My Little Pony: Friendship is Murder
All recognizable characters belong to their respective owners (The Mark Gordon Company, Hasbro/Lauren Faust).
Warning: non-graphic description of child death and suicide
It was a sunny day in Equestria, and everything was happy and bright. There were only a few clouds in the sky, being lounged on by pegasai, and the cheerful murmur of village life rose from the town of Ponyville. He smiled and sighed and stretched out under his favorite tree, up on the hill.
"Hi!" a cheerful voice called, and he raised his head to see Pinkie Pie bouncing towards him. "How are you today?"
He smiled, smiled so bright. "I'm fantastic! How are you today, Pinkie Pie?"
"Faaaaantastic as well!" she cheered. "And youwill be even better when you come to my party tonight!"
She dropped a letter in front of him, and he read it quickly. "A Pinkie Pie party? You bet I'll be there!"
She grinned and jumped and cavorted and said, "Yippee!" It was a pleasure to see her pleasure, and her cheer was utterly infectious.
"It's gonna be a great party! There'll be cake and punch and confetti and streamers and music and dancing and everypony! Twilight Sparkle and Spike and Rarity and Applejack and-"
"I believe it," he interrupted. "I can hardly wait!"
"Me neither!" she said, jumping up in surprise. "It's gonna be great! Well, it is if I finish getting these invitations delivered! Gotta get on that! See you later!"
"Yeah, see you later!" he said, waving. He watched her bounce and tumble along to the village, and then glanced up at the sun, sitting where the moon would be in only a few hours.
He couldn't wait for tonight.
"Oh," Elle, said, stepping carefully. "Oh, this is..."
"Wow," Reid said, inching closer to get a better look.
Hotch took one look, snagged JJ's arm, and in one motion, turned his back to the scene and drew her in close. He murmured, "The press are gonna be all over this. Tell them nothing if you can get away with it, grisly murder if you must. No mentioning victims..."
"...and no raising questions, I know how to do my job," she answered, and glanced over his shoulder.
"Go," he said, turning her and pushing her gently towards the door. As soon as it closed behind her, he sighed and turned back to the scene.
He spotted the officer in charge and caught the man's eye. The man nodded, and threaded his way among the people to approach him. "What do we know?" Hotch asked, as soon as he was in earshot.
"No sign of forced entry, this is likely a place the killer owns," the officer said, consulting his notepad. "Victim was reported missing two days ago in southern Connecticut. We estimate time of death to be about midnight yesterday, though he was probably here for longer."
Hotch glanced up, letting his eyes roll over the corpse, sprawled down from what he guessed had been a hands-and-knees posture, complete with manacles, in a painted circle covered with odd designs. It looked ritualistic, which was bad enough, but the worst part was- "How old was he?"
The officer looked up, followed his gaze, and said, "He was five."
Elie Weisel once said, "Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing."
"What do we know?" Gideon asked, standing at the head of the table.
"Ritualistic killing," Morgan volunteered. "Sign of an organized mind, possibly a killer looking to go serial."
"But the glyphs weren't in any known language," Reid piped up. "He's not performing a standard ritual from a book or the internet, he's making one up."
"Creative," Gideon granted.
Elle glanced at the picture in the file one more time, and said, "Psychopath, probably. Given the restraints, we're dealing with issues of control."
"But not sex," Morgan said. "There was no evidence any of this was sexual, not pedophilia or anything."
"So he picks his victims carefully, ties them down and performs...this. Do we know what the ritual is for?" Hotch asked.
"Control," Gideon said. "It all comes down to the ego. A sacrifice to himself?"
"It'd fit," Elle allowed. "And someone like that-"
"-will jump into the investigation," Morgan finished for her. She tossed him a smile, and he nodded back.
Hotchner stood up. "I'll notify the police," he said, reaching for his phone.
"I'm gonna take these symbols to Garcia," Morgan said. "See what our resident miracle worker can turn up."
"I'll work on the language," Reid volunteered, picking up some of the photos and heading for his desk.
