This is a companion piece to Kitty's Reluctant Rebel series of posts, and I obtained her permission before starting/collaborating with this parallel series. The chase is on!
The Canterlot City Guard had summoned to investigate the small, but upscale apartment where a robbery had taken place. Investigations had been mobilized quickly because of who had made the call: Matte Palette, a talented artist whose star had been rising, and had been commissioned to paint the portrait of the illustrious Nightmare herself.
The guard stationed outside the open door of the apartment had, up until now, been bored listening to the whiny stallion complain loudly about his lost items and the missing portrait of their Queen to the other investigators. However, he now felt a certain thrill of fear and quickly snapped to attention. The pony that approached the apartment with purpose was a particular 'superior' of theirs, trotting towards the open door without hurry. It felt as if somepony had walked over his grave, as the pony approached, eyed him, and passed him by with a soft "Carry on.." said in a calm Bittish accent.
Moving into the room, the stallion who entered took stock of the situation, even as the other guards fell quiet and exchanged knowing looks as Matte Palette's words making innuendo of the Guard's incompetence by deriding the time it took to investigate seemed to up and die in his throat when he saw Master Plan.
Master was a tall unicorn, but not overly so, or in that gangly or stretched way that unicorns sometimes were; He was athletic looking and wiry, like a lean earthpony might be. His short cut mane and tail were a premature grey, save for a single remaining lock of cyan in his mane, next to his horn. His coat was a khaki tan, not the color one necessarily expects of one of Nightmare's elite minion's, but it cut a good contrast with the understated and practically unadorned black armor of the Obsidian Shard, which, as its head, he wore like a second skin.
Master gives Matte a polite smile that never reaches his eyes. "Matte Palette, we finally meet." he says courteously enough however. Matte nods weakly and shakes hooves "Dear me, I wish it was under better circumstances. You see, the Queen was quite irate to be told that her portrait, the one set to be unveiled at the Starfall Gala tomorrow, had been stolen." he states blithely and taking a list of stolen items from one of the investigators in his magic. Matte starts to meekly respond but Master cuts him off with a contemptuous wave of his hoof and the artist complies, falling silent.
"Let's see what's missing, the Nightmare's portraiture obviously: canvas cut skillfully from the frame with a blade; hmm, suggests familiarity with such an instrument. A silver moonchime. Assorted bone brushes, a few jars of ink, a ream of parchment, and a box high quality quills from your desk. A gold pocket watch, an onyx fertility statue.." he looks over the clipboard with an amused smirk to Matte, "With inset rubies from your nightstand." he continues. "And an ebony jewelry box inlaid with silver moons and sapphires from the display cabinet, albeit with nothing in it. Did I miss anything?" he asks looking at Matte, in a tone that brooks not even half-truths, his cool ultramarine eyes with a serious expression, studying the stallion with a calculating gaze that the artist squirms under.
"Well, apart from a bit of food, the only other thing I can't find would be.. My invitation to the Gala." he cringes slightly and Master Plan sighs.
"What kind of food?" he asks in a pained tone.
"What? Oh, um, a bowl of apples, some cheese, a couple bottles of blackberry wine." Palette states confusedly, not expecting to answer a question about the food. Master nods and hums thoughtfully.
"So," Master says looking around the apartment "Our thief flies in through the balcony after disabling the alarm crystal, and then, to prevent a reactivation, makes off with the silver chime." The look he gives Matte says that his estimation of his IQ has dropped a couple points. After all, why give a would be thief an incentive to disassemble your alarm system? Matte rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably, but MP plows ahead.
