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Help Wanted

by PrincessBigMac

"We have 3 hippogriffs injured, One in serious condition, and you are telling me that It's all your fault"

In that moment I could only nod. I barely heard Break Beak as the silence that came over me was deafening. I understood him though. It was my fault. I had to take responsibility for what happened.

"Yes. I will explain everything"

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Yesterday morning should've been like every other solitary day of my life; A boring do nothing excursions to work that only hanging with my friends after can solve.
It started out that way too. I put on my ketchup stained Hay Burger uniform and was about to step out the door when sure enough the door came to me.
"saph....Saph...SAPH! I NEED YOUR HELP!"
The moment it took to release what was being said trouble had already arrived. Tru was already using his horn to barricade the door with everything he could find: My Dresser, My Lamp, My Bed, Me.
"What is happening!" I asked, well, really demanded of him.
The banging on the window from three perturbed hippogriffs seemed to answer for him as I turned. Tru was a great fella but not exactly the brightest.
"Excuse me ma'am but you are harboring a fugitive and I'm afraid we must take him in."
Was not expecting a quaint dignified voice calm voice after all of this but sometimes you take the breaks.
"And what exactly did my friend do?"
"He stole the last Longan Tree from the shores of Basalt Beach! It was the only one we had to flee from the Storm King!"
I'll admit, the yelling did not help the situation. I turned to Tru for an answer.
"Saph you know I don't steal stuff. Let alone a tree!"
It made sense to me. as far as I've known Tru he would never do such a thing. besides how do you steal a tree anyway?

"We have proof" the calm one impatiently interrupted. He took out two pictures and a painting.
"That's mine!" Tru yelled out more annoyed than upset.
"It is know evidence. As you can see this pictures were taken the morning of and clearly show the tree was lifted up and away as opposed to dragged. and as you can tell from this painting-"
"Tru was painting the tree the night it was stolen." I said cutting him off and putting two and two together.
"Precisely. Now If you would be so kind as to bring him to us we will be out of your mane and on our way." I stared at Tru for a good second. weighing my options as I didn't want to just leave one of my friends high and dry.
"I...well...What if I can prove he didn't do it!" I belted out. I would've covered my mouth but the only emotion that reacted right now was shock.
"And how exactly would you do that?" The hippogriff asked
"I...I don't know. But I do know Tru. If he says he didn't do it he didn't do it...and I'll prove it."
"And why my dear should we trust you?" He had a point. They didn't know me....They didn't know me.
"My Name is Sapphire Carbon. He is True Lift. You both know where we live. We will come to Mount Aris and I will prove it couldn't have been Tru. Even if you don't trust us you will know where we are right? We couldn't just run." Please Work. Please Work I begged.
"...fine. You have one hour to gather your things. We will escort you to Mount Aris personally." I nodded. not wanting to risk what seemed to be a shaky foothold.
"Who are you guys anyway?" Tru just couldn't hold back.
"From the Queen's Honor I am Captain Break Beak. These two are my Lieutenants Sand Claw and Swift Swim. You have 59 minutes"
59 minutes. Tru what did I just get into for you.

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You would be surprised the things you can accomplish in 59 minutes. I was able to call off of work. Pack my bags, and inform my friend Thorn that I would be gone for a bit. She was concerned of course. But not even her muscles could fix this mess. I asked her to look after my place in case I was gone longer than a few days. She begrudgingly agreed.
"If you are gone for more than a few days I will also come looking for you."
She did always have my back.

Truth be told I was kind of excited. I had actually never been to Mount Aris. Let alone anywhere near the Hippogriff kingdom. I really only knew them from stops in Ponyville. Ever since Twilight opened up her School of Friendship you would see a lot more creatures around.

On the way I was finally able to ask Tru what exactly was going on. What had happened, as far as I was able to gather, was that Tru was in a bit of trouble, by his standards anyway, because he was due to show off his painting at his Painting Circle next week. Yes, a painting circle. Long story one pony paints something, and the group than repaints it with different concepts and imagination. Tru invited me once but I paint about as well as I play goalie at buckball....or lead a cheerleading squad...nevermind that. The point was he was looking for inspiration.

So he decided to travel to a place he knew was as beautiful as it was ancient. Mount Aris. That is when he claims he came across the Longan Tree. Sitting there on the far shore in the shadow of the mountain and the mist of the sea. He took out his supplies and got to work. Listening I could see why they thought he did it. Sounds far-fetched. But that was always Tru. He lived life the way I only wish I could.