Elle gathered the remaining files, and said, "And I'll coordinate with the police, check the suspect list." She hurried after Hotch, letting the door slam behind her.
Gideon looked around at the empty conference room, and said thoughtfully, "I'll go get a coffee."
"Once upon a time, there were two regal sisters who ruled together and created harmony for all the land. To do this, the eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun at dawn. The younger brought out the moon to begin the night. Thus, the two sisters maintained balance for their kingdom and their subjects.
"But as time went on, the younger sister became resentful. The ponies relished and played in the day her elder sister brought forth, but shunned and slept through her beautiful night. One fateful day, the younger unicorn refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn. The elder sister tried to reason with her, but the bitterness in the young one's heart had transformed her into a wicked mare of darkness: Night Mare Moon. She vowed that she would shroud the land in eternal night.
"Reluctantly, the elder sister harnessed the most powerful magic known to ponydom: The Elements of Harmony! Using the magic of The Elements of Harmony, she defeated her younger sister and banished her permanently in the moon. The elder sister took on responsibility for both sun and moon, and harmony has been maintained in Equestria ever since."
"That's great, but what's it got to do with us?" Rainbow Dash's voice cut across Twilight Sparkle's.
"Legend has it that on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape and she will bring about everlasting night!" Twilight Sparkle shut the book, and looked up. "And this year's Summer Sun Celebration marks one thousand years, exactly!"
"Oh, come, now, sugarcube, this is all just an old ponies' tale," Applejack said. "...isn't it?"
"No," Twilight Sparkle said, from where her head was stuck in a bookshelf. "It's true. And the only thing that can defeat her is he Elements of Harmony. And I don't even know what they are! Spike, where's that book?"
"What book?" Spike asked, ducking the tide of tomes sailing towards his head.
"The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide," Pinkie Pie answered, and giggled.
"What?" Twilight asked, coming up and looking around. "Where—How did you find that?"
"It was under 'E'," Pinkie Pie sang, and wandered off.
"The Elements of Harmony," Twilight Sparkle read. "There are seven of these mystic elements. The first five are kindness, honesty, laughter, generosity, and loyalty, the sixth is magic, and the seventh is a secret."
"Wow, sounds complicated," Rainbow Dash commented, laying backwards on the air.
He finally spoke up. "But the Summer Sun Celebration is tonight! How are we gonna to find the Elements of Harmony in time?"
"We can't," Twilight Sparkle said. "There's no way."
Everyone absorbed that for a minute. "We—we're all doomed?" Fluttershy asked quietly.
"Not yet," Twilight Sparkle said, looking up from her book. Her eyes blazed with determination, and her courage encouraged the others. "We can't give up."
"Then what're we gonna do?" Applejack asked.
Twilight huffed out a breath that poofed up her bangs. "There's a ceremony in this book. It's not a solution, but it should buy us just enough time. It's pretty simple, and it creates a lock on the moon that will keep Night Mare Moon sealed in for one more night. It'll only work for one cycle of a full moon, though."
"But that will give us a whole month, right?" Pinkie Pie asked, popping up out of nowhere. "A whole month! Do you know what you can do with a whole month?"
"Find the Elements of Harmony, I hope," Rainbow Dash said, turning over to look down at them all. "Otherwise we're all in big trouble!"
"Well, about this ceremony," he interrupted. "What do we need?"
"Right! Spike, make a list!" Twilight Sparkle said, and leaned closer to the book to make sure she got it right. "We're going to need an effigy, and..."
"An eff—an effi—an eff...?"
Twilight Sparkle made a frustrated noise and rolled her eyes. "A doll that looks like Night Mare Moon," she simplified.
"Got it!" Spike said, scratching away at the parchment. "What else?"
"We're gonna need some paint, and some special herbs from the local gardens and the borders of the Everfree Forest..."
"Just got a call," Hotch said. "They found another body, just like the first."
He dropped a folder on the table, photos slipping out. Various people grabbed various photos, and there was a quiet moment of chaos as everyone had to reshuffle to find the pictures of the aspects they were most interested in.
