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The Crystal Skull of the Quetzalcoatl Empress [ATTN: MoonTea]


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The Disappearance - A few years ago...



Legends spoke of The Crystal Skull of the Quetzalcoatl Empress. A hardstone carving of a pony skull made of transparent quartz. Priceless in both historical and physical value. It was said to have been used by the Quetzalcoatl Empress herself to enslave the ponies of the Tenochtitlan Basin. Throughout her reign of terror, the Empress would never be far from the Crystal Skull. Its quartz eye-sockets a witness to countless atrocities made in the name of the Empire. But, when the Empress disappeared, so too did the Crystal Skull. 


The Crystal Skull, a symbol of torment and greed, baptized in the blood and tears of the ponies of the Tenochtitlan Basin. An artifact lost to time, never to have its flawless quartz gazed upon by pony eyes again. 


Until a group of brave adventurers unearthed the artifact in one of Tenochtitlan's many abandoned temples. 


They brought the artifact back to Equestria. And, despite the untimely deaths of multiple members of the adventuring team, it was delivered safely into the hooves of the Royal Canterlot Museum of Antiquities. For a princely sum, of course. Following the usual period of study and examination, the Museum found the artifact to be genuine. A true archeological find for the ages. The adventurers who had found this truly unique artifact deserved to be publicly lauded for their discovery. 


If only all of them hadn't mysteriously disappeared after their return to Canterlot.


By the time the Museum announced that it would put the Crystal Skull on display, the rumor mills of Canterlot had been kicked into complete overdrive. Gossip and tall tales about the cursed artifact from the jungle spread like wildfire through the city. Tabloids printed interviews with less-than-reputable historians telling the story behind Quetzalcoatl, its Empress, and her Crystal Skull. The superstitious bought monkey paws or rabbits' feet to protect themselves from the "evil influence of the Crystal Skull." The elite of Canterlot talked about the artifact in hushed tones during their dinner parties and social events. It was the talk of the town, and everypony was sure to buy tickets for the Museum's exposition of the Skull, much to the delight of the Museum's finances.      


Opening day came without a hitch. The crowds lined up, tickets in hoof, to see the brand new Tenochtitlan exhibit, with the Crystal Skull as its centerpiece. Everypony who was anypony was there, ready to see the infamous sculpture. Celebrities, socialites, and nobles all made appearances. The press was there, prepared to photograph the notorious quartz Skull in all its splendor. All seemed to be going well. But, as the doors open and the first ponies stepped into the exhibition room, a shocking fact was revealed. The Crystal Skull of the Quetzalcoatl Empress was gone.


A massive Royal Guard inquiry was begun almost immediately, and every investigator worth his salt was brought in to help. A massive search was organized, everypony who had any connections to the Museum, the Skull, or its discoverers were brought in for questions. Rumor has it that even the Princesses got involved at one point. But, it was all for naught. No leads were ever uncovered, no suspects ever arrested, and no trace of the Skull was ever found. It seemed as if the Skull had blinked out of existence.     





Royal Guard Headquarters: Investigative Division, Canterlot - A couple of hours ago...


Sundown Trail brought the mug to his mouth cautiously and deliberately, as if doing so would lessen the heat of the freshly brewed coffee it contained. With a careful motion, he moved the mug to his lips and took a hesitant sip. Almost immediately, he recoiled and jerked away from the hot beverage. Still too hot, he thought to himself; better let it cool for a couple more minutes. After making sure none of his coffee spilled, he placed the mug on the corner of his desk and opened the manila file in front of him.


He read the name of the case file. "Disappearance - Crystal Skull - Canterlot" Oh no. This case. Who'd he tick off to get assigned this? This assignment was passed around the office of the Investigative Division like it was a disease. Nopony wanted to work on it. Years had passed since the events of that fateful day, and nothing ever popped up. No leads were ever uncovered. But, for some reason, the case was never put away with the other cold cases, where it belonged. And now it was his turn with the matter.


He thought back to the original investigation. He was just a junior investigator back then. That was when he was still working under Investigator Looking Glass. They were both assigned to the case right as the search was getting started. Looking Glass had cultivated a reputation in the Guard for finding clues where no other investigator was able to. So, the Guard assigned him and his junior to investigate the crime scene. They had turned up nothing. The crime scene was immaculate. The Crystal Skull's glass case had no evidence of being touched, let alone tampered with. There was no trace of any theft. For all accounts and purposes, it was like the Crystal Skull was still there. But, of course, the fact remained that it was gone.


