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Manehattan Nights

by DeltaSierra

I trotted down the steps into the streets of Manehattan, long coat billowing around me, hat pushed down firmly on my head.

That’s me, Phinneal Lagrasse. Phin to my friends. Former Royal Guard, currently the toughest private detective working the streets of Manehattan. This despite me only coming up about shoulder-high to most other ponies. Off-white coat and a shaggy grey mane, with a knurled horn poking through the mess up top. Still handsome enough to turn the mares’ heads my way, even given the occupational hazards of my profession.

One such mare had showed up on my doorstep a earlier that day. I’d been lounging in the small office I keep near the heart of downtown, nursing a cider and musing on the unpredictability of the world in general and other ponies in particular. Through the frosted window set in my door, I’d glimpsed my client in profile. That fuzzy outline was enough to get me up off the couch and moving towards the door.

My suspicions were confirmed when I swung the battered office door open. She stood there on the doorstep, all sleek sable lines and impeccable grooming. Wings that stretched out to here. I’ve always had a weakness for fliers, and this one was built for speed. She also looked like the sort of mare who attracted trouble.

I had squashed my first instinct and invited her into my office. I hadn’t been exactly hurting, but work had been thin the past few months. And I’m a sucker for a lady in distress.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, while I tried to keep from drooling overmuch. Her name was Araina. As I’d thought, she had a job for me. But it wasn’t the sort I’d expected from her type.


“Let me get this straight. You want me to find…”

She cleared her throat, and my heart went into overdrive. “A guru.”

“A guru? Some sort of wise pony? Guru of what?”

“I… I’m not sure, to be terribly honest.” She inclined her shapely head demurely, glanced up at me through long lashes. I thought my heart would burst. “All I know is that several ponies were last seen visiting this individual. They haven’t been heard from since.”

I kept my cool, nodded in what I hoped was a professional manner. “Alright. And you suspect this guru might have something to do with their disappearance?”

She nodded, perfect mane bobbing. “That’s right. Their families are concerned. And…” She paused, looked down again. Typical of my clients in that she wasn’t willing to share the whole truth.

I pushed gently. “Any information you can give me now may help. Especially if these ponies are in any danger.” Phew, did her eyes get wide at that!

“One… one of the missing ponies is my daughter.”

She didn’t look like anypony’s mother. I told her so, and a brief flush suffused her lovely face. “That’s kind of you to say, Mister Lagrasse.”

“Phin, please. Everyone close to me calls me Phin.”

Mischief sparkled in her eyes for a moment. “And you’d like us to be close, Phin?” But her gaze hardened before I could stammer out a response. “Then find my daughter.”


She’d left me a few scant pieces of information, a bag of bits as a retainer, and a gnawing sense of longing. At least the retainer was adequate, five hundred golden bits bearing the faces of our benevolent ruler. I’d stashed the money beneath my desk for safekeeping, and reviewed the information I had. It had amounted to a name and a vague description. The name was Molvant, and the description probably fit at least a thousand ponies in Manehattan. Not much to go on, but I’d taken on cases with less.

My first move had been to query all my usual sources. Manehattan is a beautiful city, bigger than Canterlot and quite a bit older in some places. But underneath the facade of law and order there were always ponies looking to make a quick pile of bits, sometimes through less than legal means. Most of the small scale operators survived by staying unnoticed, but if you pushed hard enough there was always somepony who knew somepony who could get what you needed. In this case, I needed information. Good thing I already knew who to ask.

I’d spread out a bit of the retainer among members of this select group, and one had dropped a letter through the slot on my front door earlier that day. None of my informants were known for their stellar intellect, and this one had lived up to that reputation. The letter contained the address of a nearby tavern and a time.


They waited until I was almost to the tavern before they swept in. Two ponies came at me from the front, shouting. Being no stranger to the streets of Manehattan, I immediately whirled and threw a wild hoof at the pony coming up behind me. I connected and he went down with a grunting noise, but the other two moved faster than I thought. They hit me at the same time, piling on top. Big strong earth ponies, but slow. They landed a few hits but got tangled up in one another. I managed to squirm away, minus my hat. One of the big lads was faster than the other, and he got to his hooves and came toward me at speed. My horn flickered for an instant, and a metal trashcan whipped across the alley to meet him mid-charge. He went slack and slid across the ground amidst the other garbage.

These big bruisers always seem to forget that us unicorns don’t have to be big and strong. We can handle ourselves in a fight if they give us any kind of warning.

The one I’d knocked down first didn’t give me any warning. As I wound up to fling another trashcan, he surged up from the ground and tackled me around the haunches. I lost my grip on the trashcan and went down. My head met the cobblestones and my vision doubled. The other ambulatory pony closed in, and they took turns expressing their displeasure. When I was good and chastised, the biggest one leaned in, lifting my head off the street.

