• Published 1st Aug 2020
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Ponyville Noire: Misty Streets of Equestria - PonyJosiah13

Scarred from their final encounter with Zugzwang, Phillip Finder and Daring Do struggle to make peace with the past while balancing a slew of new mysteries that will take them beyond Ponyville.

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Case Fourteen, Chapter One: On Scaly Wings

Ponyville was used to unusual sights. A city of four hundred thousand creatures is guaranteed to have its share of strangeness on a regular basis, never mind the fact that it had, until last month, been ruled by a succession of crime lords.

However, a dragon strolling down Golden Oaks Street was definitely odd.

Heads turned as the orange dragon walked down the sidewalk past the enormous oak tree at the mouth of the street, glancing at the map that she’d pulled out of her backpack. Mothers pulled foals back into their homes with yelps of fright and doors slammed shut in her wake, shades snapping down over windows. The dragoness paused, glancing around in confusion and irritation before sighing and continuing on. “Ten-ten, ten-ten…” she mumbled to herself, checking the numbers of the houses that she walked past.

She finally paused in front of a two-story brown cottage with golden trim. “Ah, there we are!” she declared, replacing the map in her backpack and striding up to the door, which she knocked at, hard.

After a few moments, the door opened and an orange pegasus peered out the opening, his blue eyes widening in surprise. “Hello,” he nodded politely.

“‘Sup,” the dragoness replied. “Do Twilight and Spike live here?”

“Smolder!” a voice cried from inside and Spike rushed out the door past Flash, hugging the orange dragoness around the waist. Smolder smiled and patted Spike on the head.

“How you doing, little guy?” Smolder said. “Still haven’t molted?”

“Not yet, but we’re expecting it any day now,” Twilight said as she entered the hallway, telekinetically scooping up the morning Foal Free Press from the front step. “Good to see you, Smolder! Come on inside.”

“I, uh...take it you know this dragon?” Flash commented, stepping aside as Smolder entered, closing the door behind her.

“I see your detective training is paying off,” Twilight smirked, booping Flash and setting the newspaper on a side table as they proceeded into the sitting room. “This is Smolder. We knew her when we lived in Canterlot. She helped the Princesses and I make sure Spike was growing properly and gave us some advice on dragon growth. She's been a big help.”

“You’re just lucky Ambassador Krein took a liking to you, kid,” Smolder grinned, playfully punching Spike on the shoulder. “Babysitting wasn’t in the original job description when I signed up as his assistant.”

“Yeah, I know, dragons don’t do soft stuff,” Spike smirked and rolled his eyes as Smolder began to unpack her backpack, dumping notebooks and books written in Dragontongue over the study materials that Twilight and Flash had set out for the detective written test.

Amidst the spilled materials was a photograph of baby Spike sitting at a table holding up a plastic teacup for Smolder, who was wearing a turquoise dress, a tiara, and a smile as she poured tea into his cup. Twilight, wearing a pale yellow dress and hennin, was giggling from the other side of the table.

“Apparently, some dragons do,” Flash smirked as Twilight giggled.

Smolder let out a squawk and quickly snatched the picture back into her backpack. “You didn’t see anything!” she snarled at Flash, baring her pointed teeth. Flash gulped and quickly wiped his smile off his face, nodding rapidly.

“So how’s Krein doing?” Spike asked.

“Could be better,” Smolder admitted, opening up the book on dragon development.

“Why?” Twilight asked. “Is something happening in the Dragonlands?”

“Nah; most exciting thing going on over there is Princess Ember fending off would-be suitors.” Smolder stuck her tongue out and jammed her finger in her throat, gagging loudly to express her opinion of it all. “No, the big issue right now is in Canterlot.”

“What’s going on?” Spike asked.

“Some dragons in Canterlot are disappearing,” Smolder explained, putting her talons in her lap. “More than a dozen in the past five months. The police are looking into it, but they’re coming up with nothing. Not that they’re being much help,” she added with a grumble.

“Why not?” Flash asked. “If they’re anything like Ponyville used to be, then—”

“It’s not that,” Smolder interrupted. “There’s been a spree of bank robberies in Canterlot, and the police suspect a dragon, so they’re cracking down on the dragon neighborhoods.”

“Why do they suspect a dragon?” Twilight asked with a frown. “What evidence do they have?”

“Well, there is that,” Flash commented, picking up the Foal Free Press and holding up the picture that his eyes had fallen upon.

Twilight and Spike both stared in disbelief at the photograph. It showed the facade of the First Equestrian Bank, according to the gold lettering over the doorway.

