Have you ever spent years working towards a goal, only to get there and wish you hadn’t? That what you spent so many years of your life getting to wasn’t worth it at all?
I stand here in the white halls of Canterlot castle, staring at the opposite side of the hall which doesn’t stare back. Motionless, not a single muscle is moving. These empty hallways, sparsely decorate with ornaments. A banner every so often along the walls, colourful pots of flowers populating the corners far off in the distance outside of my vision. I can’t see any of this at the angle that I’m looking, but I know they’re all there the same. They’re always there, kept in top shape by the caretakers of the castle, invisible to everyone but themselves.
Locals think the castle take care of itself and we’re not one to tell them no. It’s not in our place to tell them anything. My place is here, in this empty corridor where I wait. It’s my task to stay here and wait, wait for nothing or anything.
I hear the familiar sound of hoovers clopping against the floor, signaling to me that somepony is walking down there halls towards the location where my current partner and I are stationed. This means one of three things, either it’s our replacements and we’re supposed to go off duty, it’s the patrolling guards getting through the route that passes our location or She is returning from Day court. I can quickly rule out the first of those, as we’ve only been standing here for four hours when the shift usually covers at least seven. Estimated by the amount of hooves I can hear it’s most likely the second as there isn’t enough noises for Her and the guards if they were returning.
Regardless it wouldn’t matter, it’s all in my head. I will treat this occasion as I treat any other. I will stay put, staring at the white walls right in front of me. Not a single eye is ever allowed to leave the stare ahead. Blinking is fine, but I am never allowed to shift my vision from this point. I have even made myself a mental dot on the wall I’m constantly focusing on to help me keep in pose. Because any real flaws to focus on are unthinkable, the caretakers wouldn’t allow such a disgrace to ever exist within the castle for long.
The sounds are getting closer. I don’t think myself any good at judging distances, but it can’t be long now before I get my answer to the unspoken question. I haven’t asked, but sometimes I wish to believe I’m not the only guard to play guessing games with themselves when standing on duty. Looking at these walls requires something to focus on after all. If I’m correct and it is the patrol, I give them four seconds. Four seconds to pass my field of vision, four seconds of pause from this monotony that guarding these doors are. Doors leading to empty rooms, but guarded all the same.
As the echoes runs through my ears, I understand that I’m correct before even seeing them. The sounds are neither disciplined like those of our replacements and there’s no hint of the smooth, careful steps I’ve learnt to connect to Her walking down these empty halls.
I lost myself in my thoughts for five seconds, yet still missed the most interesting point of today. Five seconds without perfect concentration in four hours, the most interesting moment gone by and missed. I can still hear the fall of their hooves on the floor, but they’re beyond my ability to view them. So close, yet as far away as they could. Those short five seconds cost me the joy of the day, the joy of seeing something different from these pristine whitewashed walls. Now I expect nothing more, no distractions for those precious few seconds they give.
They passed me in exactly four seconds, I know that. I counted the last six hundred times and it always ends at exactly four seconds. That’s how I know I drifted for more, or I would have caught at least a glimpse of them. They don’t know I keep track, I never told them. In fact they keep the exact same pace past the two of us as they have in the rest of the castle. Still it seems as an awfully short time to pass through my entire field of view, less than if you took a small rock and threw it in the air. It would be up there longer than four seconds.
But I can’t dwell on the past, it happened already. I have to focus, keep track of even the smallest of movements, the faintest of sounds or the weakest gusts you can think of. I must do everything in my power to protect these two gilded doors and everything within from harm.
All around me I hear metal clashing, scraping along the sides. Dealing pain without injuries and any major amounts of blood, the training swords are blunt and not meant for damage. Not that I find it likely those rusty things would ever kill anything. Attempting to catch my breath my gaze slowly raises to stare out over the training grounds. The grounds are filled with a dozen ponies, all of them in different stages of their training. Some sparring with each other, some practicing techniques I solitude and the few that just completed the current task and take a moment to breathe. I count myself to that lucky few. Twice a week we come down here to train or to stay in shape.
Knowing my time down here is almost up, I get to my hooves and start the long trek around the grounds to the exit. The sand under my hooves is soggy and wet, surely soaked from sweat from the ponies training. It’s almost like walking on the beach on a sunny day, except the beach an underground hall lit by magical lights and stained with blood in every possible corner. That and there’s no real water in sight.
