• Published 13th Jan 2013
  • 3,309 Views, 108 Comments

Equestria Noir Case 17 "Marked" - Jacoboby1



A mysterious thief, an even more mysterious artifact, a zebra population with a secret, all tie in to the latest chapter of Equestria Noir

  • ...
2
 108
 3,309

Chapter 4 "Mtafutaji and Tahrihi"

Chapter 4

“Mtafutaji and Tahrihi”

I just blinked at him; I couldn’t believe what he said. “You’re saying, that somepony stole the Eye of Serenity from you?”

“Is that what they call it?” Seeker said, narrowing his eyes. “My people call it the jicho la ukweli, the Eye of Truth.”

“Okay,” I said, holding up my hooves to try and take all this in. “Just how important is the eye to your people?”

“It was a promise long ago,” Seeker explained, looking at the cityscape of Manehattan with an unreadable expression. “Three generations ago, my tribe met ponies for the first time. We were a humble village and kept to ourselves mostly. Then your great grandfather arrived, long before I was born. He came with great tidings to my people, saying that Equestria was a thriving land, willing to accommodate us. We gave him our most sacred artifact as a sign of trust and good will.”

“It was never returned?” I guessed.

“No,” Seeker said, turning to me, his expression as unreadable as a brick wall. “The pony never returned the artifact, for three generations our elders were hesitant to let us come to this land.”

“Some have come though,” I pointed out. “Zecora, for one.”

“How do you know Elder Zecora?” His gaze turned to mine, did it seem hopeful?

“She lives in the forest near where I live,” I explained, “you know, Ponyville.”

His expression was neutral, but had a twinge of searching. “Is she well?”

“Yes, very well,” I answered firmly. “How do you know her?”

“Two ways,” Seeker replied. “One, she is an elder from my tribe back home. Also, I am her nephew.”

“Say what?” My jaw dropped in shock. “You’re no older than I am. How old is Zecora?”

“I was born when she was just a teenager,” Seeker explained, “but that is not important. I merely wished to know of her health.”

“She’s fine,” I said with a smile. “She had a hard time fitting in at first, but she has taken to Ponyville quite well.”

“That is good,” he said with a nod. “Now to the matter at hoof; the elders were hesitant to come here, but after a few years it became apparent that nopony was going to return. Other tribes had already left for distant lands after our prairies couldn’t support them anymore. So Zecora left to find Equestria, namely to find the Eye as well, after not hearing from her for several months, I decided to take matters into my own hooves.”

“This Eye,” I asked “just what is it exactly?”

“It is older than the zebra themselves,” he began, looking over at me as he slipped into storyteller’s tone. “In our legends the eye was a creation that fell from the stars themselves. It had the power to gaze into the heart of anypony and see if they are lying, or telling the truth,”

“Like a magic lie detector?” I speculated.

“Sort of,” Seeker explained, “only this one is far more powerful, it could see into the very soul. When it was discovered by the Alicorns it was declared too dangerous for one to use. Many of them did not like what they found in their souls. They tried to destroy it but nothing could break it, no matter how powerful the magic.”

“Uncle Lazarus just had it in a display case, I said, in awe at what my family had.

“Several generations after the Alicorns left this world, a group of earth ponies found the Eye again. They realized the danger of such an artifact if it fell into the wrong hooves. So they took the eye and fled far away from the pony lands.”

He ran a hoof along his striped foreleg and continued, “In order to blend in with the new environment, they had a unicorn cast a powerful spell on my people. Turning their coats white with the stripes you see here” He shook his head “All legend really, the Eye in modern times is dormant now, it hasn’t worked for centuries. We gave it to your great grandfather as a sign we trusted him like I said before,”

“So Jeremiah never gave it back?” I asked, feeling a little of my family’s guilt.

“Rumor had it he died not too long after he left our lands,” Seeker speculated. “His son would not have known the true value of the Eye. Could have been circumstance, but either way,” he said, his blue eyes gazing coldly into mine, “if you think you can deter me from my quest to find it…”

“I think you misunderstand,” I said slowly. “I plan to give it back to your people.”