“Stay away from Molvant.”

He let my head drop, and they went to round up their buddy who was still having trouble getting his legs under control. After they disappeared, I lay there for a bit, getting my wind back and waiting for my extremities to report in. Big though they might have been, this group was a bunch of amateurs. I had managed to roll with most of their blows. There would be plenty of bruises and I’d be stiff for a few days, but nothing seemed to be broken.

Somehow they’d known I was coming. Curious.

When I was able to walk a straight line, I resumed my path towards the tavern. The gang was thoughtful enough to leave me my hat, which I scooped up off the ground and plopped back onto my battered head.

Conversation slowed for a moment as I slipped in the tavern doors, but quickly resumed. The appearance of somepony with a few minor lacerations and subdermal hematomas wasn’t a cause for much comment in this part of town. Like I said before, Manehattan was a beautiful city, but it had plenty of rough spots.

I made a beeline for the bar, swapped a few bits for a cider, and scanned the room. The tavern was fairly crowded, but there were a few sparsely populated tables near the shadowy outskirts of the room. In one of those, I recognized my informant. He loomed over his table, sheer size making it look like furniture built for fillies. Out of respect for his volumetric displacement and collection of scars the rest of the tavern was giving him a pretty wide berth.

He didn’t exactly blend in.

“Stone.” I slid into the a seat at his table, wincing slightly. He looked me over, cracked a slight grin.

“Phin. Looks like you’ve managed to upset somepony again.”

“I can’t understand how, with my winning personality. Must have been some sort of social gaffe.” I tossed Stone a wink and the big stallion snorted. Even though we operated on different sides of the law, Stone was generally an okay guy. A little light smuggling, an occasional busting of heads in exchange for bits, but nothing beyond that. He still had some shreds of conscience left, which was rare in this part of town. We’d worked together before.

“Maybe you should adjust your personality, save folks from wanting to adjust your face instead.” He grinned slightly, proud of his stunted sense of humor. I could see he was waiting for me to fill him in on my latest case.

With a few broad strokes, I painted a picture of what I had so far. His grin slowly disappeared as I filled in a few particulars. I leaned in a bit closer. “Well, you know why I’m here. I’m looking for information on Molvant. What do you have for me?”

Stone leaned in as well. “Listen, Phin. We think Molvant is bad news.” That stopped me for a second. Stone ran with some pretty hard ponies. If they were concerned about Molvant, that didn’t bode well for my client or her daughter.

He went on. “He’s been operating out of a warehouse further down towards the docks. He’s playing like he’s some sort of holy pony, spreading knowledge and good works and such. Runs regular meetings. ‘Come to me if you’re lost and trying to find your way’, that sort of thing. But we’ve had a lot of disappearances in the area.” He glanced around a bit, leaned in closer. “Nopony wants to talk about it, because none of the operators here want to look soft.”

I nodded. The operators here were engaged in all sorts of minor villainy. Mostly the acquisition and redistribution of illicit goods, but some exceptions did exist. In any case, the area was standing room only for organized crime. If one group showed the slightest sign of weakness, six other groups were ready to gobble them up.

We both knew what that meant, but Stone articulated it anyway. “There could be a turf war, Phin. Neither of us want that.” I nodded. The stallion glanced around once more before sliding a scrap of paper across the table.

“Here’s the address. Let us know what you find.”

I nodded back, grimacing as I got to my hooves. “Thanks, Stone. You know I’ll keep after this.”

“Yeah Phin, yeah.” He paused for a moment. “Just be careful with this one, okay?”


Through the rain, I surveyed the warehouse across the street. Stone’s note had led me here, and I’d started casing the place just before the rain moved in. Inconvenient, because the rain had cleared the streets. However, that had made the guards on the warehouse even more obvious. Oddly, they just stood there in the rain, water cascading down their sides. They seemed oblivious to the weather. Must be well paid.

Me, I wasn’t a fan of rain. I snugged my hat down as I crossed the street towards the building. The guards weren’t that numerous (that would draw too much attention; anything worth guarding too closely was worth stealing). As a result, they’d been forced to leave some gaps in their coverage. I shimmied through a broken section of fence and moved in close to the building.

This warehouse was one of the older designs, built before Manehattan had become too rough. The windows opened outwards from the bottom, in theory to allow air to circulate while keeping the frequent rains out. However, the windows were too numerous to have locks. They were slightly elevated (even back then they weren’t stupid) but a few piled boxes took care of that problem. I winced slightly as the glow from my horn lit the nearby area, but I’d chosen my spot well. The guards remained focused on the street in the front.