As I make my way towards the staircase leading up to the surface I study the still sparring pairs. Weapons held in their magical field, hovering a short distance from their horns well within their own view. A sudden offensive by one of them sends a spray of sparks flying when his opponent blocks the attack. In rapid succession several more blows were dealt, both high and low. Neither of them gaining any ground on the other, continuously giving and receiving blows to parry or avoid. At last, after what seem like hours but in reality only could have been a few minutes they stop. Together stuck in a stalemate, both blades an inch from their respective throats with neither of them willing to make a move.
As if they had practiced this before, the two of them simultaneously removes their weapons and takes a step back. Nodding to each other, they take a look around before slowly making their way to two different ends of the halls. Knowing the fight is over and that I’ve lingered longer than I should down here, I quicken my pace to make up for lost time. The stairs up from the training grounds are steep, short and barely wide enough for two ponies in armor at once. Scaling the spiral staircase is just as much practice as sparring, but doesn’t count for anything. Slowly getting up the stairs I am greeted by the final moments of sunshine before the moon rises when I exit the shed that makes up our training grounds only surface evidence.
The ponies of Equestria are a peaceful folk, so we hide in the shadows of underground to practice what is seen as a forbidden form of art to them, the art of mortal combat.
I make my way through these overcrowded barracks of the guard. They might not seem like much to outsiders, the stale air, the unmistakable odor of sweat and the barely large enough bunks, but it’s my home. My grey rusted home that I share with hundreds of equals. All around me are ponies getting ready, putting their armor on with utmost care. Strains and buckled plates are unacceptable. The barracks are united, so everywhere you see ponies of all kinds. Earth ponies, Pegasi and unicorns, all of them scattered in bunk beds throughout the rooms. The public thinks we’re all white, but a single glance over a row of beds in the room tells you otherwise. Ponies of all colours are accepted, it’s the armor that makes all the difference.
Being a normal guard I am no expert in magic theory and I never asked, but I learnt that the armor is enchanted to make us all look the same in case of an eventual attack. Enchanted to stand guard in Her halls wearing Her colours in every possible way. I have never managed to get to know anyone in the guard well enough to call my friend, and from what I know few others have. On duty we’re stone cold and off duty we’re expected to either train, sleep or eat, preferably in that order.
Every morning starts with debriefing for the day, as always. Today is a special day, however, as today is the annual Summer Sun Celebration. For the masses this is the most amazing day of the year, as they get to see their Princess raise the sun in front of an audience. For the guard it a hectic day, everything have to be coordinated, every possible position covered and every eventuality thought of. For me, I wish I could stay in bed, today of all cursed days of the year.
Taking my usual place right in the middle of a crowd consisting of fifty-something ponies, mostly unicorns, as is tradition on these but some pegasi as well. We all gather around in this small room, barely enough for all of us when we leave place at the center for our captain to roam unhindered. I can never outwards show my opinion of this event, or any for that matter so in this sea of ponies I act indifferent. Putting on a blank expression and wait in the complete silence that is common for the debriefing sessions.
The sound of hooves striking down on the hard cold stone floor alert us to the arrival of our Captain, the sole leader of the entire Royal guard and the one we have complete faith in. Our Captain enters the room alone, wearing golden armor similar to our own, but with far more elaborate decorations. A silver lining runs along every outline of the armor as a signal of rank, blending together his white coat with the armor far more than my own does.
He walks over and takes His place in the center of our room and eyes us with a stern gaze. He does this every time, saying it makes us more comfortable under pressure. The truth is he’s lying. If we needed that kind of training we wouldn’t be standing in this very room, hearing Him talk to us and giving us orders. Most of the days the orders are simply placements, but with today being special there will be more detailed description for those involved in the Celebration.
Snapping out of my thoughts, I realize I’ve not actually paid the slightest attention to our Captain and his briefing. Each Summer Sun Celebration is the same, the same actions, the same grounds to cover and the same places to watch out for. The biggest difference being each of the cities they’ve decided to use.