His blue eyes studied me for a second, “Forgive me for not trusting you.”

“You don’t seem like the kind of zebra who takes ponies at their word,” I concluded.

“You are correct,” Seeker replied. “If you want to find the Eye with my help, I will be there the whole time. I have to see if you are worthy of trust.”

“Then let’s have a trade of information,” I suggested, reaching into my trench coat and pulling out the swab of the substance I found on the walls. Seeker’s eyes scanned the contents of the swab as I informed him, “I found this where it was stolen, all over the walls.”

Seeker sniffed it and his nose wrinkled at the strong scent “It’s foul, but I know of one who can identify it back at Zebra Town.”

“Now the list,” I put the swab back in its bag and into my trench coat. I then held out my hoof and asked, “How did you know about the list?”

“I was following you,” Seeker answered, as he reached into his vest. “You looked like Jeremiah; he had the same grey coat. Also Shinebadge told me of you. So I followed you ever since you left Lazarus’ house.”

“You could’ve told me who you were,” I said pointedly.

“Forgive my mistrust,” Seeker said as he pulled out the list, “but I have been betrayed by many dishonest ponies and zebra in the past. I need, how do you ponies say, insurance?”

“Okay,” I said agreeably, picked up the list of the union leaders who all would’ve gotten the coin. I slid the list into my trench coat and looked back at him. “I’ll head to the library and see if any have skipped town or could’ve been in town during the theft.”

Seeker nodded and offered, “I will accompany you as well.”

I knew this was more of the trust issue than anything else. I returned his nod, “Alright, but know that I can hold my own against you if you try anything rash.”

“You have not seen me at full strength,” he replied rather smugly as he made for the fire escape.

Geez, this guy was going to be trouble.

____________________________________________________

The police came by, thanks to Cross, but after I finished explaining the situation they left. Cross looked up at Seeker with his head tilted. He’s never seen a zebra up close by the looks of it.

“Who is this youngling?” Seeker asked me.

“This is Cross,” I said with a small smile. “He’s my cousin; he’s tagging along as well.”

We started to walk down the street for a minute, my cousin decided to break the silence.

Cross smiled nervously at Seeker and asked, “Are you a detective like Private is?”

Seeker gave a small smile at my cousin and replied, “You could say I am. My task is to find the truth when falsehood shrouds it. A Seeker is like a detective in that fashion.”

“I thought Seeker was your name,” Cross said, raising an eyebrow. “It’s also your job?”

“My name,” Seeker replied looked down at Cross, “is what you call me. My personal name, the one my parents gave me, is only for close friends and family to know.”

This was news to me; zebra call themselves by their jobs? I’m guessing it was simple to get all the workers attention when you needed them. I guess it gave value to one’s personal name. Probably it's not too much different from me having ponies call me Private.

I guess it shows how little of the zebra we really know…

“If everypony is known by their jobs,” I pointed out, “what does Zecora mean?”

Seeker showed the slightest hint of pride and explained, “It’s a female variation of the name of a great hero to us. Ironically he was a pony like yourself, met long before your grandfather. His legend was lost to history, but the name still stands.”

“So what does it mean?” Cross asked eagerly,

Seeker smiled and spoke one word, “Doctor.”

Could it…

Nah…

____________________________________________________________

Cross and I left the library after hours of searching. Cross was eating a veggie wrap I bought for his lunch. As we sat a picnic table in a park I went down the list. “According to the list and what we could gather from the library’s references. Only two ponies were in town that would’ve had the coin.”

“What if somepony copied the coin or something?” Cross suggested as he swallowed a bite of his roll “You know, to frame it?”

“It’s genuine,” Seeker spoke firmly. “If otherwise, Gear Grinder would’ve pointed it out. Also, none of the ponies with the coin would’ve have lost it.”

“It’s a sign of senior membership,” I explained to Cross. “If they lose the coin, they lose a lot of privileges that come with the union.”

Cross sighed and said, “Grown-ups are so complicated.”

