• Published 30th Oct 2018
  • 1,189 Views, 582 Comments

Ponyville Noire: Kriegspiel—Black, White, and Scarlet - PonyJosiah13

War has come to Ponyville. As a criminal mastermind, a cruel pirate, and a mare with mysterious motives fight for control, Daring Do and Phillip Finder are put to the test with new cases and new foes.

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Case Eight, Chapter One: Groundbreaking

The light rain had stopped some time ago, but droplets still clung to the windows of 221 Honeybee Bakery Street. Daring glanced up from her book and found seven empty eyeholes staring back at her, each one accompanied by a wide grin. “So, what is this for again?” she asked, shifting her position on the couch.

“Suunkii’s working on a theory that the age and sex of a skeleton can be determined by examining the skull,” Phillip explained, bending his workshop table and studying another skull beneath the mounted magnifying glass. “He wanted me to give him a second opinion to test it.” He tilted the skull back slightly to study the teeth. “Wisdom teeth in. Sutures are mostly formed, except for the ones here...at least forty. Female.” He jotted down some notes and gently replaced the skull in the hardened glass container that it came in.

Daring glanced at the other skulls, each in its own glass container, standing in a row on the floor. She walked over and picked up the one marked with a number one tag. The skull inside grinned back at her, its teeth almost unnaturally white.

“Hey, Phil,” she said. When Phil turned around, she held the skull next to her head. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you about these living conditions,” she said in a deep voice, mumbling out of the corner of her mouth and shaking the skull as though it was speaking.

“Put that down, it's evidence,” Phillip scowled.

Daring stuck her tongue out at him but obeyed. “You are no fun,” she said, climbing back onto the couch and returning to the adventures of Hayana Pones. She glanced out the window, watching the water dripping down the glass and off the branches of the cherry tree, the same branches that had been laden with snow only two weeks ago.

Daring hummed, then began to sing beneath her breath. “Winter wrap up, winter wrap up, let’s finish our holiday cheer—

“Please. Stop,” Phillip groaned.

“I’m trying to get it out of my head!” Daring replied.

“Well, don’t put it in mine, I just got it out a couple days ago!” Phillip replied.

“Maybe we can try putting it in one of their heads,” Daring commented, nodding at one of the skulls. “You know, if you asked nicely, you could probably get some great decorations for Nightmare Night.”

“Don’t think Suun would go for it,” Phillip stated.

“Has anypony ever told you that you’re exceptionally boring?” Daring said.

“You,” Phillip answered. “At least twice a week.”

“I can think of at least one other thing we can do today,” Daring added, a note of bitterness sliding into her voice. She glared at the copy of the Foal Free Press that lay on the table.

Splashed across the front page was a photograph of Scarlet Letter, smiling and waving at a crowd of ponies. “Construction for Rehabilitation Center Begins Today!” the headline proclaimed proudly. The story beneath went on to describe how the generosity of Scarlet Letter had led to the purchase of an empty warehouse in the Everfree District, which was to be officially refurbished into a drug rehabilitation center that would offer support and services to the many disadvantaged of the area. An official groundbreaking ceremony was taking place at that moment.

“And what exactly would you do?” Phillip stated, turning and raising an eyebrow at her. “Confront her in front of an adoring crowd?”

“I’d like to do something other than just sitting on my ass and wait for her to fuck up!” Daring snapped. “You hear about that critic or something that she was with getting run over last week?”

“Best Seller, yes,” Phillip nodded. “Funeral’s taking place today. Trace was looking into it; he says there is something fishy there.”

“Damn right: she was involved,” Daring growled.

“Making assumptions makes for sloppy detective work,” Phillip stated.

Daring just grunted. “I bet she’s got something in her home...maybe if I break in—”

“Daring,” Phillip interrupted. “Thinking like that’s just going to get you into trouble.”

“Only if we don’t get caught,” Daring huffed. “Breaking into Silvertongue’s mansion could’ve gotten us in trouble.”

“We knew what we were looking for then,” Phillip pointed out. “You don’t know if Scarlet even has anything. And with the public on her side, it could backfire badly on us. There’s just too much risk involved for likely no reward, especially when we could try something else.” He frowned for a moment, then added quietly, “Daring, you could go back to prison for trying that.”

Daring scowled, but lifted her right hoof. The cursed brand stared back at her, emotionless, a statement of fact. “Fuck,” she snarled to herself. “Fuck.”