I almost pull my head up at this. My eyes and ears move quickly to focus back on the Captain, as not to miss the rest. In the near decade I’ve been working in the guard there have yet to be a Celebration held in Canterlot. Trying my hardest not to show my specific interest I slowly turn back to the Captain to hear the rest of today’s debriefing.
“The Princess will walk towards the central stage from out of sight. All of you on guard will keep your eyes open, this is the most important day of the year and I don’t want any of you messing up in any way. No civilians are allowed on stage during the Celebration and I expect you to keep it that way.”
Looking at the Captain taking a few deep breaths in and out, as if waiting for something out of the ordinary to happen. I watch His eyes slowly scan around the room as if evaluating us all on the spot, silently selecting the unlucky few to be the four to personally guard Her during the stage performance. Seeing our Captain completing his lap around the room, but with eyes and with body I try to keep my calm. Knowing that in the next few moments, things could go horribly wrong. Hearing rather than seeing the Captain inhale for the next part every muscle in my body tenses, something I thought trained away since last time.
“I want four of you guarding Princess Celestia both during her performance and the time that follows if there are any possible threats to her. I know every single pony in here would find it a great honor to be her personal guard for a day, your four are on that duty today,” He finishes as he points directly in my path, but on the four ponies ahead of me. All unicorns they slowly nod and move out of the way, the only response ever expected back.
“Furthermore, the eight of you behind will stand guard at the base and keep the civilians away. Everypony else either resumes the normal working schedule or the special tasks given to you earlier this week. All right soldiers, get on it. You have seven hours to get ready, and I expect you to be done in five!” He stops at the high point and every single sound in the room ends. If you had a pin to drop, it would be the loudest noise in the room right now. Personally I am tense, muscles still and unmoving. What I didn’t want to happen did happen, and now I’m stuck at the Celebration for who knows how long.
Slowly we exit the far too crowded room and start making our way towards our destinations. The only positive that comes from this is no walls. Today I have to stare at crowds that stare back, something far more preferable than walls. It doesn’t change the fact I have to do it in the presence of Her, but if I try hard enough it can be possible for me to avoid seeing Her for the entirety of the Celebration.
Preparations for standing guard at the stage are far easier than protecting the Princess. Mostly it involves getting to the stage in time, then waiting for ponies to show up and hold them away. So all the eight of us have to do is get from the barracks down to the stage, at the entrance of the Canterlot Castle.
Exiting out through the front gates of the Royal guard wing of the castle, we slowly march our way towards our destination. All around are ponies milling about, decorating towers in bright colours, putting together the musicals and all around showing an amazing moon for this day. Who can blame them? It’s their most important day, when they see their Ruler do Her duty as a show rather secluded in Her room.
Regardless of the early hours, with several hours left to dawn there are more ponies out than on a regular day. All hopeful to get a good spot so they can watch the show without a sea of heads blocking their view.
As we approach the stage I can see from all the way over here the hopeful ponies gathered at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the grand stage, taken out only on special occasions such as this. The stage is a light shade of grey and unassuming in all its aspects apart from the topmost decoration. In the middle of the stage at the very top is a statue. A golden statue of Her with Her wings spread wide and stretched up towards the sky. The very pose She holds when raising the sun during the Celebration, forever incased on the stage in the background of Her live performance of the same act.
Pushing the few away that got too close to the stage we take our places around the stage covering all the sides of this circle of forbidden ground. I know the crowd will behave, they always do whenever I have heard about a Celebration. Regardless, we are to stand here and look imposing, deterring any and all from even thinking of getting up on the stage with Her.
As the hours go by more and more ponies come to join us, but looking up the stage instead of out over the crowds. Before long the scattered few ponies coming here early are surrounded by more and more ponies. As it stands now there are several hundred gathered out here with mere minutes left to the beginning of the ceremony, and it couldn’t be over soon enough. The noises are ear shattering for us, not involved in creating the noise. For them I don’t think they notice as they’re a part of creating it.
The ceremony is signaled to begin by fourteen pegasi blowing in their horns, silencing the crowd altogether. Slowly the background musicians begin to do their part, music slowly getting heard over the air as it picks up its pace. I look over the crowds as their entire bodies and heads turns towards the stage, eyes lit up in anticipation for the coming event. On the horizon, a hint of the light that is Her sun begins to show but it still far from here. She will give it that last push over the edge and let its light shine down upon us all.