I managed to make it inside without much noise. One of the benefits of being small and nimble, I suppose. The inside of the warehouse surprised me. Somepony had partitioned off the building with crude wooden walls. Though simple, the wood was fresh. I could still smell the lingering scent of sawdust. Choosing a direction at random, I started sneaking through the darkened interior, passing through narrow doorways hung with strips of fabric in place of doors.

The first two rooms contained nothing spectacular. The space was lit frugally with oil lanterns, which cast a dim and flickering light around each room. There were some nondescript crates packed with Celestia knew what, bits of random detritus, and lots of empty floor space. Oddly, each room had a small pedestal at one end. There was a recessed notch at the top, like something was supposed to sit there. However, I couldn’t find anything that fit the recess.

In the third room I came across, I had the surprise of my life. Lifting the cloth partition, I met the gaze of dozens of ponies. The room echoed softly with the sound of their breathing, audible over the nighttime noise of Manehattan. For a moment I knew I was made, and I prepared myself to run. But then I realized they were gazing past me, starting slack-jawed at something to the side of my doorway. I turned away from their collective gaze cautiously, looking in the same direction.

For a moment my head swam. There was another pedestal at the front of this room, but unlike the ones I’d spied before this one wasn’t empty. Slotted into the notch at the top was a glowing crystal, all irregular angles and facets. A sickly light seemed to pulse from the crystal, but the light didn’t touch anything around it. I pulled my gaze away with an effort. The thing seemed to want to suck me in.

“Do you like it, detective?”

I spun back to the crowd of ponies. One was stepping forward from the group, head held high. His voice echoed through the room, but none of the other ponies responded. He was tall, shrouded with a dark cloak. I could see hints of a red coat and the slight bulge of furled wings under the cloak, which tied in with my client’s description.

This must be Molvant.

He’d guessed my line of thought (or read my mind, even worse). “That’s right, Detective. I’ve had many names, though I’m known here as Molvant.” He paused for a moment, eyeing me critically. “I’m surprised you were able to resist the pull of the Occipitus. You must be more resilient than I thought. And even after my friends delivered their warning.”

I shrugged, playing at nonchalant. “That’s what they tell me, anyway.” Gesturing, I indicated the ponies surrounding us. “And what’s this supposed to be?”

I’d expected a grandiose response, but Molvant surprised me. “Why, Detective Lagrasse, this is my army. The third one I’ve raised so far in fact.” He turned to indicate the collected ponies with the sweep of a hoof. “A beautiful militia, ready to act in whatever capacity I see fit. Guerrilla warriors, guards, insurgents, or even simple laborers. Totally and completely devoted to me.”

“This batch hasn’t been tested yet, of course.” He turned back to meet my gaze. “Thank you for providing me with an opportunity.”

As one, the collected ponies’ heads snapped towards me. They began to march towards me in unison. The floor rumbled faintly under their hooves. Their expressions were totally blank, but I realized Molvant had them completely under his sway. Instinctively, I reached out with my magic, grabbing a hunk of brick off the ground.

Molvant laughed. “Do you think you can fight an army, detective?”

I considered for a moment, then did the only thing I could do. I hurled the chunk of brick towards the crystal at the front of the room.

Told you, you can’t take a unicorn in a fight unless you surprise them.

Molvant’s laughter turned to a screech as the crystal shattered. The other ponies stopped their forward march, dropped to their knees. Pieces of crystal flew around the room. I saw a chunk embed itself in Molvant’s shoulder, and he stumbled. As he tried to regain his footing, I moved towards him. However, the other ponies had the same idea. They’d been treated worse than me, I suppose. I lost sight of him for a moment, but then he burst into the air, evading the approaching horde. He circled the room once, spitting vile curses, before aligning with an open window and shooting outside.


By the time I made it outside, Molvant was long gone. But to my surprise, Stone and some of his compatriots were there. They moved amongst the remaining ponies, talking quietly. Some of that recently freed group were pretty shaky. I guess Molvant didn’t give them enough food or water. Scary level of control, there. Later on, some officious ponies from Canterlot arrived, tore the warehouse apart. I figured they were after that weird hunk of crystal. I made myself scarce.

I have no use for bureaucrats. Especially not those from Canterlot. They’ll snare you in paperwork and red tape, and you’ll be done before you know what happened.

But before I pulled my disappearing act, I’d spotted a certain darkly colored pegasus filly. She looked just like her mother, sure enough. I managed to get her back to my office, get her fed, get in touch with my client. Araina swept in like a storm, so happy to see her baby again that she didn’t have any time to spare for poor Phin. So it goes. But she did leave behind a fat sack of bits, almost double the agreed-upon amount. And, on her way out the door, a quick wink as a hint of what might come to be.

Doing what I do? Sometimes it’s almost worth it.