Phillip walked over and sat down next to her. “I know it’s hard,” he whispered, running a hoof through her mane. “Sometimes I’m tempted to just try to pull her into an alley and squeeze something out of her, but it won’t get us anywhere in the long run.”

“I know,” Daring muttered. “I’ll keep saying it: being the good guy sucks sometimes.”

“Too right,” Phillip agreed, continuing to stroke her mane and back. “But there are other ways to get what we need. And we both know she’ll slip up sometime.”

Daring sighed. Phillip stood and started to walk back to his work table.

“Hey,” Daring called. “Did I say you could stop?”

Phillip smiled faintly and walked back over to massage Daring, who closed her eyes with a quiet sigh and relaxed into his touch.

As if on cue, the telephone interrupted with its cacophonous ring. Both ponies sighed and Phillip walked over to pick up the receiver. “Finder and Do.”

It’s Trace,” said the familiar voice on the other end of the line. “You know about Best Seller’s parents, Classic and Modern Literature?”

“Heard of ‘em,” Phillip answered.

“Their place was robbed,” Trace said. “If you’re not busy, we could use you down here.

Phil looked over at Daring. “Well, you wanted something to do,” he said.

Daring sighed. “Better than just sitting here with you and the boneheads.”

“We’ll be there,” Phillip said and hung up.

Gathering their equipment, Phillip and Daring stepped out the front door. Phillip turned and locked the door behind him. As the lock latched with a click, the doors and windows of the house momentarily glowed with a faint purple light.

“Guess that means Twilight’s wards work,” Phillip muttered.

“Yeah, it’s nice to not have to worry about somepony waiting in the living room for us when we get home,” Daring commented.

Noting the frown still clinging to Daring’s face and the way she tread lightly on her right foreleg, Phillip said, “Would it cheer you up if I let you carry me?”

Daring’s eyes lit up and a grin spread across her face as she slowly spread her wings. Phillip’s eyes widened and he stepped back a little. “I suddenly regret my decisi—AAAAAAAAA!”

“It is my sincere hope that this center will be a shining beacon of hope for the ponies of this city,” Scarlet Letter announced, her voice magnified by the microphones on the podium before her. “Too many of our fellow citizens—our neighbors, friends, and family—have had their lives ruined by drugs. This center, once rebuilt and refurbished with caring staff, will give us a chance to turn their lives around, and with them, this city. Ponyville will rise again, with all our hooves pulling each other out of the darkness!”

The crowd of ponies cheered, stamping their hooves and applauding; the rain had only stopped less than half an hour ago, and the stomping was accompanied by soft splashing. Scarlet stepped back and took a bow.

“Thank you, Miss Letter,” Mayor Mare smiled, shaking hooves with Scarlet. “Now, would you care to join me for the ceremonial groundbreaking?”

“Madame Mayor, it would be my pleasure,” Scarlet smiled as the two of them retrieved a pair of gilded shovels from a nearby assistant. The mares walked up to the ground in front of the abandoned warehouse, which was a two-story brick building, its windows smashed and the walls covered in graffiti. Both mares placed the shovels on the ground.

“To a new future!” Mayor Mare declared as they both dug their shovels into the ground. Applause broke out once more as the flashbulbs of cameras lit up the evening.

But amidst the celebration, two pegasi stood, muttering to one another. “She’s up to something, I know it,” Rainbow Dash scowled.

“Rainbow, she could just be being nice,” Fluttershy admonished her quietly. “She didn’t have to do any of this for this city.”

“Have you been reading the papers?” Rainbow hissed back. “First, that artist who worked on her gallery goes missing, then the stallion she was going out with gets hit by a truck? It’s just like all the other bosses that used to run this city.” She scowled at Scarlet, who was currently shaking hooves with the Mayor and the head contractor. “No, something’s up with her.”

“You don’t have any proof of that,” Fluttershy replied, turning towards her. “She—” Fluttershy paused, her eyes widening as she focused on the dark purple bruise on Rainbow’s jaw.

“You’ve been hurt!” she cried, reaching up to examine the injury.

“It’s fine,” Rainbow Dash muttered, pushing Fluttershy’s foreleg away with a callused hoof.

Fluttershy’s eyes widened even further, then narrowed. “You’ve been fighting again,” she said.

“Three drug dealers down near Charcoal Boulevard,” Rainbow Dash said, a grim smile crossing her face. “I taught them all a lesson.”