Over the sound of the music, over the faint sound of some ponies talking I hear Her silent first steps up on the stage and I tense up. Steps that should be impossible to hear echo through my mind clearer than anything I’ve heard, tempting me to turn my head around and put my eyes on Her. But I can’t and I certainly don’t want to either. Under no condition should I falter in my pose unless required to stop an incoming threat, except if it’s a personal threat like She is. I can’t see Her from my place and yet I know exactly what She is doing. She takes carefully planned steps, slowly making Her way towards to center of the stage in complete silence. Even the music stopped playing in respect. The only sound now coming from the stage is Her hooves gently placing themselves on the podium.
Then it stops. Absolute silence, like the entire world is holding its breath for Her, waiting. I feel more than see that knowing half-smile She wears sweeping across the crowd, appreciating every single pony gathered here of free will, to watch Her preform Her duty to the world. After what feels like an eternity I hear the flutter of wings, signaling to me the beginning of the extremely short ceremony of one.
Ever so slowly the light under the horizon shifts, rising up over the edge and bathing us in the eternal light and warmth it provides. All over the crowd I see smiling faces, looking up at the sun in wonder and amazement. Even the guards are allowed to smile at this ceremony and they do, all but one. I can’t possibly smile at a show like this, even if I should. This display of power and supremacy, meant as an act of inspiration according to Her.
Still standing the crowd begins to scatter, as the introducing ceremony is over. Today will be a day of festivities for every pony attending, a much needed rest from their daily lives. It will be a day of rest for me too, as the guards at the stage have no duties for the rest of the day. Sneaking a peek over to the other guards positioned here with me, I see in their expressions they know it too. In a few hours they will be out of their armor, enjoying themselves in a fitting manner only to be back at normal duty tomorrow.
She have since long departed, barely noted by me as I’ve stood here trying to avoid seeing Her at all. It seems I have once again succeeded and I can be calm. She won’t be around this part of the castle anymore today so I am safe. Waiting for the last few ponies to make their way away from the stage, I allow myself a moment to look around. Most of the area around the palace is now deserted, the festivities have been moved down to Canterlot proper instead of this far up the mountain where the castle lay.
As the last pony departs, I start to make my own way out of here. On days like this there is only one place I want to be, far away from Her and the guard. Making my way through the castle courtyard, dodging the still working ponies hurrying to complete their duties to join the festival down in the city before it grows late, I come to the final goal of my journey of today. In a secluded corner of the courtyard is an unassuming wooden door, hidden from sight by white walls and climbing flowers. To my knowledge I am the only to know of this gate and I wish to keep it that way.
Suspiciously looking around one last time, making sure there is nopony to see me enter I quickly unlock the door and slips in through a crack. The insides is little more than a shed, barely enough for a few full grown ponies to fit in, but more than enough for me alone. I found this shed in a mess, filled with dirt and discarded tools that could never be used again. After several years’ worth of days like this I finally got it in a fitting condition. The noises from the outside is barely audible in here, making it a soundproof heaven in a place where solitude is hard to find.
Placing myself down on the grey dirt stained blanked I’ve placed here, I curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep.
Cheers filled the air as the six ponies walked out on the stage. Six ponies trice saviors of Equestria, without training. At the front of the merry band of heroes come Twilight Sparkle, personal student of Her and most likely the strongest unicorn alive, according to some. I see this from my corner of the room, in a less than ideal position. While I can see Them walk out on the stage, decorated with carpets, ornamental sculptures of their cutie marks I fear I will catch a glimpse of Her. It’s the final celebration of heroes, held in the throne room only used during day and night court otherwise. But today it’s filled with colourful ponies of all kinds, producing a deafening roar as they watch the six walk out on the stage, hooves stomping the ground in a thundering applause.
Known for her magical prowess and abilities, the personal student of our ruler Herself. An occurrence not observed for hundreds of years. Picked by Her at an extraordinary young age to be trained, taught and mentored through everything magic related. From the little I’ve heard, She did a good job. Twilight Sparkle is a legend in her own time, with the only pony now knowing anything is herself. As I watch her walk out on the stage she shows no clue of understanding, so my assumption that she doesn’t know holds true still.