"Our thief, then, slips in and takes the painting; I would hazard a guess this is what our thief was most after, but it's interesting that this theft happened before the public unveiling. Now, I suppose anyone who's anypony at the castle would have known that that you painted our Imperatrix Umbra's portrait.. but they're all relatively well off.. so why take the writing supplies, or the food?" he asks out loud walking to the door of the kitchen and the main room and standing between them. "The answer is simple:” he says gesturing, “this thief was poor and of lower class, and what's more, they likely have some contacts there: forgers and the like. Such contacts would have trouble getting good stocks of the proper materials to make quality documents. Same with the food, A fresh apple would be a treat worth its weight in silver to somepony who doesn't have the same access to fruit anymore. So, these were crimes of opportunity, a bit of an indulgence for our thief, picking up favors and kickbacks." he moves back to the room and into the bedroom looking around with a nod before he moves again and stands in the bedroom door looking at the assembled ponies, holding them captured by his monolog and his presence.
"This also points out, that our thief was likely hired to retrieve the portrait, though to what end I couldn't say right now. A common or starving thief wouldn't usually go for something of that nature if they were after things of guaranteed monetary worth, like a watch, or a statue." he suggests casting a cruel smile to Matte "However, what I find interesting about that, Mr. Palette is that the thief had every opportunity to kill you in your sleep, but elected not to, choosing to simply taking items that caught their eye while in your bedroom, and could be relatively easily fenced. This could mean they have values, or they might simply not care that you're in our Queen's orbit; again, I couldn't say," he shrugs. "They then exit and take flight, but are spotted after curfew, shortly after 0100 by one of our, more junior, standard winged patrols." his says matter of factly.
"Did- Did they recover anything?" asks Matte in a timidly hopeful voice. Master just looks the senior Guard in the room, who gives a negative shake of his head before speaking.
"No, but our thief is a small pegasus, and likely female from what our patrol said after they came-to. Seems they got their bell rung pretty hard. However, they also said our thief's was burning hard on a course in the general direction towards the Brass Lantern District, the undercity, last they saw. That tracks with what your assessment of the thief being poor and lowerclass, sir"
Plan frowns deeply "I'll have to review what they're teaching our guards in basic," he says with an air of grave disappointment and makes a note to himself. "If you haven't already, I'd say put them on half pay, 3 months; But, that can be rescinded if they make an arrest." He smirks, "Hopefully next time they will not hesitate to use force to subdue suspects. They're issued wing-blades and pikes, they should use them." He nods once to the senior guard. Matte Palette let out a subtle relieved breath, some of his tension draining. Master Plan could be fair-minded, he told himself, perhaps he wasn't as vicious as he had been led to believe.
"I'll have my Shards do some undercover work to case the usual places where stolen goods end up, see if we can backtrack to our thief, or more importantly our buyer.” Master says, handing the clipboard back to the senior pony.
“Now..” his gaze slides over to rest squarely on Matte and a devious smirk crosses Master’s face. “I want you to give me your most awed and grateful expression, as if I told you.. that our illustrious Nightmare Moon, will reissue your invitation to the Gala.” The artist gasped and put on a genuine happy smile for a moment as the thought percolated his mind.
“Yes, yes, that will do nicely.” Master says looking at the smiling stallion from an angle or two. Matte’s smile falters with a look of questioning. “You do have some good looking features, from an objective point of view. Give you a nice plinth and you won’t look at all out a place in the statute garden.. We’ll call it Artistic Rapsody, and have you face the moon,” Master continues. The look of glee just a moment before, has now been replaced by a look of utter horror on the face of Matte Palette. His eyes wide with gaping shock, and his pale features somehow going paler. Master smirks “Oh yes, you’ll be going to the Gala alright, except, not as the artist, but as the art...”
Plan jerks his head to the two guards flanking Palette “Take him.” he commands. They securely grab him and start hauling him away as the artist starts to wail with hopeless pleas and protests, but they fall on deaf ears as he’s dragged away and out of the apartment.
Looking around the apartment with just the Senior Investigator left he nods to the artist's bedroom filled with all its paraphernalia of the night. “When the strings are unraveled, How much do you want to bet he was ultimately the one who hired our thief to steal from himself so he could keep the portrait?”
“No Bet.” the thestral replied evenly.
Master Plan simply smirks to him with an indulgent chuckle, “Smart.” he nods once before giving a contemptuously lazy salute and exiting the apartment himself.
A Nightmare Takeover AU
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