I just chuckled at his musings and pointed to two names that were circled, “So far the two names are, Gear Grinder and Hammerfall”

“You heard Hammerfall,” Cross pointed out. “He shouted out all those things against my dad, he has to be a part of this somehow.”

“Maybe,” Seeker replied, putting his hooves together in thought. “It would seem logical that Hammerfall would be the culprit.”

“Even still,” I said, rubbing my chin in deep thought, “What was the sticky stuff?”

“I believe that a close comrade of mine can identify it,” Seeker said. “Do you think you two can come to Zebra Town? She was rather insistent I invite you”

I looked at Cross and asked, “You think your dad will mind?”

“He sure as hell would mind,” I heard a voice speak up behind me.

I turned to find Lazarus standing before me. He was flanked by a pair of beefy looking body guards and the maid from before. Cross hid behind me as Seeker and I stood. Lazarus spoke again, his tone forceful “Cross Adamus Eye! You come here right now!”

Cross walked slowly out from behind me, and stood between me and his father. He looked up nervously at Lazarus. “Dad, I was just…”

“Planning on going to a dangerous part of town with only Private and this…” He gave a long disdainful stare at Seeker, “Zebra, as your protection?”

“Seeker isn’t so bad,” Cross said, trying to stem his father’s wrath. “He was inviting us to come to his place for the case.”

“A case which you shouldn’t be a part of in the first place,” Lazarus scolded. “You are coming home this instant!”

I gave my uncle a cold stare and said, “Cross can decide for himself if he wants to come.”

“He’s a ten year old colt!” Lazarus retorted. “I am his father, and I will decide if he should be here.”

Before I could say anything, Seeker walked past me. He got within inches of Lazarus’ face. This was the first expression of his I could really read. It was one of sheer contempt. After about a minute of silence he spoke up, “When I was his age I was fighting off beasts that would make dragons look like rabid dogs. I survived in the wilderness with nothing but my wits, and a rock as defense. Private has taken down several villains with only his wit, cunning, and friends to help him. Your guards both show signs of training, but I could easily defeat them with just my hooves. Now I ask you, who is more qualified to watch your son, when a thief has broken into your house.”

Lazarus had no response to that, he just turned and stormed off with his guards and maid. Cross looked guiltily up at me and said, “I didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

I just smiled and rubbed the colt on the head. He laughed a little as I told him, “You have nothing to be sorry for, your dad just needs to give you space once in a while. We’ll bring you home once it gets dark.”

Cross looked up at Seeker and said in awe, “You were so cool too there. You really lived out in the wilderness like that?”

Seeker simply nodded and changed the subject, “We should get to Zebra Town. The sooner we can identify the material on the wall, the sooner we can find the Eye.”

Seeker started to walk off; Cross looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Not exactly friendly is he?”

“He just has trust issues,” I concluded. “Hopefully he’ll come around…”

________________________________________________________

Going into Zebra Town was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Hundreds of Zebra were all going about their businesses. Shops lined the streets selling various exotic wares. One older zebra tried to sell Cross some trinkets in broken Ponish, but Seeker told him off. I guess scam artists come in all colors.

Several of the signs were actually written in strange looking characters. The Zebra use a language composed entirely of various symbols and it looked more like art then regular writing. Several street performers were on the sidewalks. Playing instruments, dancing around, all of them were showing what they could do. This was one thing I missed about Manehattan, nopony was afraid to just go nuts in public.

That’s a good and a bad thing in some cas-

I was cut off when I bumped into a zebra running towards me. I looked up and saw she was female, probably in her twenties by the look of her. Her mane as opposed to her contemporaries was long and fell down to her hooves. Almost like Fluttershy now that I think about it. I noticed she had a strange necklace around her neck. It was a wood carving of a sigil of some sort. It had a feather attached to it that fell down from the carving.

She looked at me warily, and then simply walked on without saying anything. Seeker helped me up, and I gave him a quizzical look, asking, “Who was that?”

“That was Maua; she makes various concoctions and herb mixtures,” Seeker explained. “Not too dissimilar to my aunt.”