Her steps are uneasy, eyes constantly darting across the room trying to find a safe place to fix her gaze on to keep her calm, or so it seems. Eyes suddenly stopping and I risk a glance across the room, where Captain stands at the opposite end of the room at the doors leading in and giving her an encouraging smile. From my point of view this seemingly calms her down and she resumes leading her little circle of friends towards the podium where the ceremony will take place.
The five mares following her are the most unassuming five I’ve ever seen, a good definition of the word. If I didn’t know why they were there, they wouldn’t have been let in through the doors. Not knowing more names, I can simply watch out of the corner of my eye how they make their way to stand alongside Twilight Sparkle, lining up in a near perfect line. Two earth ponies, two pegasi and two unicorns evenly spread. Yellow, cyan, orange, lavender, white and pink they have taken their places and looking out over the crowd with varying grades of anxiety showing with their body language.
Knowing the next moment is the first moment of the ceremony, now that the guests of honor have taken their places center stage the fourteen guards on stage, including me, takes a step forward to signal the entry of Her. I take my step forwards and freezes, as we were told during debrief and training sessions for this day. The crowd goes silent and I see all their eyes slowly making their way to a point behind my back where I expect the Princesses to emerge from.
The sound of eight pair of hooves reaches my ears and I know they’re here. The Princess of the Sun, appointed to Day court, Princess Celestia followed by the Princess of the Night, appointed to Night court, Princess Luna both make their way to the center stage. Thanks to my new position slightly more forward Princess Luna covers what little I still can see of Her. Luna looks as proud and contempt as ever, wearing one of her special smiles only she can do.
I don’t have to see to know what happens next, with the entire routine memorized for weeks before this event. Sure enough, I hear the clopping of hooves on the smooth polished floor as She makes Her way up the podium to join Her ponies and heroes at the most central point of the stage, where She will be as visible as possible.
At the far end of the room, the Captain pulls up his head the horn glowing in a soft purple hue, the same hue encasing the doors and gently closing them without the slightest of sounds. Releasing the hold of the door the Captain nods back at the stage, signaling the start of the ceremony.
“We have once again gathered here in order to celebrate these brave six ponies for their outstanding courage and will to go further than anypony ever could ask of them. I present to you Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Pinkie Pie.” As Her speech continued each of the mares took another step forward at the mention of their names. As they stood now it seemed as they had moved from the little slimmer that I saw them through and now stand properly on the scene next to Her as She kept going.
“For their unrivaled performance in rescuing my sister, Princess Luna…” I stopped listening now, She would keep going for far longer describing every event in detail but I don’t need to know. I was there. I stood guard on the day of her return. Not in Ponyville where it happened but in the castle. The castle was in chaos on that night-day, civilians and guards alike running around searching, hoping and sometimes begging for Her return. Never once did we get close to solving the problem, with all our training and knowledge.
Yet those six, the untrained few from Ponyville alone saved Her and cleansed Her sister of the spirit possessing her. I commend them for what they did, they’re an example to us all. Looking out over the crowd, still attempting a fixed stare at the other end of the hall gives me an idea of the reception of the speech. Ponies are smiling, eyes lighting up with a frightening light much like those on the Summer Sun Celebration but directed at something completely different.
“…much to thank them for. Me and my sister would never have been reunited if it weren’t for the six ponies in front of you now.” At this several members of the masses let out a longing sigh at the sweetness of the speech. A speech I barely pay any attention to at all, but the less I hear from Her the better.
“Discord is a vile soul, unfit for roaming around. Several thousand years ago my sister and I defeated the Chaos and imprisoning him in stone. Now as must of you know during the last year he broke out of this prison, but thanks to the same six mares he was once again sealed in stone and Equestria was saved.” I almost let out a sigh at this, but stopped in time to hold it in. Not for their efforts, but for our cause. We are the protectors of the throne, meant to guard the Princess with our lives and save Her from dangers. Yet She is the immortal ruler, She raise the sun every morning and She have lived far longer and seem far more than any of us.