"Same circle, same symbols," Morgan noticed, squinting closer at it. "Crisper, cleaner, this time; he's been practicing."
"There's something under the body," Reid said, dropping the wide-angle shot and sorting through the pile, looking for one of the circle without the body. "Here, see? Very curvy."
"Looks like a...horse?" Elle guessed, leaning over to get a better look.
"No, I think more like a wave, or something?" Morgan said, tracing the line on his own photo.
Hotch slid a picture to the center of the table. "Take a look at this posture."
They all leaned forward to get a look. "Kowtow?" Elle said.
"Fits the theory of control and egocentricity," Gideon murmured. "And the manacles..."
"Keep the victim contained," Morgan guessed. "He left them there for an extended period of time?"
"What was the cause of death?" Reid asked, looking up.
Hotch shifted through the papers. "Don't know about this new one, but the first boy died of toxins."
"Poisoned..." Elle said, considering. "So he poisoned them, then tied them up and left them to die in this circle?"
"But what's the ritual for?" Morgan asked, then took a deep breath. "Okay, no, wait. I'm the unsub...and I want to kidnap little boys-"
"This one's a girl," Hotch pointed out. Everyone did a double take at the photos, except Gideon, who had his back to the room, staring out the window.
"Okay," Morgan allowed. He got up to pace. I want to kidnap young children and poison them and leave them to die. Why?"
"Two murders, two days apart," Reid said.
"Escalation?" Elle asked.
"No, no, this is a pattern," Morgan said. "But is it because the first time didn't work, or because it has to be performed a certain number of times?"
"Tomorrow's the full moon," Reid threw in. "And also the summer solstice, which is, among other things, seen as the time when the sun is both at it's strongest and when it begins to die, leading into the winter solstice when dies and is reborn. Do you think...?"
"No, because then why today? I'm trying to accomplish something, but...what?"
"Any similarities in the victims?" Hotch asked, digging out the folder from the first scene. "Both young and pretty-"
"But it's not sexual," Elle reminded him.
"-both kidnapped and brought to a safe location."
"Separate safe locations," Morgan said, still pacing. "I'd have many, more than one, at the very least-"
"-as many as the number of rituals you were planning to conduct." Reid finished.
"Which implies a certain amount, and also foresight," Hotch concluded. "Matches the profile. But why have a certain number? Won't he escalate? Be unable to stop?"
And everyone paused, thinking that over. Finally, Gideon turned around. "Elle, what did you find with the suspect list? Anyone involved?"
"No," she said. "No suspects besides the victim's immediate family, no one overly helpful, no calls to the tipline."
"These guys can't help themselves, though," Gideon said, and put both hands on the table, leaning forward. "All we need to do is make the bait irresistible."
"So we just have to keep the representation of Night Mare Moon in the representation of the moon?" he asked. "That doesn't sound so hard."
"Well, it shouldn't be," Twilight Sparkle said. "The problem is mostly the herbs."
"I...can get those," Fluttershy volunteered.
"And I can make a doll of the Mare in the Moon," Rarity said, tossing her mane. "Can you give me a picture to work from?"
Twilight Sparkle nodded. "It's got to be pretty big, though, about as big as a foal. And as accurate as you can make it." Spike held up a blank sheet of parchment, and Twilight's horn glowed. A copy of the picture faded into being, and Spike rolled up the paper when it was done.
"Here you go, miss Rarity," Spike said shyly. "Do you need any help?"
"Oh, well, I suppose I could always use another pair of paws," Rarity sighed. "Come along, then."
She trotted out of the library, Spike following after, little hearts trailing behind him.
Twilight shook her head, and magicked over another piece of parchment, scribbling down the list of herbs. "Here you go," she said, floating it over to Fluttershy.
Rainbow Dash swooped down, catching it before it got to the other pegasus. "Come on," she said around a mouthful of list. "I'll help."
"Thanks," Fluttershy murmured, and gently lifted off. The two took off through the window, and he and Applejack watched them go.