“What was with that necklace?” I asked. “It looks a bit elaborate, and she’s keeping it pretty close to heart.”

“That is an askari wa ishara” Seeker said with a nod, “or in your tongue, the Keeper’s Sign.” He gave a small smile and explained, “It is a sign that she is getting married.”

“So that necklace was like a wedding ring, huh?” I mused with a smile. “Who’s the lucky stallion?”

“She has not said,” Seeker replied, with a tilt of his head. “Although many have asked her who her intended is, she has not revealed his identity yet. I do not pay attention to idle gossip, however.” He started walking ahead and said over his shoulder, “Gather your cousin and we can get going.”

I looked around for Cross and saw him next to a zebra filly about the age of three. He handed her a small doll with a smile and said, “There you go, that arm won’t break now.”

She smiled wide and hugged him gratefully before taking her doll and running to meet her parents. I walked to Cross and asked, “What was with the doll?”

Cross noticed my presence and spoke rather timidly, “She showed me it after the players were done. She um, just wanted it back after I was done with it...”

That was rather vague, is he hiding something from me?

I just shrugged and gestured for him to follow.

___________________________________________________

Celestia was lowering the sun just below the horizon as we arrived.

Seeker’s home was an average sized apartment. The building itself was rather old and wasn’t unexpected for a guy on a budget. It was certainly nicer than my apartment when I lived in town. When I walked in I got a strong smell of various types of herbs sitting in the apartment. The place felt less like a home and more like a greenhouse, but I was a guest and it wasn’t my place to criticize.

Seeker raised his voice to the kitchen area, he spoke for a minute in zebra tongue and I heard a female voice speak back in the same tongue. A zebra emerged from the kitchen area. She was several years younger than I was, had to be early twenties. Her mane was long, but braided behind her, out of the way. She was rather lithe, almost Fleur now that I think about it. Her eyes were a deep green and showed surprise at seeing a pony in her home. The most distinguishing thing about her…was her swollen belly, she was pregnant.

She smiled and spoke in highly accented Ponish, “Welcome to our home, my name is Tahrihi; you have met my husband already.”

Cross and I gave Seeker a deadpan look, “She’s your wife!”

“Indeed,” he smiled a little and walked to the mare, smiling at her lovingly, “How are you, yangu upendo?”

She returned his smile and nuzzled her husband affectionately, “Faini Faini, you worry too much for me.” She left her husband and walked to us, “You are Mtafutaji’s friends?”

“More like colleagues,” I said, as Cross went to look around curiously. “We’re both searching for the Eye of Truth,”

“I was hoping you could help us identify this,” he said, handing her the plastic bag with the goop inside it.

“Can you find out what it is?” I asked hopefully.

“I don’t need to find out,” Tahrihi replied firmly. “I know what it is, it’s buibui lami,” she explained.

Cross laughed a little, “That’s a funny name, what does it mean?”

“Literally translates as Spider Slime,” Tahrihi said, before setting the bag on a nearby desk. She put on a set of glasses as she examined the material. “Designed by our warriors several years ago as a means to climb trees without worrying about predators.”

As she went about her investigation I gave Seeker a look “What does she do exactly?”

“She is a Tahrihi,” Seeker explained. “It means Chronicle, basically a historian or archeologist.”

“You two make quite the odd pair,” I said. “A detective and an archeologist?”

“You’re dating Celestia’s student,” Seeker pointed out.

“I thought you weren’t into idle gossip,” I reminded him.

He ignored my comment and addressed his wife, “So this Spider Slime? Has anypony bought any recently in the community?”

His wife shook her head. “I haven’t heard anypony buy it recently. There’s been little need for the stuff.”

“What is it exactly?” Cross asked Tahrihi, who smiled at the inquisitive colt.

“It’s a form of adhesive,” she explained. “You would put this on your hooves, smear it up a little, and you could walk on walls with it.”

“Cool!” Cross exclaimed. “That’s how the thief could walk in the vents and on the ceiling!”

