"Wait, you...you were sucessful in killing the bugbear?" Luna was surprised. My assumption was right.
"Were you trying to send me to my death? I wanted to prove myself and you gave me the chance to do it," I scoffed.
"Sif, you are rather...formidable. I heard reports you fight rather differently," Celestia was taking charge in our verbal battle now.
"I fight with...maybe more fight than your guards,” after all this time of waiting in the vestibule while the guards reported, I still had to boast some, “I’d like to talk to you two in private, please.”
"Very well, I think he's earned at least that," Luna smirked. I may have won her favor, "guards, please leave us."
And like that, the eight guards left the throne room, shutting the giant door behind them, making a fast trot, but not a gallop.
I sighed out, "this decision is entirely yours," I began to walk up to them on their pedestal, the ramp making it far too easy, "I'd like to stay, I know I'd be leaving my home behind forever but I have no problem picking up and starting again. I failed back home, in such a big way that my family would be disgraced. I'd rather stay here and-,"
"Sif, we hardly know you," Celestia interrupted while I was three fourths of the way up, "and we-," the decision was theirs to make, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to really influence it.
"You can get to know me. Like I was saying, I'd rather stay here and serve you both. I'd be pledging myself to you as your own blade to do your work. To protect, to solve issues others can't, to do the harder, the more difficult, the more gruesome tasks. It didn't look like many of the ponies were natural fighters or capable of enduring as much mental strain like me or the problem would have been solved already," I began to bargain. My feet were on the same pedestal with their hooves, their muzzles a feet or two away from my face. I needed to be more personal, to let them read my face and be able to read theirs.
"Sif, what you say-,"
"This proposal actually sounds promising," Luna interrupted with a smirk. I was eye level with them, every hair of their fur stuck out to me and I could see the soft look in each of their eyes, though Luna’s held a spark.
"Could you show us why you would be better than just sending a detachment of guards to solve problems?" Celestia had a kind of worry in her eyes.
"Call the guards back in here," I walked back down the pedestal ramp, a brave move.
"Guards! We have need of you!" Luna called and the eight filed in again, stopping in front of me, "fight him. Now."
Shit. I was not expecting this. The eight quickly formed up into a phalanx and drew their spears out to me. I drew my italian longsword and threw the sheath at them, watching two of them bap it onto the tile. I drew my gladius out and held it in my left hand. My hand found its way to hover over my heart, the gladius sticking out towards my elbow pocket. My right arm moved my longsword out in front of me.
"This is it...no going back. A test, final exam," my mouth ranted my thoughts for me, "a phalanx won't get me, I will always work around you."
The eight broke up and began to surround me. I could do more here, but I would have to be careful.
"Luna, Celestia, am I allowed to inflict wounds?"
"I don't kn-."
"Yes, show us what you're capable of," Luna answered for her sister.
"Alright, let's do this!" My voice echoed in the tall ceiling while I threw my head back. Adrenaline, courage, a motivation, and more spoke for me.
My feet took the ground quickly and my body bolted towards one of them. I battered his spear down with the longsword and before my real attack came in, I was already taken upon. Metal flashed out from my left hand and knocked away a spear, my gladius serving its primary defensive use. My right hand twisted and forced the longsword's pommel against the guards temple. His spear clattered to the ground. I was hearing the hooves of the guards approaching.
"How...how can he move like that?" I heard Celestia.
I slashed at his chest with the longsword before I shoved him off his hooves with my shoulder.
I looked to my left and batted down a spear again with my longsword, shoving my gladius into this one's right front hoof. My blade sunk deep and found a grove of flesh to rest in while my other hand picked up the fallen spear. My hand quickly whirlwinded the short spear and knocked many away behind me, disarming two guards. I threw the weapon and it found its mark in the chest of one of the guards. I reclaimed my gladius from its red sheath, blood all over the white floor now.
"Come on! You guys can't be that bad off. Three of you are already down," I taunted. My left arm reared back and shot forward, nailing the other disarmed guard in one of his back hooves when he went for his lost spear, "four!" I drew my rapier our and switched weapon hands.
The other four were closing in quickly, trying to surround me once more. Spears began to thrust from all angles at me and I marked the first to come as quick as I could. My rapier snuck past and around it, spiraling it until it flung high into the air and the thrusting swird find a place to bury in his chest. I whirred arund him and skashed his righr flank with the longsword. My feet pirouetted and the sword came down on the next guard, snapping his spear in half, my rapier hilt made contact with his muzzle, fracturing his nose at the most, but collapsing him to his stomach.
"He's very impressive isn't he?" Luna remarked.