Twilight flipped more pages, and made a copy of a circle, complete with runes from Ancient High Equestrilum, spoken in the days when the House Lords reined, but long since lost. "Applejack, can you prepare the circle?
"You betcha!" Applejack said. "Consider it done!" She headed out, leaving him alone with Twilight Sparkle.
"What can I do?" he asked, wanting to be helpful.
"You and I have the hardest part of all," Twilight said. "We're going to find these Elements of Harmony, and be back in time to conduct this ceremony tonight."
A thrill of excitement raced up his spine. "The Elements of Harmony," he murmured, the words tasting like sticky-sweet candy on his tongue. "Where do we start?"
The three of them were gathered around the tipline, waiting and keeping an eye on the tv monitor. JJ was out there, announcing how they had the culprit in custody, awaiting arrest.
"Come on, come on," Morgan muttered, tapping his fingers impatiently. "Why doesn't he call already?"
"Be patient," Penelope said, scooting over to a different computer screen. "He'll call, and we'll be ready."
"He has to call," Reid said. "He's control-oriented, and egotistical. He can't let anyone else take credit for what he's done."
They waited a while longer, and Penelope opened a game of solitaire on one of her secondary screens. "You sure this is gonna work?" she asked, after the third round.
"It ought to," Reid said. "Statistically-"
"Right, yes, got it, thanks," Penelope was quick to cut him off. "It'll work, sure."
The phone rang, and they all jumped. Morgan reached for the receiver, then frowned as he realized it was his cell phone, not the tipline.
He answered it, and Hotch's voice came over the line, low and urgent. "We've got another victim. Meet in the conference room in twenty."
"Right!" Twilight Sparkle said. Everypony was just putting the finishing touches on the ceremony.
Applejack, covered liberally in the red paint, was working on the image in the center of the circle. Rarity was just tying a ribbon around the doll's hooves. She'd fussed for ages over the mane and tail, and was having Spike hold up different color fabrics so she could decide for tomorrow's doll today. Fluttershy was sweeping the floor, clearing the debris, and Rainbow Dash was just watching.
The door was flung open, and Pinkie Pie trotted in. She announced something that nopony understood because of the pot handle in her mouth.
"Great! Thanks, Pinkie Pie," Twilight said. "You used all the herbs that Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash gave you in that potion, right?"
Pinkie Pie bounced and nodded, and he winced, rushing to take the pot from her before she spilled it. He handled it carefully, and approached the circle.
"Yes," Twilight said. "Now, everypony back up!" The six backed up and away, leaving him alone right outside the circle, with the bound pony doll.
"Carefully pour the potion over the effigy," Twilight Sparkle directed, and he tipped the pot slowly over, letting the water drizzle out over the top of the doll. He moved it in a careful spiral, moving outwards, making sure the whole doll was soaked.
"What's it do?" Rainbow Dash whispered.
"It's a sleep potion," Twilight answered, just as hushed. "It's a very powerful potion that slows the heart, and can kill if it's too strong. It'll put Night Mare Moon to sleep for the night. The ribbon represents her bindings, and the circle is to lock her into the moon for the whole night."
"And we just repeat this every night?" Applejack asked. "Are you sure this here hoodoo will work?"
"It's our best shot," Twilight Sparkle answered grimly. "Tomorrow, we'll all go looking for the Elements together. Rarity, can you make tomorrow's doll tonight?"
"Honey, can a bird sing? Of course I can; I'm already halfway done."
"Great," she answered as he rejoined them. "Then let's all get some sleep. We've got a big day ahead of us."
"This is the same ritual," Reid announced, walking the perimeter of the third and newest circle. "Same symbols, and they still don't make any sense."
"Same position," Morgan noted, staring at the pictures and comparing it to the now-empty circle on the floor. "Same posture, kneeling and all."
"But he didn't call into the tipline," Elle pointed out. "Why not?"
"Maybe he wasn't watching the news coverage? Didn't see the announcement?" Hotch hypothesized.
"An ego-centric psychopath would never miss any coverage of his crimes," Reid pointed out.
"Doesn't change the fact that he didn't call," Gideon said. "And if an ego-centric psychopath would definitely call, then..."