Or rather, over the massive, jagged hole where the door used to be. The massive ten-foot-tall door, made of iron with bars over its windowed center, lay on the ground next to the marble steps, having been ripped from the hinges and flung aside to allow access to the bank. Police officers stood on either side of the staircase, holding back a curious crowd as a pair of plainclothes officers ducked underneath the crime scene tape cordoning off the area.

“Superstrong Stealer Strikes Again!” read the headline.

"Who wrote that?" Flash asked, his brow furrowed in befuddlement.

Twilight took up the paper and started to read through the article. “According to this, that was the fifth bank hit in three months,” she reported. “Just like the other ones, the robber or robbers ripped the front door and the vault door open, stole several bags of bits and gems, then took the recording crystal from the security room. There was no trace of magic spells being used at the scene...police have not announced any suspects…”

“See, the cops think that only a dragon would be strong enough to rip open a vault door like that without a spell,” Smolder replied. “So they’ve been cracking down on the dragons, prying for suspects. They weren’t on good terms with dragons anyway, and this is just making it worse.”

“I mean, I’d suspect a dragon, too,” Flash mused. “I mean, no other creature is strong enough tooooo....I should shut up now, shouldn’t I?” he asked, looking up to find the other three all glaring at him.

“That would probably be a good idea,” Twilight stated.

“And if the dragons don’t trust the cops to help them with these disappearances, who are we gonna ask for help?” Smolder asked, flinging her claws up in frustration.

Spike, Twilight, and Flash all exchanged looks. “We might have an idea,” Twilight said.

Thud, thud, thud, thud.

He exhaled sharply with every punch, his hooves hammering into the heavy bag with a steady rhythm. Jab-cross, hook. Jab, body shot, elbow. Cross, double elbow, clinch into knee strike. He drove his knee up again and again with a convulsive motion, like a sharp cough. If the bag was a foe, every strike would send them doubling over, wheezing and coughing.

Unless it was...

Phillip Finder paused, recovering his breath. No. Don’t think about that. He’s dead. Phillip leaned against the bag, mopping sweat off his brow with his gray t-shirt as he tried to banish the images from his head.

Forget the red sky. Forget the black eyes. Forget the way its voice gurgled as it laughed...

“You all right?” Daring Do asked, dropping down from the exposed pipe that served as a pull-up bar. She wiped her sweaty face with a foreleg, briefly hiding the entrenched shadows that were carved around her haggard rosy eyes.

“I’m fine,” Phillip grunted, shaking his head as he shook out his forelegs. He started punching the bag again, adding in ducks and weaves as he avoided the imaginary enemy’s attacks. Daring watched him for a second, then dropped to the floor and started doing wing-ups.

“Phil?” a voice called down the stairs. “There’s a client at the door.”

Something stabbed Phillip in the chest and his breath hitched hard. He staggered against the bag, sucking in air for a moment.

“Okay, dad,” he called. He mopped off more sweat and started up the stairs. Daring followed him, her face fixed masklike as she studied his back. She tread lightly on her right foreleg; a slight twitch at the corner of her mouth with every step was the only indication of pain that she allowed herself to give.

Bobby Baseline was waiting at the top of the stairs for them, an eager smile on his face. “Here’s the stallion and the mare themselves!” he announced, gesturing to Phillip and Daring like a circus ringmaster introducing the center act.

Both Phillip and Daring blinked in surprise at their client. The orange dragonness, by contrast, looked decidedly unimpressed. “So he’s the bigshot detective who took down that big crime boss?” she asked Spike, who was standing next to them.

Zugzwang. He took down Zugzwang...Zugzwang, with the black eyes and—

Stop it, Phillip ordered himself, taking a few deep breaths to try to erase the crushing pain in his chest at the thought.

“I know, they’re awesome,” Spike replied with a grin.

“Thanks, dad,” Phillip said, dismissing his father with a wave. Bobby retreated out the back to where Rain Rhythm was sitting on the porch in her wheelchair, enjoying the sun on her face.

Phillip beckoned Smolder to the long green sofa where clients sat as he and Daring both collapsed onto the pair of old couches opposite the coffee table with the chessboard. Smolder glanced around the room as she sat down, taking in the overstuffed bookshelf, the battered but well-polished saxophone on the stand next to the stacks of records and the record player, and the table littered with chemistry equipment and experimental notes.

“So, you here to enjoy the scenery?” Daring asked with a quirked eyebrow as Spike climbed up next to Smolder. “I’m kinda reaching here, but something tells me you’re not from Ponyville.”

“Name’s Smolder,” the dragoness replied. “I’m from Canterlot; I work for Ambassador Krein, Speaker of the Dragons.”

“So what’s a high-roller like you doing in our humble abode?” Daring asked.

“I’m here because Spike and Twilight suggested you,” Smolder explained. “We’ve got a problem up in Canterlot.”