The mere thought that we should protect Her is insane, a futile attempt to make a difference. What can we as a fighting force ever hope to do against an immortal god of chaos that even She cannot handle on Her own. We were pawns in his game, unwillingly moved to suit his purposes. We are guards of Her, but anything She can’t handle thinks we’re not even worth bothering with. During Discords reign exactly zero things we did ever helped towards ultimately resolving the issue at large. It was once left to those six to succeed all on their own. I will never understand how they did it, but I commend them for their efforts. It makes me feel even more useless though, but no fault of theirs.
“And when it most mattered, they never hesitated to enter the battle of Canterlot during the changeling invasion. Together they defeated hundreds of changelings and had an important part in reuniting Princess Cadence with her beloved. Together the two of them expelled the changelings out of Canterlot, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the aid of the friends before you now.” With Captain still in my view I watch him tense up at the heads turning to look at him where he was after the revelation of his part in the invasion. He gives a small smile then nods his head towards the stage, where She is nearing the end of Her speech making most heads turn back around.
Our Captain did his part in the changeling invasion, I know that. My part was a nightmare. Everywhere around me ponies were screaming, fleeing and causing panic. The changelings were clever and hid during this, sneaking up on us from behind and methodically knocked most of out cold.
Coming back from that wasn’t something I ever want to happen to anypony. The first chance in nearly a century where we have a chance to help and we’re beaten because they were more than us. I never heard a single condemning word about the entire incident, yet it still doesn’t feel right with me.
My thoughts are interrupted by an overwhelming cheer signaling the end of the speech and most of the celebration, though a few things remain. I assume that the Princesses are leaving, though I have no way of knowing through the screams, the cheering and the cries of joy. Princess Luna isn’t where I last saw her though so I base my conclusion on that. Unlocking my eyes from their dead on stare I look out over the crowd. Somewhere out there, mingling, are six ordinary ponies born and raised as any foal would. What makes them different are that six normal ponies did the impossible, thrice. Three times at three different occasions in three different locations had they the power to stop gods, cleanse thousand year old foes and combat hundreds of foes at once.
Dear beloved family and friends.
My mood over the last few weeks has been severely worse, not that anyone noticed. I spent more and more of my free time in my corner of the world, shutting out everything else. I dedicated my life to the guard and for ten years nothing happened. Then over the course of a single year, three separate events requiring our training occurred. Neither of which we were any help in at all.
During the rise of Nightmare moon little over a year ago, we were clueless and lost. When Discord came nothing we did could ever hope to hinder his rampage. Then the changelings, defeating most of us before even getting in to the fight to begin with. And for all those times the six untrained friends from a small town in the shadow of Canterlot defeat them all on their own, without any help from our side.
Ten years of guarding these empty halls, protecting Her from nothing for a single year of perils to combat, none of which we could ever defeat. What is our purpose then, if we cannot be of use in the most pressing times of need in something we are trained for? Are we meant to stand here as potent guards and look imposing as our single objective, or is that just a side effect of having a guard in the first place?
Those six have their place in history far before their time is up, from a single year of sporadic fighting where they just happened to be at the time. When they pass their names will be remembered for generations to come and the stories of their deeds will become stuff of legends, slowly losing the truth they had to make way for more impressive stories. The day I pass my name will be noted down in a file and put in a locker that no one will see.
As I’m writing this I lay here in the shed of solitude I made for myself, hiding from the world. I haven’t eaten in six days and I can feel it taking its toll on me. Beside me on this floor of dirt is a small bottle I managed to acquire in utmost secrecy from outside these walls. The substance in this bottle is highly flammable and ignites when in contact of air. Right now it’s sealed in an airtight bottle, carefully placed outside of my reach so I won’t break it by mistake and ruin this last letter to you.
I will leave my hideout and post this letter for you. I have to sneak out though, the guard have been declared me missing for four days now and every so often I hear them still searching. I made sure they can’t find me in here. The door is repainted white and covered up with even more overgrowth so if you don’t know it’s there you can’t find it. Still have to be careful when sneaking out tonight though, can’t let them stop me. I have to do this.
When this letter reaches you, you will know what this is. Now this have dragged on for far too long so I will cut this short. I won’t be coming home more, this is the end of my path as I see it. From here on out the duty of protecting these empty halls will have to rest on somepony else’s shoulders. I am done and if I’m lucky enough, the smoke won’t be noticed until it’s too late. I bid you farewell, for this is the last you will hear from me. Everything else I keep close is in here with me and when I open this bottle it all will burn.