"Our profile is wrong," Elle concluded.
"We're not dealing with a psychopath," Morgan said, comprehension dawning on him. "We were barking up the wrong tree all along."
"The ritual... He could be schizophrenic, someone who's completely and utterly delusional. A bizarre, grandiose delusion—something that doesn't make any sense to anyone but him," Reid offered.
"Which would explain why our first profile was so off," Elle added.
"So let's build a new one," Gideon said. "What do we know?"
"It's not about the victims," Hotch said, kneeling down to touch the circle. "This new one was the same age, but was a brunette girl, unlike the blonde boy or the redheaded girl. He's picking them at random, as long as they're the right age. It's about the ritual."
"What does he think he's accomplishing with it?" Reid asked. "He made it up, so every part should have some significance to it."
"But the language-" Elle started, and Morgan's phone rang.
"You'd better have good news for me, Garcia," he said, and waited. "Yeah? From where? Oh, are you serious?"
The rest traded looks around the room, waiting impatiently for him to say, "Thanks, Garcia, you're a lifesaver." They didn't hear the smug response, but then, they didn't need to.
Morgan snapped his phone shut. "She id'ed the symbol in the center of the circle. The curvy one?" He took a few quick steps forwards, tracing the odd outline. "We thought it looked like a horse? Well, it is one. It's Night Mare Moon, from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic."
"The Elements of Harmony," Twilight Sparkle read. "Apparently, they will come to those who are worthy when they are in need."
"Well, that's helpful," he said. "So, what, we just call out for them?"
"I...guess so?" Twilight responded. "I'm not sure."
"Okay," he said. "Well, let's think about it. We're in need, right?"
"Right. So I guess we just have to do something to prove we're worthy of the Elements."
"Good! So how do we do that?"
"What if we try representing each Element in turn?" Twilight offered.
"We could try," he said dubiously. Do we just run around being honest to everypony? Or generous?"
"Sure!" Twilight Sparkle said optimistically. "It's just gotta work!"
That night, they slunk into the woodshed to perform the ceremony again.
"It didn't work?" Applejack asked.
"No," said Twilight Sparkle. "And we're running low on ideas."
He added grimly, "And we're running out of time."
"The fourth victim," Gideon said, dropping yet another folder on the table.
"So our unsub is entirely delusional, and thinks he's part of this cartoon?" Elle asked, pushing around the file's contents.
"Seems likely," Gideon said. "He's apparently re-enacting the first two episodes, the Night Mare Moon arc, but with himself as the star."
"The posture makes sense, then; it was hands and knees, not a kowtow. They were positioned to look like a pony," Morgan said, thinking it through out loud.
"He's living in his own fairy-tale world, but acting in this one," Elle continued. "He may not even realize what he's doing, or whom he's doing it to. He really thinks he's a pony."
"I've heard of bronies, but this is kind of extreme," Reid said, sorting through the newest batch of photos.
"Heard of what now?" Hotch asked.
"Bronies," Reid repeated, then, seeing the confusion on everyone's faces, explained. "Uh, male fans of the show, they call themselves bronies? Like, bro and pony put together? It was designed for young girls, but it's got a cult following on the internet..."
Everyone stared at him for a second as he trailed off. Finally, Morgan shook his head. "Man, just when you think you've seen it all, huh?"
"I'm surprised at how unsurprised I am," Elle agreed.
Reid slunk down in his seat a little, and decided, once again, to keep a lid on the internet geekery. Unless it was relevant for a case, of course.
"So we're looking for a guy who's not just a male fan of a girls' cartoon show," Hotch clarified disbelievingly. "But a schizophrenic who believes he's a part of a girls' cartoon show?"
"Yes," Gideon clarified. "Let's give the police our final profile."
"On it," Hotchner said, standing. He was still shaking his head when he left.
"This is the last night we can hold her," Twilight Sparkle said miserably.
"What're we gonna do?" Rainbow Dash asked. "We can't just leave Ponyville and all of Equestria hanging!"