“A lesson in what?” Fluttershy said. “And they could’ve killed you!”

“He got in one lucky hit,” Rainbow snapped back.

“And what if that had been with a knife or a bullet?!” Fluttershy cried. “What...what are you trying to do with these fights?”

“The same thing that Daring Do does,” Rainbow replied. “Stand up to these thugs and tell them that we’re not going to just let them do what they want anymore!”

“All you’re doing is putting yourself at risk!” Fluttershy replied, her voice loud enough that it started to turn heads. “You could go to jail, or the hospital, or you could get killed! You…”

Rainbow turned and gripped Fluttershy’s shoulders, staring into her eyes with a steely gaze. “I can’t just stand by and do nothing,” she replied. “You know I can’t. I’ve had to watch while this city went to Tartarus for years; I’m done watching.” She glared at Scarlet Letter, who was posing for photographs with the Mayor. “I’m done watching,” she repeated.

“But…” Fluttershy protested, tears stinging in her eyes. “You could…”

“I knew you wouldn’t understand,” Rainbow muttered and with a flap of her wings, flew off into the sky. Fluttershy remained on the ground, watching the blue dot disappearing over the horizon.

As far as houses in the Financial District went, there were three levels. Middle-class apartments and condos littered the interior layers of the district, those closest to the center of the city. Several layers of upper-class homes and gated communities surrounded them as if to pen the lower classes in and keep them from spreading any further northwest.

Finally, on the outermost edges of the city were the mansions, built by the richest of the city’s patrons and business leaders, those who had too much time and money ready at their polished hooves. Classic and Modern Literature resided in one of these, a blue and white affair that stood on its own block. The two-story building had a single tower in the center with a circular window like an eye staring out at the world. A group of police cruisers was gathered in front of the trimmed lawn; amidst them was a familiar Hayson Commander and a dark blue pickup truck with “Police CSU” painted on the sides.

Daring landed in the middle of the lawn, dropping off Phillip. They proceeded down the pathway to the grand front doors, which were obligingly opened by a pair of police officers. They entered a hallway that was almost larger than their entire house, with a wide set of marble stairs leading up to the second floor. A large painting depicted the Literature family; Classic, a tall blue unicorn with a bushy pale yellow mustache, and Modern, a smaller, rounder green unicorn with red and yellow hair, stared emotionlessly, while the late Best Seller grinned smugly at the visitors.

The real Literatures were standing in front of the stairway, speaking to Trace Evidence. Both of them were still wearing the black accouterments from the funeral, slightly damp from the rain. Other police officers wandered through the hallway, flowing in and out of rooms or standing and chatting with one another.

“I’m sorry, detective, but this is a bit much to handle,” Modern was sniffling, wiping at her green eyes. “We went out to bury our son, only for it to be interrupted by the police and witness his body being carted away, and then we come home to find that we have been robbed.”

“I know this is difficult, ma’am,” Trace said patiently, scribbling a note in his notepad. “But if we’re going to find out who did this, we do need to ask you some questions. Now, these two servants of yours: do you have any reason to suspect them?”

“Neither!” Classic replied, his mustache bristling and his gray-blue eyes flashing as though the question was a personal insult. “They have both been in our employ for years, and neither of them has given us the least cause for complaint!”

“Just need to ask,” Trace said placidly. “Now, tell me about this security system you installed.”

“We had it installed years ago, after we had a stalker prowling around,” Classic stated. “The doors can only be opened by one of five enchanted keys, each of which is owned by myself, my wife, our son, and our two servants. The windows are all made of shatterproof glass and can only be opened from the inside, and the doors and windows are linked to a silent alarm to the police station.”

“Wish we could afford all that,” Daring muttered to Phillip.

“Also, the case for the statues was made of shatterproof glass and was locked with a combination lock,” Classic continued. “Only I and my wife knew the combination.”

“I see,” Trace nodded. “We’re going to continue looking around the mansion. We’ll let you know if we need anything else.”

Closing his notebook, Trace looked up and greeted Phillip and Daring with a nod. “Glad you could make it,” he said. “The Literatures are one of the oldest families in the city, and they’ve got quite a bit of clout, so there’s pressure on us to solve this one fast.”

“Ain’t politics a wonderful thing?” Daring rolled her eyes.

“What was taken?” Phillip asked.

“These four golden statues that they got at an auction a few years ago,” Trace said, shrugging. “They’re pretty expensive, from what I’m told: lots of jewels embedded into them.”