Do not mourn me, I don’t deserve it. Keep what memories of me you have and let the rest go.
And it shall burn.
Have you ever felt like you were meant for more? That your life didn’t turn out like you wanted it at all?
The Canterlot Royal Guard, supposedly the most honorable of positions to serve. The Guards with the highest of standards, to uphold throughout your service. The hardest of Guards to get selected from, thousands of disappointed souls declined every year.
I spent weeks, months and even years to get into this position I am in now and I couldn’t loath it any more. A decade of service under an immortal ruler, guarding Her every move, Her every meal, every sleepless night spent guarding Her room while she slept, every Day court spent standing in place guarding Her while She is taking time to talk to Her subjects. Times where nothing would happen, nopony to stop and nothing to act upon. Times… times we stood guard, intimidating every soul to lay their eyes on us, those times they would stop looking at the ground or on Her soft expression as She spoke to them.
Were we ever of any use to Her?
During all those years, all days, the nights, the meals, the strolls through the Statue Garden, not once did I ever do anything. Never a threat to subdue, never a pony out of order, never a criminal to apprehend. Not once did I do what She had appointed me for. All I did during those days, those lonely days of duty, was to stare. Stare at the walls, stare at the crowds, stare at the petitioners, stare at the table, but most of all stare in the general direction away from Her. A decade and I’ve yet to see Her in Her full glory. Pieces, a wisp of Her mane, a glimpse of Her horn, wings or a leg, but not Her. Ponies say I’m lucky, spending my days with Her, living Her life and protecting Her life with mine.
They don’t know what they’re talking about.
A decade of dedication, a decade of conviction, of loyalty, of trust and yet I haven’t saved Her once. Protecting Her from the great nothing, saving Her from the empty rooms, rescuing Her from the bad weather. Not once did I act upon anything, following orders, doing my duty. Twice She sent us away, and I feared for Her safety, but nothing happened.
Nothing ever happens.
There are no criminals, there are no oppression, no cultists out for Her head and no uproars to silence. There are no challengers to the throne, for no pony could ever compete with Her might, the Supreme ruler, the Bringer of Light and the Immortal Watcher. The benevolent Ruler, always watching, watching Her ponies. The constant in a world of changes, a single stone which all of us throws our hooves at the ground for, as no pony could ever dare to compete with Her. The unobtainable ideal, forever unstained by time itself, expected to stand until the end of time.
I believe She will.
Once a year leaving the castle, deciding on a town, city, village or settlement to journey to. The Summer Sun celebration. Introduced to inspire hope in Her ponies, the captain, and history, explained. Believing She wishes for Her ponies to strive for the best they can be, never thinking of things as impossible. A tribute to Herself, as is Nightmare Night a tribute to Her Sister. Her Sister, the mysterious unknown in the equation of the Royal Sisters, never seen, never heard from but existing all the same.
I fear Her.
Not Her Sister, but Her. She created a celebration of light, believing it to spread inspiration and hope, conviction and determination.
It fills me with fear.
Once a year, leaves the caste to travel, placing the celebration in a different place every year. All for a showcase of Her grace and power. A display of Her raising the Sun in public, reminding ponies of Her power, Her strength, Her unobtainable standing. She shows the world why She rules and the world shies away, forever suppressing its dismay and disagreements with Her.
Nine times I’ve seen Her display, seen Her silhouette against the Sun and sky. Nine times I’ve been under Her spell, the intimidation, the brute force, the grace, and Her unwavering gaze. Nine times to soak in as much fear as possible, bottling it up inside never to show anyone. Keeping up appearances of contempt and resolution, showcasing no fear of Her, Her power or Her influence. Guarding Her with our lives, regardless of fear, for the purpose of calming Her little ponies. Her ponies, not theirs, not ours but Hers. She alone watches over Her ponies, Her family of thousands.
I can’t remember when I last saw my biological family, but it doesn’t matter. They aren’t my family now. My family, the Guard, expect me to be on duty, or ready for action at all times. On shift? Ready for action. Sleeping? Ready for action. In the infirmary after failing a sparring session? Ready for action. You are always ready for action, there is no option, or the Captain will have a chat with you.