Smolder proceeded to give an explanation of the situation, detailing the disappearing dragons, the superstrong bank robber, and the tense relations between the dragons and the police. Phillip and Daring listened attentively, occasionally interjecting with a question.

“It’s been more than a dozen dragons that have disappeared, starting about three months ago.” Smolder scowled bitterly. “No one except us dragons gives a damn,” she growled to herself.

“That’s not true,” Spike protested, placing a claw on her forearm.

Smolder paused for a moment, then sighed. “The last dragon who disappeared...she was a friend of mine.”

She pulled a photograph out of her backpack and handed it to Phillip and Daring. The picture was of a dark green dragon whose scales looked like they were made of solid rock, grinning up at the camera with twinkling brown eyes. She was holding up a hunk of granite, which appeared to have a large bite taken out of it; small specks of stone clung to the dragon’s sharp teeth.

“Her name is Kreidol,” Smolder stated. “She’s a stone dragon, came over here hoping to get a job in construction. She vanished four days ago, right when she was about to start her new work.” She let out a noise that was partially a sigh, partially a growl as she took the picture back. “I’ve looked for her everywhere I can think of. Nothing.”

“They can find her,” Spike reassured her, gripping her forearm comfortingly.

“Wait a minute,” Phillip said with a frown. “You said that the dragon disappearances started three months ago?”

“You sure you’re a detective?” Smolder asked.

“Smolder!” Spike chastised.

Phillip and Daring glanced at each other. “Those bank robberies started about three months ago,” Daring mused. “I remember reading about them in the papers.”

Smolder’s eyes brightened a bit. “So you have some idea how they’re doing it?”

“No,” Phillip said. “Mistake to theorize before you have evidence. We’ll have to—”

He paused and swallowed, wincing as a stabbing pain raced across his chest.


The pain increased, like somepony was shoving a crowbar into his chest. He curled up into himself, trying to suck in deep breaths to calm his frantically pounding heart. His hooves clenched the armrests, grip tightening so much that the wood cracked.

“Phil, you okay?” Spike asked, concern flashing across his face. His voice sounded distant and echoing, like Phillip was trapped in a well.

“Phil?” Daring called, gently shaking his shoulder.

He gasped at the touch, twisting and shoving the grasping tentacle off him as the cold acid bit into his skin. It took him a second to recognize that it was just Daring, who was now backing up with her hooves raised. “Easy, easy,” she urged.

Phillip took in a deep breath, gritting his teeth as he forced the pain down, forced his hooves to unclench, ignoring the way his innards squirmed and writhed beneath his skin.

“I’m fine,” he said, trying to put force into his words in place of conviction. “I’m fine.”

“Maybe I should get somepony else to help,” Smolder said, looking increasingly skeptical.

“No, we’ll help,” Daring said firmly, rising. “Dragons or ponies, there are creatures that need our help.”

“Great!” Spike cheered.

Smolder thought for a moment, then shrugged. “If you’re sure, sure as hell won’t hurt.” She stood and stretched. “There’s a train back to Canterlot around noon. I’ll meet you there.”

“Bye, Daring, Phil!” Spike said, waving as he and Smolder exited. The door closed behind them.

“Phil, what is it?” Daring asked sharply, staring at Phillip. Bobby and Rain both reentered, their faces creasing in concern as they studied their son.

Phillip’s mane was matted and spiky, sweat shimmering atop his head. His gray eyes were dull, shadows beneath the orbits. He was currently staring down at his clenched knees, hugging himself loosely as he tried to take slow, even breaths.

“I’m fine,” he grunted through the pain of his crushing ribs and burning lungs.

“You’re not fine,” Bobby said plainly. “Neither of you. You’re not sleeping, you’re barely eating—”

“Wow. It seems detective work really does run in the family,” Daring commented to Phillip with a facsimile of a smile.

Phillip scowled at her, then at his parents. “I said I’m fine,” he grunted, rising.

“Ampa, please,” Rain said, placing a hoof on his shoulder. “Just—”

Phillip shoved her off, then stamped down the hallway, passing by the green vest and gray trilby hanging up on the coat rack. “I’m going on a walkabout. I need air,” he called, opening the door.

“Phil!” Rain called as she tried to urge her wheelchair forward, but Daring held out a branded hoof, stopping them. She shook her head, dull eyes peering out of the pallid mask that was her face as the door slammed shut.

Author's Note:

And a warm welcome back to you, reader! Hope that you've been looking forward to this as much as I have: a chance to spread our wings and explore more of Noire Equestria!

Things aren't looking so hot for Finder and Do, are they? Tough as they are, they've still got a long way to go to heal from what Zugzwang did to them last time. Maybe a new case to snap them out of their funk will be what they need.

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