"We could leave, I guess," Twilight Said. "Take shelter in Canterlot."
"Are you crazy?" Rainbow Dash demanded, growing a bit brighter. "What about everyone here? We can't just leave our friends to that merciless mare! We have to stay, even if we can't change anything!"
"To be honest, I agree," said Applejack, light shining from her coat. "I don't think we have much chance of winnin' to be sure, but we still oughte'r stay."
"That's right," Rarity chimed in, looking radiant. "Perhaps we can give everypony shelter? I can hide quite a few ponies in my store."
Pinkie Pie chortled, throwing a foreleg over Rarity's shoulder. "Yes! We should have a party! I can throw a party! It'll be a forever night party and we totally won't invite that Queen Meanie!"
"I...don't know," Fluttershy said quietly, stepping into the light. "It's not very nice to exclude people, you know. Maybe we should just...send her a card?"
Twilight stamped in annoyance. "This isn't some passing fad! This is a tyrannical Queen who wants to take over all of Equestria! We should fight her, together, down to the last drop of magic in our horns and courage in our hearts!"
"You're all glowing," he said.
"Yes! We should-wait, what?"
"All of you, you're glowing," he pointed out. "I think...you embody the Elements. We've represented them all, because Rainbow Dash showed her loyalty, and Applejack has an honest heart, and Rarity is generous to everypony, Pinkie Pie is the very essence of laughter, Fluttershy is kind to a fault, and Twilight has the magic. And together, you've got the power of friendship."
As he spoke, sparkles edged into being, shining around each pony, until they settled into beautiful necklaces, complete with jeweled pendants. They looked down and gasped.
"The Elements of Harmony!" Twilight exclaimed. "We found them!"
"But what about you?" Fluttershy asked. "You're our friend, too."
"There are seven Elements," Applejack reminded them. "You must be the seventh!"
"But we don't know what the seventh is!" Rainbow Dash said. "How do we figure it out?"
"Well, that's easy! We just have to figure out what he embodies!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, bouncing up and down. "Ooh, ooh, I love guessing games!"
"Is it...quietness?" Rainbow Dash guessed. "No, no, that'd be Fluttershy."
"But it can't be me!" he told them. "I'm nothing special!"
"Yes, you are! You're special to us!" Applejack said. "The other ponies may not know you very well, but we do!"
"That's right! You don't hardly ever let anypony see you, but we see the real you," Twilight said. "You keep yourself to yourself, like..."
"Oh, duh!" Pinkie Pie laughed. "The book said it! Just like a secret!"
"I'm...a Secret?" he asked, and watched as the same sparkling glow surrounded him. "I'm the Secret! You guys, I'm the Secret!"
"Whee!" Pinkie Pie cheered, and everypony laughed and clapped.
"We found all the Elements!" Twilight Sparkle said. "We did it, everypony!"
"That's right," he whispered. "We did it! And I'm the Secret."
And he knew that every bit of magic comes with a price, and that a secret isn't a secret if it isn't kept.
"I'm the secret," he said, and stepped into the circle.
"So the police still haven't caught this guy?" Elle asked. "He's killed five children in five days."
"These things take time," Morgan answered, but it was hollow. and unconvincing, even to him.
"And sometimes, they don't," Hotch said, entering the conference room with Reid and Gideon on his heels. "Take a look."
The scattering of photos hit the table, and this time, no one touched them.
"Huh," Morgan said, honestly surprised. "Suicide? Really?"
"Yeah, looks like," Elle said. "Final escalation?"
"Nope," Reid said, glancing at a picture of a middle-aged man, halfway bound, laying across the circle. "Final stage in the delusion."
"Whichever, it doesn't much matter," Gideon murmured, looking over the pictures. "We can't catch him now."
And he smiled, secure in the knowledge that he'd kept the Secret, and saved the land, and helped his friends win.
They'd won. They'd all won, and Equestria would be bright and perfect forever.
He smiled so happy, shining so bright, and nothing hurt, not ever.
And then darkness fell.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, "I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind."
They said it couldn't be done. HA.