The Captain of the Royal Guard. The highest position to strive for, a position once held by my father until his passing. A position that will never be mine. Served under my father, the Captain, for a while. A relentless soul, never contempt with anything, always wanting more from me, from everyone. Except Her. She was perfect in his eyes, the flawless piece in this broken bowl of shattered dreams. A soul to truly fear.
He never scared me.
I could not fear my father, for all his fear, all his pushing, he still died. She lives, She presses on and She will outlive me, my family, my blood and my country.
Our new Captain, not feared, but admired. A true swimmer in a sea of fear filled with drowning ponies. Respected, admired, trusted, loved but never feared. A true Captain. A superior shield caster, the second most powerful unicorn alive, fourth most powerful pony alive. Shield spells shielding all of Canterlot, all of the Caste, and Me. Shielding me of the fear, the nightmares, the pain. Giving me moments alone, moments to think. I stopped being around his shields. I need my fear. My fear keeps me going, shows me what I am protecting, tells me why I stay, proves to me why I can’t leave.
The most powerful unicorn alive, and fourth most powerful pony in history. Personal student of Her, the Protégé. Tutored by Her, shown secrets behind our backs, as we stared. Stared, but listened. Hearing Their every word, Their conversations, Their lessons and Their secrets. Secrets never to be revealed, because I, we, the Guard, don’t know them. We hear, we listen, but we don’t remember. Failures had, from Her, and the Protégé, never to be told. Forgotten, like secrets.
Three times did it happen, Her life in danger. Three times I, we, the Guard failed. Her Student, proving Her power, Her superiority, Her grace and Her determination. Untrained in the art of combat, trained in mind, soul and skill, superior in battle. Defeated Her corrupted Sister, turned Her greatest enemy to stone, saw through the Deceivers disguise. An unmatched force, a living legend in her own time.
One lonely pony, sent on a mission by Her, proved superior to our force. The Guard, beaten by a single mare, with five companions she hadn’t known for a day. Three times She bested us on our own field, with Her tactics, Her knowledge and Her friends.
The Six, the greatest force in Equestria, five completely normal ponies and Her Student. None of them skilled in combat, none of them trained in strategy. None of it mattered. Our training useless, wasted and unrequired. Six mares, doing what hundreds of I couldn’t, because of fear. The fear, my greatest enemy. I cannot function without fear, my fear is my source of will. Facing foes that defeated Her doesn’t give me fear. I don’t fear them, I fear Her and Her alone. Her foes, regardless of their might, are relatable. She wronged them, and they want revenge. Revenge isn’t fear. Revenge is a reason to cross the fear, but I never revenged Her, for She can’t die. Her life isn’t Her body, Her death isn’t marked by Her last breath.
Her death doesn’t exist.
She lives, and She will keep on living forever. Her during breath leaves when Equestria falls, the Sun burns out, the Moon collapses, the seas evaporated and the land in ruins. Defeating Her body isn’t defeating Her soul, Her defeat isn’t final until the end of Day. When the Day end, I will stop fearing Her, Her power and Her gaze. When the Sun blinks out, I will fear. I will fear as I never feared before, and I will fear everything. Everything will fill me with fear, for it outlived Her.
I sold the rights to my life when I joined the guard and gave them to Her and the Captain. I follow orders, I obey commands. I do what they say, believing they have a reason. Following Her of fear, and the Captain for his nonexistent fear of Her. I would follow Her Student if She gave me orders too, because I fear Her. Not like I fear Her, but because the Student have Her fear. I fear the Protégé as I fear Her, because Her Student will always be around now. She will die, but She will live on in our souls. She lives on in history, as the twilight who brought the Sun and the Moon together.
My part in history won’t exist. When I die, I die as the Guard, with the Guard and in the Guard. I will live my life for the Guard, Her, Her Student and Her Sister, and I will lay down my life for the same. I spend my days, protecting Her from nothing, and will end my days protecting Her from nothing. Such is the way of the Guard, such has it been, and such will it be. So when I lie down and die, I will die like Guards did before me and like Guards will do after me.
Just another Guard.