“Quite a smart one you have here” Tahrihi complimented, but then her expression turned grave as she gazed at Seeker. “You are sure you’ve found it this time?”

He nodded, “I am sure.”

She then turned to me and asked, “Will you be staying here for dinner? It would be terribly rude of me not to offer”

My stomach growled, it had been a while since lunch and I hadn’t eaten anything during my long walk here. “Well, I’m always happy to sample some new food...”

______________________________________________________

After a very delicious dinner provided by Tahrihi, Seeker and I were relegated to dish washing duty. Cross sat on a nearby chair and talked with Tahrihi about the zebra.

I looked over at Seeker and gave him a small smile. “So how long until you’re a daddy?”

“Not long” Seeker replied, as he went about drying some of the plates.

“She’s a good mare,” I complimented. “You’re lucky to be in a happy marriage with her.”

“I had little choice in the matter,” Seeker said suddenly.

“What are you talking about?” I asked slowly.

Seeker set his plate in the pile. “She and I weren’t brought together willingly. Ours was an arranged marriage.”

I did notice there was a small age gap between them. Seeker was mid-twenties like myself while Tahrihi had to be twenty or something. I tilted my head in curiosity and asked, “If you don’t mind me indulging in idle gossip, how did you two come together?”

He smiled and went onto the next plate. “You are a curious one.”

“I’m just a sucker for romance” I said, with a shrug. “So how’d you two become arranged?”

“When I was nineteen” Seeker said as he went about drying his plate “My tribe was suffering a famine. Her tribe had an abundance of food. In order to solve the crisis the decision was made to unite our tribes through marriage. I was the son of an important member of the tribe; she was the chieftain’s daughter of her tribe, so it was a perfect match.”

“How old was she?” I inquired as I washed another plate.

“Sixteen,” Seeker explained. “The minimal age for a zebra to get married.”

“Didn’t you get a say in the matter?” I asked.

“Only what I was to wear at the wedding” Seeker said flatly.

“That seems a little unfair” I pointed out.

“Maybe, but I would not change what happened for anything,” he said, almost wistfully.

“When did you two start opening up to each other?” I asked, passing the washed plate to him.

“At first I treated her as little more than a second inhabitant in my home,” Seeker explained. “She didn’t complain, or shout whenever I asked her to do something. I thought her little more than a servant. Then when the sickness came to our village, I became a victim myself.”

“What was the sickness?” I asked slowly.

“It was a variation on what you would call polio,” he explained with a firm tone. “Nothing too serious when treated right, but the medicine was starting to run out in our village. Not even my aunt could treat me if she had nothing to treat me with. I thought my time on this world would be over. So, I made my will that Tahrihi not be forced into marrying one of my brothers, as is a tradition for a widow of the zebra.”

“You’re still here,” I pointed out. “How’d you get better?”

“Through Tahrihi’s determination,” he said with a smile. “She would not see me perish and ventured out into the jungle all by herself for three days to find a nearby pony camp. She persuaded the ponies there to give some medicine, not much of a loss to them, but just enough to treat me. She then ran back to me with the medicine and managed to help Aunt Zecora treat me just in time.”

“She saved you…”

“Even though she would’ve been free had I died,” he said, looking back at Tahrihi, who gave him a warm smile from her seat. “For the first time I realized how much she meant to me. She saved me, not simply because I was her husband, but because she had grown to care for me.”

“Now you two are impending parents,” I said, as I finished washing the last few dishes. “Thanks for the meal,” I said to Tahrihi as she walked over.

“I’m simply happy to see Mtafutaji making friends,” she said, smiling warmly at her husband, who gave the faintest hint of a blush.

“We’d better get going,” I said as Cross came over. “Somepony should be heading to bed.”

“Who me?” Cross asked, as he yawned widely. “Nah, I’m just breathing slowly.”

I just rolled my eyes at this colt’s ant-

BANG BANG BANG!!!!

I heard gunshots out the window, and to my horror I saw several ponies entering the street below.

All of them were firing on the zebra with battle saddles…

It was Appaloosa all over again….