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The Theft of the Kestrel

by Husserl

Everyone who saw the Kestrel of Corvidia agreed that it was breathtaking. The carved, ancient mahogany with silver and gold inlays, the imbedded sapphires for eyes, the trail of rubies about its talons. It was incredible from every angle. Despite its modest three foot size, it commanded the room. According to the great art scholars of Canterlot, it was a priceless masterpiece. According to Filthy Rich, it was two point six million bits.

Filthy Rich looked about the room. Some of the grandest nobles and most ruthless business ponies were here. He knew it wasn't because of his sparkling wit or demeanor; he had something they wanted. The power of commerce had dragged them here, some seemingly against their will. None of them wanted to be here at Farrier gardens, most of them considered it beneath them. The display room was almost bare except for the Kestrel on its small dais and the the stallion-sized safe built into the back wall. Since there were no windows, light was supplied by eleven electric torches; one over the Kestrel, one over the safe, and the other nine spread out to give illuminate his four guests. Filthy hated the way the electric lighting made him look, but he knew it was necessary.

Platinum Shines coughed loudly, bringing Filthy Rich out of his thoughts. "I still say it seems suspicious that we cannot scan the statue to verify it."

Filthy Rich gave an insincere smile. "As I explained earlier, Farrier Gardens was gracious enough to set up this security system at my request. No magic of any kind will work beyond the room's threshold. None. No unicorn magic. No shapeshifting. No devices. No potions. According to Princess Twilight, alicorn magic still functions but would be made visible. Since this is a test case, expect it to be made available for your own home security within a few years. I don't have to tell you how many times the Kestrel has been almost stolen before this auction. Naturally, I trust all of you upstanding citizens had nothing to do with any of the attempted thefts, or the threats, but I can't be too careful."

Ex-Prince Goldenwing snarled, "There shouldn't be an auction, it rightly belongs to my family. As the former rulers of Corvidia, this national treasure should be returned immediately."

The others in room either chuckled or or sighed in bemusement. "If you thought it was a national treasure, you should have kept it in the state capitol rather than your private vaults. The Republic of Feathers has permitted this auction, and will receive ten percent of the final bid. Anything else?"

Jet Set rolled his eyes. "Not that we don't trust you, Filthy. But how can we trust you to run the auction? What if a changeling alters your mind? Surely this would be better handled by the auctioneers at Barnies with a vetted unicorn trained to avoid curses and hexes?"

Pillbug began hopping in place. "Slander! We caught the individual behind that incident! We know you pay Barnies under the table for various favors. We know everything!"

Jet Set glared back. "You know nothing, you insect! And if anything gets said I will sue!"

Filthy Rich raised his hooves "Calm down gentlebeasts." He tapped a collar around his neck. "This collar is of the same material as the room, no mind magic will work on me. I will be glad to take it off afterwards, but it means no one can control me, nor can they read my mind. Therefore your bids are safe and the combination to the puzzle safe behind me is safe."

"Why a puzzle safe?", asked Madam Shines

"According to certain experts 'number safes can be defeated by using a simple sorting algorithm' or something like that. I trust her judgement, so only I know the sequence of level pulls and pushes to avoid the self-defense mechanism. That should reassure all of you."

The bidders grumbled in assent.

"Come know, you can examine the Kestrel for yourself. Afterwards, you can retire to the dining room to eat and consider your bids."

Ex-Prince Goldenwings flexed his talons. "Why not the gardens, the weather is lovely. And its so rare to see such a grand garden in a little inn like this. We could even have all our attendants present."

"NO! The gardens immediately outside this room are not to be used. After everyone leaves I will be securing the safe. I do not want anyone to have even the slightest chance of observing the process. Everyone will go to the dining room. Everyone."

After the viewing, Filthy made sure everyone left before securing the Kestrel. It was almost over. No more threats, no more tight anti-magical colors that made him feel weak and ill. Just Millions of bits. Jet Set and Platinum Shines would bid ferociously against each other. Prince , sorry ex-prince, Goldenwings would refuse to give up on his honor and perceived insult. Even Pillbug had the backing of the Changeling Kingdom, the statue would be an excellent start to a royal collection and buying it legally would help erase the stain of the attempted theft. Just think of the millions of bits.

He strolled onto the stone patio and walkway. He appreciated the garden, but the wide stone pathways were too large for his taste. It took him a few minutes to his guests.

The dining room was tense. Goldenwings had intentionally ordered a rare steak with a side of grubs. He took great delight in looking at the others while eating. Pillbug sat drinking a sparking cider, conversing with one of their associates. Jet Set was on his magic cell talking loudly to his banker. Platinum Shines sat being served by her personal butler, deeming the local food too plebian. Filthy sat at his chair and picked up his napkin. A small note fell out. Nervously, he unfolded it.

"Thanks for the Kestrel. See you next time."

Was it a threat? A bluff? After all that work, it had to safe, right? No magic. No mind control. No way to get open the safe. No witnesses. It had to be a bluff. It had to be.

Filthy coughed. "Excuse me, everyone."

As soon as he was out of sight, he galloped back. Through the hallways, no one stopped him. Through the garden, no one stopped him. He opened the door, the lights were still on, the safe was closed. Surely, they couldn't get in. Angry at his doubt, he still had to know. He went through the twenty actions quickly and opened the safe. The empty safe. How? No one knew the combination. It had been only minutes. He stood stupified for a moment, til he heard the door close. He thought he had closed it on his way in, but he was thankful for the error now. Out of his trance, he turned and began sprinting back towards his guests. No the front desk. No, the police! The guards! The Princesses! He took a nasty spill when he missed his footing as he sprinted out of the safe room.

In less then ten minutes, everyone was in the safe room. All the guests, the guards, even hotel staff milled about. Everyone could see that the safe was empty, but no one could agree on how. Accusations flew and harsh words were spat, but no concrete leads were forthcoming.

At her private salon, Platinum Shines looked at her servants over her cup of tea. A middle aged unicorn levitated a large trunk inside her personal room. The young unicorn lady-in-waiting curtseyed and opened the trunk. Inside, the Kestrel gleamed in the evening light.

"All right. I am impressed. How did you and your brother do it? Was Filthy in on it?"

No, Mistress."

"A forgery before the auction, Jet Set was fairly convinced a forgery burned itself to ash inside the safe."

"He's a fool, there was no ash. And that's just needlessly complex."

"Some kind of unknown sorcery or stolen alicorn magic."

"No, but we should be careful about that rumor. We don't need the Princesses being that concerned."

"Was there a body double?"

"Actually, you're close, Mistress. We created an illusion of the safe room directly in front of the door. We were outside the room, so magic was fine. He could see his actions, and duplicated them to get into the safe after he left. It was a little closer than I would have liked when brother dear did not close the door quietly. Also I did not match the pavement as well as I should have. If he had been more aware, he might have caught it."

"Excellent. I love your little diversions. Good job. Put it in the vault with the rest."

Pleased with how the game had turned in her favor, Platinum Shines returned to her tea and biscuits.