead?”

“To the west hallway,” the head chef said. “We’re at about the middle of the house, and there’s a dining room in both wings, so we have a door for each.”

“How convenient. Tell me, did Blueblood have any peculiar habits when it came to his champagne?”

The head chef snorted. “I’ll say. Now, are we talking normal pony peculiar, or high-society peculiar? Because there were plenty of both.”

“Either will do.”

“Well—”

“He had us open a new bottle every night!” another chef called out, partway through rolling a new sheet of pasta. “And then throw out whatever was left of it when he went to bed! He had the money for it, he’d say!”

Rarity cast a side glance at Rainbow. “More of your tax dollars at work, there, darling.”

“Figures,” Rainbow said, though she sounded distracted.

“We never did throw them out, though!” one of the other chefs said. “We’d say we would, then share it out around the staff! He was such a lightweight, we’d always have enough for a second round!”

“You might want to skip that tonight,” Rarity said. “The poison and all.”

“No worries! We’ve got an entire cellar to raid, now! We’ll all be going home with a bottle or five of poison tonight!”

There was a hearty cheer from the kitchen staff at that.

The head chef coughed. “Perhaps it would be better not to announce our plans in front of a detective,” he hissed.

“No need to worry,” Rarity said. “I’m only a detective when it suits me. Now, was there anything else?”

“There was one thing,” the head chef said. “Whenever guests were over, he’d always have us open two bottles: one for his guests, and a more expensive one for him.”

“I see,” Rarity said. “And did he have you do that tonight?”

“Yep! His choice from the cellar. He gave us strict instructions only to pour it for his glass.”

“Our courteous host,” Rarity muttered. “Could I see this bottle?”

“Sure; it’s over there, in the ice bucket on the counter. I don’t think anyone’s touched it since.”

Rarity strode over to the counter. There was the bottle, indeed, sitting in its own ice bucket alongside another that was far more filled. She lifted it out.

Rarity didn’t know all that much about wines; she’d always been more of a cocktail mare, though she’d never admit it in polite company. But just by looking at the label, she could tell this was what some might have called “the good stuff.”

The top was uncorked; she brought it up to her nostrils and took a whiff.

She smiled.

“Rainbow,” she said, turning around, “I do believe I’ve—”

Rainbow Dash wasn’t behind her, as she’d assumed. No, the pegasus was occupying herself at one of the counters—preparing to occupy herself with a steaming plate of stuffed snail shells.

“Oh, for Celestia’s sake…”

Rarity, of course, was a high-society mare. A lady. And so, when she marched across the kitchen floor, she did so daintily. When she grabbed Rainbow’s tail in her magic, she did so with grace. And when she began to drag the pegasus away from great gastropod gastrointestinal grief, well, you can imagine.

“Oh, c’mon!” Rainbow moaned as she was pulled across the floor. “I’m a pegasus! My bird half demands snails! Don’t make me deny my instincts!”

“Never!”

“Lemme just have a couple!”

“Not even one!”

“But we haven’t eaten anything all night!”

“Not! Even! One!”