Daring’s ears perked up slightly.

“They left for the funeral around noon, stayed about an hour, and came home. They didn't go up to the study for a few hours later, so they didn't notice the theft. We’re questioning the two servants, a cook and a butler,” Trace continued, not noticing Daring’s reaction. “And we’re searching the mansion for any sign of them. No signs of forced entry, and the silent alarm was never tripped. You’d best take a look at the room the statues were in: it’s up on the second floor, right in front of the stairs. Twilight and Suunkii are there already.”

“Thanks,” Phillip nodded. He and Daring started up the stairs to the second floor.

As they approached the landing, Phillip paused, his ears swiveling. He turned to see Red Herring speaking to a short, skinny, light blue earth pony with sandy hair.

“As I told you before, sir, I was here during the entire time that the masters were out,” the butler said. He was surprisingly young for his position, barely in his twenties. “I saw no one entering the house, and neither I nor Cobbler left.”

“Well, if there was no one else in the house, that puts you in a pretty thick bind,” Red commented dryly.

“I am telling you the truth, detective,” the butler replied. “I was here the entire hour that the masters were gone, and I saw no sign of any forced entry, nor did anypony enter or leave the mansion after they returned.”

“Hmph,” Red grunted, glancing down at his notepad. “Well, don’t leave town, Shoe Shine.”

Shoe Shine sniffed and walked away. Red flipped his notebook shut. Spotting Phil and Daring, he glided over to them.

“Trace and I knew there was something weird about Best Seller’s death,” he muttered to them. “The Lits have a reputation for never leaving their home. This is the first time in moons that they step outside, and this happens. We already had to interrupt the funeral to bring the body back to the morgue for another look.”

“If I were you, I’d start asking Scarlet some questions,” Daring growled.

“We’ll deal with her,” Red said. “You see what you can find out about this. I gotta go talk to Peach Cobbler again.” He walked off.

“Daring,” Phillip said quietly, laying a hoof on her shoulder. “Why do you hate her so much?”

For a moment, Scarlet’s taunt echoed in Daring’s ears: “So you aren’t that different from us after all.” The brand stabbed with pain and she lifted it off the ground with a soft hiss.

“She made it personal,” she growled. “Come on.”

“Wait,” Phillip said, raising a hoof. He and Daring peered over the banister of the stairs to see Red speaking to a plump brown earth pony with a brown mustache and the cutie mark of a pie plate.

“Well, of course I’m sure Shoe Shine was here while the masters were out,” Peach Cobbler said, wiping his hooves on his apron. “I know because I remember offering him some of my upside-down apple cake. He said it was delicious, but he seemed a bit distracted.”

“Distracted how?” Red asked.

“He was in a rush,” Peach explained. “Hurried off before I could ask if he wanted more. That’s not like him: he usually hangs around and chats more, especially when the masters are away.”

“Hmm,” Phillip muttered. He and Daring proceeded up the stairs and into a study. Shelves of books in gilded covers lined the walls, accentuated with paintings and stands with vases and sculptures atop them. In the center of the room was an empty glass case. Twilight Sparkle was currently crouched in front of the case, studying it with her magic.

“Ah, hello!” she chirped when they entered.

“These statues,” Daring said. “They were statues of the Old Gods, laden with jewels, right?”

“Yes, they were,” Twilight said, her eyebrows raising in surprise. “I have a photograph of them here.” She pulled a photograph out of her saddlebags and held it up.

The picture showed the two Literatures smiling proudly in front of the case. Inside the case were four statues. On the left was Daybreaker, wings aflame, snarling at the viewers with his red eyes. Next was his sister, Nightmare Moon, smirking in victory; the small sapphires in her mane glittered like stars. Next was Discord, his hodgepodge body coiled like a snake. His eyes—one orange, one yellow, each embedded into the palms of his paws—seemed to stare right at the viewers. Finally, Tirek stood on the right, raising a broadsword with one arm, mouth open in a bellow of rage.

“You know them,” Phillip stated.

“The Innsbeak Statues,” Daring commented. “Of course I know them; I stole them.”

Phillip and Twilight both stared at Daring, who sighed. “I stole them years ago, when I was still running with the Family. I was hired to find them by some private collector who figured out that they'd been stolen years ago; took me a month to track them down to some antique shop in Fillydelphia." She let out a breath. "Should have taken the payment up front and sold them to a museum instead; they belonged in there."