That was fun explaining that to his superiors.


Sundown stared at the file on his desk. He sincerely doubted he could turn up anything new in the case. But, might as well put his best effort into it. Maybe there was something that everypony missed? Although, he certainly wasn't holding his breath on that account. He sighed and flipped through the file a bit more.




Streets of Canterlot - Present…


"He doesn't live here anymore. You should leave."




Sundown grumbled to himself as he stood in front of the door that was just slammed in his face. That was his last lead. Gone. And now he was thrown back to the drawing board. 


He glanced up at the tall brick apartment building in front of him before turning away from the door and walking back onto the sidewalk. It was starting to get dark, and by now, most honest ponies have gone back to their homes to enjoy the rest of their evening inside, out of the autumn cold. Sundown didn't mind the cold too much; as an Areion, he was used to the chillier night air. But, he was starting to wish that he had brought his scarf with him right now. He made a mental note to grab it when he went back to the office.


He began to stroll down the street with no real destination in mind. Unfortunately, he now had some time to waste before he had to be back at headquarters. He originally intended to use this time to question one of the ponies involved in the original inquiry, but, as we just saw, that ended with a rude brush-off and a slammed door.


He stopped when he noticed something. Or, rather, somepony. A mare, standing just a couple yards down the sidewalk from him. Usually, that wouldn't be very noteworthy, even at this late hour. After all, the streets of Canterlot usually saw a lot of traffic. But something about her made Sundown pause. He wasn't sure what it was, but it made him stop dead in his tracks.


She was watching him. Did she want something from him? Did he know her? She certainly didn't look familiar, but he could be mistaken.


Okay, now it is getting weird. It had been a couple seconds since Sundown noticed her, and now they were both staring at each other quietly. It's time to get to the bottom of this. He called out to her.


"Uh… Hello?" 

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Her eyes gazed over the stallion in front of her admiring his curious wings with a bit of reverence. Knowing nothing of Areion besides their batpony folklore she thought she must be imagining things. Vampire ponies running rampant in Canterlot, stalking through the night looking for vulnerable young mares to attack. She pushed the thought out of her mind, pushing her focus back on the matter at hand.


When he spoke to her chills ran hard up her spine, every of her hairs standing on end. Oh Celestia that's a living pony! She let out a sharp squeal, breaking the delicate silence of the night and darted to hide behind the nearest building. Barely looking where she was going she careened into a large potted plant, knocking her right on her flank and covering her in potting mix.


"How was I supposed to know he was Real! He looked made up! Theres a real batpony detective prowling the streets at the same time I was? Does that not sound like some elaborate metaphor that my brain would cook up?" she muttered, trying desperately to dust herself off, "Oh don't get an attitude with me! I don't have time for that!"

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He cocked his head to the side as he watched the mare run behind a building and, from the sound of it, crash into something. She got spooked when he greeted her. He certainly didn't expect that. Did he say something wrong? No, that didn't make sense. He had only just said hello. Maybe she had never seen an Areion before? Sometimes ponies reacted this way when they first met him. But that was usually in small towns in the boondocks, not Canterlot, which has one of the largest Areion populations in the entirety of Equestria.


Well, that doesn't change the fact that she seemed to now be cowering in some alleyway from Sundown. He had wanted to write this off as some country bumpkin getting scared the first time they saw a different kind of pony. But something told him that wasn't what was happening. And anyway, he couldn't just leave her there. First of all, that'd be rather inconsiderate. But also, word of this could filter back to his boss. And the last thing he needed was his superiors finding out he scared the living daylights out of some poor mare in the middle of the night. That usually didn't do wonders for a pony's reputation or career. She also might have hurt herself when trying to run away, and what kind of pony would he be if he left her behind when she needed help?


Sundown resolved to at least make sure this mare was okay. Maybe he just caught her off-guard? Hopefully she didn't hurt herself while fleeing. He began to trot over to the alleyway she ran down. As he approached the entrance to the alley, he heard her whispering something. Although he couldn't quite make out what she was saying, it sounded frantic and half-muttered. Who was she talking to?


"Excuse me, miss? Are you okay? I didn't mean to frighten you." He called to the mare, concern starting to enter his voice.