Once we arrived Break Beak talked with his two Lieutenants and soon we were ushered away by Sand Claw. Taking us up the mountain and into Hippogriffia I couldn't help but be astonished.
"Nice isn't it" Sand Claw sand with a smile
"It took alot of hard work to restore. We were just preparing for our first Longan festival in years before....well you know."
He was wrong. It wasn't just nice. It was immaculate. The statues at the flourishing trees. It was a paradise.
"Do you really think your friend here didn't do it?" Sand Claw added as I finally brought my attention back
"If he says he didn't I believe him"
"Yea if I said I didn't do it I didn't do it. Besides why would I steal such beauty" Sand Claw listened. Which was a relief.
"Think you could help us prove it?" The quick turn from Sand Claw stopped me. Perhaps I had gone too far.
"Listen. You seem cooperative enough. And after the stuff with the Princess of Friendship and the Storm King I've learned to not judge too quickly. But I can't share any confidential information. I can Perhaps help you out. But I'm warning you. In the end if they rule he did it he did it."
I nodded. I'd take all the help I could get right now.
"How long do we have for that anyway?"
"Tomorrow Morning. The Captain is talking to the Queen as we speak. He told me to bring you to my house and make sure you do nothing funny. tomorrow I am to bring you to the Queen for her ruling."
"T....Tomorrow Morning..." I had til Tomorrow Morning.
"Yep Tomorrow Morning. and then-" While he was turning his head to talk to me he was suddenly knocked ajar
"Oh I'm sorry Sand Claw. Didn't mean to bump into you. I was just in a rush. to grab some of that Imitation Longan Tea from across the street. You want any?"
Sand Claw swallowed and shook his head no.
"No. No thank you. I've had my fill today." he said rubbing his stomach as he brought us to his house.

"Whoa. Big place. Must have like 3 bathrooms right?" Tru said looking around the tree.
"Yea I'm a lucky Hippogriff." he said as he showed us inside. Entering into the living room I saw the kitchen and stairs leading up.
"If you are hungry you can head into the kitchen. But upstairs is off limits. I have some classified stuff there and the captain would kill me if he knew I let you see official documents."
Fair enough I figured.
"Hey Saph take a look. This guy has a view to die for!" Tru said looking out the kitchen window and over to the sea.
"You mind if I paint?" He asked already with supplies out.
"Go on ahead. I think its nice too."

So. There we were. An Earth Pony painting, a Unicorn pacing, and a Hippogriff.

"Would it be possible for me to see the crime scene?" Sand Claw looked annoyed but I reminded him he said he would help. He agreed it wasn't against any rules. But he had to come with.

Making our way back down Mount Aris I took note of everything. This Longan festival seemed to be a big deal. Longan imitation Tea, Longan imitation Pie.
"Hey how do you guys make imitation stuff without the original?"
"Oh well before we had to flee The Queen had made sure to gathered up some Longan Fruit herself. It wasn't enough to last forever though so we began to add things to it to stretch it out. We only really have enough for a few more weeks probably. Which is why we were excited to finally get the real thing."
"And start replanting the trees huh?"
"Exactly! Replanting the trees and regrowing them." he stopped me just outside plot of land where the tree once stood.
At first I had to admit. It looked like Tru's work. After all he could lift anything. And clearly this tree was lifted up. No drag marks, no trails, barely any fruit left.
I snapped a picture from a few angles and did my best to figure out who else could've done this. It would've taken magic. Yet if it was magic how did nobody see it disappear and reappear. Things don't just vanish. Maybe a teleport? But that would require quite a distance. Plus it would've taken all of the fruits. It wasn't that either....
"You ok?" Sand Claw asked as I had been lost in a train of thought


"SAND CLAW!" Oh no
"I distinctly remember telling you to keep them in your house and just your house." Captain Break Beak
"Well...yes sir but I thought"
"You thought? Sand Claw You are my trustworthy Lieutenant. But When it comes to matters the Queen takes personally stop thinking."
"Hey Why Can't I see this?" I interjected
"Excuse me?"
"You...You heard me. I have a right to see the crime scene....right?" Ok it wasn't the smoothest move.
"You have the right to defend your friend. nothing else. Take her back to your home and make sure she stays there"
Sand Claw nodded and quickly escorted me away.

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As we got back I got to see Tru's new masterpiece
"I call it The Last Painting I'll ever do"
"Tru stop it. You didn't do this....I'll find an answer." He nodded. He believed in me I can tell but...The hippogriffs not so much.
Sand Claw headed upstairs telling us he was exhausted. I thanked him for his help. I felt bad. I didn't want to get him in trouble.