“Anyway,” Phillip interrupted. “Any clues on how the case was opened?”

“There’s no sign of forced entry, and I can’t detect any sign of magical tampering on this,” Twilight commented, scanning the case with her magic. “There’s a combination lock on this with five nine-digit tumblers: that’s 59,049 combinations. They’d probably have had to have known the combination beforehoof.”

“And no other signs of forced entry into the mansion?” Phillip asked.

“None,” Twilight shook her head. “I’ve already examined every door and window. The strengthening wards are in place, the silent alarm works, none of the locks were tampered with…” She scratched the back of her head. “We’re still working on how the thief got in, if it was an outsider.”

“Phillip Finder,” Doctor Suunkii called from the door. “Come, quickly. There is something I wish for you to see.”

“Daring, see if you can figure out another way in,” Phillip said, following Suunkii. Suunkii led Phillip back down to the first floor and around to a door in the back. They entered a kitchen that was larger than Phillip’s dining room and living room put together, outfitted with all the most modern kitchenware.

“Here,” Suunkii said, proceeding through a doorway in the back. There was a small hallway leading to a back door. Hanging from a hook in the wall was a rain jacket, still damp. In a puddle beneath it was a set of rain boots, mud clinging to the soles.

“Somepony went out in the rain earlier,” Phillip observed, picking up the boots and studying the soles. “Size twelve.”

“Both Peach Blossom and Shoe Shine completely deny ever going out while the Literatures were gone,” Suunkii explained as Phillip began to scrape some soil samples off the soles of the boots into a plastic bag. “They are both stating that the other must have gone out. The boots and coat could belong to either of them.”

“No hair or anything,” Phillip observed, studying the coat. “Rain must’ve washed it away.” He opened the back door and looked out. He crouched down close to the ground, scanning the wet grass and mud. “Tracks here,” he said, pointing at a line of very faint impressions.

"Twilight Sparkle attempted to perform a tracking spell earlier to identify and follow any hoofprints outside," Suunkii explained. "Unfortunately, it did not work; the tracks are too old, and the rain has left insufficient trace to be picked up by magic."

"Bugger," Phillip muttered. He stood up and started to walk back inside, then paused, his head turning towards a trash can. “What’s this?” he muttered, bending over and picking up several shredded pieces of paper. Parts of a message could be discerned on some of the pieces.

“That appears worth investigating,” Suunkii commented, taking a few photos of the note with a camera.

Phillip arranged the letter pieces on the kitchen table and began to piece them back together. It only took him a few minutes to piece the message back together. Written on the faint pink paper in swirling purple ink was: “We need to talk right away. Meet me at our usual spot when they’re gone.”

“Written by a female, if the little hearts are any indication,” Phillip muttered, studying the writing beneath a magnifying glass as Suunkii took another photograph. “Excellent cursive, so they’re well-educated. Not mouth-written...horn-written, maybe. Sheet was torn from a notepad...good quality paper, so they’re well-off. Suun, think we can get an impression off the top of the sheet?”

“We may try,” Suunkii nodded. “I will return in a moment.”

He walked outside and came back a minute later with a glass vial full of an orange liquid in his mouth and a plastic bag with a gray-black powder in his hoof. He spooned some of the powder into the vial, causing the liquid to turn a clear color, then used a dropper to apply it to the letter. The liquid faded into the paper, but nothing happened.

“So much for that plan,” Phillip muttered.

With a flap of wings, Daring entered the room. “I can’t find any other easy ways in here,” she admitted. “I even had Twilight check the vents for any sign of shrinking violets: nothing. There’s no actual sign of a break-in, but I did have an idea.” She lowered her voice slightly. “When Best Seller was killed, did he have his keys on him?”

“I do not know,” Suunkii frowned. “Doctor Mortis performed the autopsy.”

“We’ll have to ask her, then,” Daring sighed. “Fuck, I hate going into the morgue.”

Trace poked his head in. “We can’t find the statues anywhere here, or on the grounds,” he stated.

“We’ll head back to the precinct,” Phillip said. “We’ve got some evidence to look over.”

Author's Note:

And so opens the next big case in the adventures of Phillip Finder and Daring Do! Four mysterious statues of ancient gods stolen, and few clues to go on. Just a typical day, right?

Bonus points to anyone who can figure out what "Innsbeak" is a reference to.

Oh, yeah. And happy 2019 and all that!

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