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She stumbled to her hooves doing her best to dust herself off to no avail. Hearing his hoofsteps on the cobblestone solidified his existence in her mind and she felt her face flush. Never in her life had she mistaken a pony for being one of her hallucinations and now she had his attention way more than she ever wanted from anypony. For all she was worth she wanted desperately not to be noticed by other ponies. She did her best work when everyone's eyes glossed right over her. And now here she was, screaming and running away from some stranger like a filly. She considered herself lucky, still, that she hadn't caused a scene like this in the middle of a crowded street.


"O-oh! Yes I'm perfectly alright!" she called back, gathering her spilled saddlebag as fast as possible, "No need to worry- worry- warning- watch out- welcome!" she slapped a hoof over her mouth to muffle the hyperactive stream of consciousness as it popped out of her mouth like fireworks. In an instant she fell right back down into the dirt, unable to control herself. She threw down her bag and ripping her notebook out of the bag along with her ragged feathered quill.


"Quietly. Quickly. Quetzalcoatl. Quest. Conflict!" she muttered, scribbling fiercely on the page, hard enough to tear through the paper.

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"O-oh! Yes I'm perfectly alright! No need to worry- worry- warning- watch out- welcome!"


Relief washed over him as he heard her yell back to him. She wasn't hurt; that was good. Crisis averted. As he turned the corner into the alleyway, he saw her writing into a notebook wildly. Her quill performing an erratic dance around the lined page. Although she obviously was aware of his presence, he didn't want to frighten or spook her again. He didn't know how skittish she was, exactly. So he approached her carefully, taking care not to make any sudden movements. As he neared the beige mare, he was able to make out what she was murmuring.


"Quietly. Quickly. Quetzalcoatl. Quest. Conflict!"


That made him double-take. What the hay could that mean? Was she talking about his case? No... that's not possible. There's no way she could know about that... Right?


He stopped a couple hoofsteps away from her. It'd probably be best to give her some space. She was still giving him an odd vibe, and he still couldn't put his hoof on what it was exactly. He leaned a little closer and tried to get a look at what she was writing from where he was standing.


"Uhm... What are you doing there, miss?" He asked, curiosity starting to get the better of him.

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  • 2 weeks later...

She held out a hoof to silence him, focused solely on her writing. Her mind swirled with confusing and complicated possibilities, realities branching off into hundreds of different paths. Each future more destructive than the last, she did her best to grab hold of them, trapping them in her book. In less that a minute she'd filled 18 pages with blurry and smudged short hand, barely legible to even someone who understood her code.


As she wrote she never stopped muttering, whispering to herself with the quill in her mouth so nothing understandable came out. Over and over again, simple words, full sentences, little doodles, clues and questions. She couldn't stop for even a second. Every now and again she shook her head, pushing something unseen away from herself.


Finally she let the quill fall from her mouth and took a deep breath, visibly exhausted. "Who in Celestia's name would even crystalize a skull?" she said with a weary huff, slamming her book shut and shoving in back into her bag. When she looked back up at the strange stallion it was as if all the life had been sucked out of her. She slumped, her eyes sleepy and her head lolling to one side.


"P-please excuse my behavior, Detective Sundown Trail. I haven't had visions like this in a long time.. You must be doing something rather important." Her voice was barely a whisper as she tried to keep herself conscious.

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He watched, intrigued, as the mare filled out multiple pages. He tried to make sense of the patterns and symbols she drew. But all of it was complete gibberish to the detective. She was frantic and hurried, muttering to herself through her quill. That couldn't be healthy. What was driving her to do this? He watched her as she slammed her book shut and put it away. She said something wearily, something about crystalizing something, but Sundown wasn't paying attention enough to catch it all.


When he saw her slump, he quickly moved over and put a steadying hoof on her shoulder to help her keep standing. He was worried that she might fall over. He didn't want this mare collapsing in a dirty alleyway. She looked like she had just run a marathon. The detective saw the tired look in her eyes as she quietly let out an apology.


""P-please excuse my behavior, Detective Sundown Trail. I haven't had visions like this in a long time.. You must be doing something rather important."


"Don't worry about that, miss. Are you sure you're alright? Do you need to take a moment to sit down?" He said to her carefully as if she were made of glass. He put questions like 'What do you mean by visions?' and 'How did you know my name?' out of his mind as he focused on making sure this mare was okay. Questions like that can come later.

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