I stayed up late that night trying to piece things together. I laid out the pictures I took in front of me looked for anything. Anything at all that could help me.
"Tru do you recall anything that night. Anything that could help us?"
"Not off hoof but I probably could repaint it?" This pony was truly astonishing in the most odd ways.
"Please do" I begged as I went over what I knew. He came here for inspiration. He found it. Painted it. And left. Between that time and now the tree appears to be lifted. Both literally and figuratively.
"And done" he said turning his easel around
"Tru....I love you as a friend. But I won't lie. That looks....not great." He nodded in solemn agreement
"I know. I'm sorry. The picture I took of it that night though made it hard to see how exactly I painted it."
"The picture you took that night?"
"Yea. After every painting I take a picture of it. In case something happens and I have to redraw it or repaint it."
"......can I see this picture?" I asked almost not believing him.
"Sure here" He lifted it over to me and set it down. True it was dark but the dim light was enough.

I now had a before and after....what could it be....what could give this away
"Tru, when you took this picture, was there anything behind the tree?"
I asked looking hard
"Yea some vines. I remember cause they added this vertical layer to the painting I loved. There was even a few big ones that helped set it off"
Some Vines....Vines that were now missing...I quickly went through the other pictures. They weren't on the ground either. nowhere around. At all.
"Tru those vines are gone. Especially that big one" His look of confusion said it all.
"Ok so the vines are gone. so what?"
"so that means the tree had to have gone further up than just lifting it and moving it. otherwise the vines would be here somewhere. And if thats the case..."
I got up and went to check the window peering out to try and find the spot where the tree was.
"I don't get it. Where is...it. No way..."
It was right below us. Which meant that...
I raced upstairs to confront him. It had to be him. I pounded on the door
"Sand Claw! I know it's you open up!" I yelled out. Tru finally caught on and came up lifting the door off its hinges. I rushed inside in the darkness but tripped immediately. Something had caught my leg. Turning on the lights I finally saw what it was rope.

Not just rope. It was a whole contraption. Sand Claw had rigged a machine to pull the tree straight out of the ground....but where would he put it. There was no time. the open window on the side told me he was here and ran. I had to find him first. Tru took the locked door off the front and raced into town after him. The festivities made it hard for him to run But easy to hide. We chased after him tying not to knock anyone over. Or spill drinks. But the head start he had was too much. We finally had an answer.....but we couldn't question why.

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We headed back to Sand Claw's home. I assured Tru that it would be fine. All we could do is tell them what we know and show them. I advised we go upstairs and take a picture. As I reached the top stair and opened the door it hit me. We never put the doors back. Before I knew it I had a claw to my face and was on the ground.
"This is what I get for helping. I should've told the captain to take you two instead."
"Why Sand Claw...Why set me up You seem like a chill guy"
"Tru it wasn't anything personal. You happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sand Claw just wanted to get rid of the Longan didn't you? You hate the way it taste. The smell. You were counting down the weeks. The days until it was gone. Than the tree began to bar fruit didn't it"
"You got it all right Sapphire. And even if I'm caught you still don't know where the tree is. And it will die. I may go to jail but in the end I still won." He said taking a seat. Resolute that with all of this said and done. He would be fine.

"That's where you are wrong. I know where the tree is. We are about 8 feet from it. A big house Sand Claw. Yet only three rooms."
He scowled and gripped his claws against the floor. It was anger I had never seen.
"Tru go outside and lift it away from his home quickly!"
Tru turned and Sand Claw lunged. I stepped in between and closed my eyes. He wouldn't hurt my friend. Not anymore. I was ready for whatever he could do to me. Hey maybe I would get some time off work.

Luckily for me he couldn't do much. I felt his claws try to hit me but heard them scratch against my skin like a screwdriver on a chalkboard. It took me a moment to react as he tried again but was shifted by the motion of the Longan Tree being lifted and brushing against his house. I raced to the window and told Tru to move back down the mounted and into the soil. That was when I felt something behind me and fell forward. Claws around me as me and Sand Claw fell into the top of the tree.

As Tru got it over the edge I finally was able to poke my head out of the branches and leaves. Sand Claw was doing his best to hold me back but his claws were useless now. My mistake was assuming Tru wouldn't be distracted. I should've known. Once he saw me in the tree he panicked just a moment and his magic slipped. I imagine by the time he recovered we were already gone and heading down the mountain. I did my best to tell the officer below to move. Screaming to get out of the way. Unfortunately I couldn't stop Sand Claw from being injured. He was wrapped around me. And It should've been the other way around

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Captain Break Beak nodded as he listened. Holding Tru's original painting and my pictures in his claw.
"And that's when we found you for in the morning?"
I nodded ready to be taken in for what I had done. Maybe it wasn't fair but consequences are consequences. Besides if it meant getting Tru out of this so be it.

"From the look of things You have saved us a lot of work and better yet saved us a betrayal. It hurts to know Sand Claws did this. He was trusted with many things. And now...That is our problem. The tree is back. It is a good sign for you and your friend. You still have to come with us to see the Queen and explain it to her as well. But I'm quite sure that she will be quite happy to be able to celebrate with real Longan Fruit Again. Who knows. Maybe she will even bake you a cake."