I sheathed my rapier picked up one of the spears, my wrist flicked at the end of a throw and the second launched projectile sunk into the back of the seventh. The guards I wounded were off to the side, the better-off ones tending to their hurt comrades.
"Last one," I sheathed my longsword and reclaimed my gladius from the floor, taking it loosely into my right hand. It felt bad to have inflicted wounds on these guards, but I was making sure all of them would be easy fixes.
"Maybe this will give insight to the bugbear," Luna again. Celestia must have been terrified.
My feet started the heavy footed march of a Roman. No fear. No mercy. No backing down. The guard thrust the spear and my torso twisted out of the way. My left hand took grip and snapped it with assistance of my left foot. My hand made it next target its neck and I bowled him over with a grip and a push. I held my gladius pointed down to his neck that I still held.
"It's over," I stood up after seeing true fear in the guard's face. I struck terror into him.
"All eight of you, send any maid you see in the halls to come clean this mess up while you make your way to the infirmary," Luna barked.
"Sif, how do you fight so well? So brutally?" Celestia asked. My gladius found its way back into its dark slumber while my feet walked a path to them a second time.
A sanctuary, right in front of me, and they were closing in quickly. My heels dug in before I turned back, seeing the black apparitions catch up behind me, creatures I couldn’t name with all kinds of limbs were hot on my case and had me trapped at the gulch, the wooden rope bridge looking very rickety close by, a destroyed castle my hopes to lose them.
I in haled before I exhaled, “fuck it, I’m not just gonna let myself be killed,” I charged the two shadow creatures down, swinging at the first to see it dodge at inhuman speeds, practically moving itself without movment away from my longsword stroke. I attempted two more times before I took to running again, clambering over the wood bridge, hearing the rope stress and strain, looking abck to see the apparitions still close.
My feet gave out from under me and my left hand caught a board of the bridge while I was in the middle, swinging me to be slammed into the rocky wall and knocking the breath out of me temporarily.
Eyes squinting, I peered down to see the almost bottomless canyon stare back with a massive amount of fog. I slowly looked back up to see the creatures staring back down at me.
My arm was slowly getting tired while I began to think and soon I felt adrenaline, but stronger. A rush of power went through me.
“I write my own epitaph!” My lung screeched and I clambered up the makeshift ladder with speed, bursting past the evil darkness that desired my blood. I whipped back around and brandished my sword, ready to fight with whatever I had left and draw from wherever I willed more energy from.
"If there's one thing those woods of yours taught me, it's kill or be killed. Predator or prey. Survive or perish," I stopped in front of them, “the wood wolves spared me no mistake. If I made a sound near them, they came chasing and wouldn’t stop for days. The winged boars have tusks you’d never imagine being bashed with until one started to fight so it wouldn’t become your next meal. The plants, gods, some of them have a mind of their own and won’t let you leave so easily unless you give them some of you to eat. Those woods are brutal, what you saw was a teddy bear compared to what I had to do out there.”
Celestia was taken back, her mouth hung open at hearing what the woods held for me and what I had to do.
“There are scars under my clothes that will be there until the day I call my home a grave. My mind will never be the same from the first moment of struggle in those hellish woods. I’ve endured more than you could hope to know,” I pulled back my left shirt sleeve to reveal the streaks of scar tissue left from a wood wolf’s bite.
"I like you, Sif. I really like you," Luna had a grin and the most satisfied look in her blue globes, "your skirmishing is almost flawless and ever evolving, changing. Those guards couldn't figure you out and I dare go as far to say you might be capable of defeating me. Well done, we're both impressed."
"Sif, are you sure this is what you want? To stay here?" Celestia asked, her sister’s words brought her back.
"Positive," this was a chance I had been waiting for all my life.
"Are you sure you want to serve us? You'll be kept very busy," Luna warned.
"I'd rather be productive than sit around all day and what else would I do? Where could I work as a lab technician with a degree that no one here will accredit?" I was in my last semester, but that’s close enough.
"We'll send some ponies to get all your stuff from the Everfree Forest," Luna smiled warmly to me.
"And Sif, we should dub you a Knight. Equestria hasn't had a true knight in such a long time," a second smile graced Celestia's lips, "my little ponies will be so happy to see that we have a new Knight of Equestria to solve the big problems that need solving with weapons rather than words. That means we'll make you armor worthy of your stature," Celestia seemed excited.
"You will need to keep up appearances by referring to us formally, but you can refer to us normally alone or with Twilight and her friends," I suppose even royals like to be treated just like normal people.
"You'll have a room assigned to you later today, close to ours. But first, requistion whatever you need from the armory in the training yard and bring it back to us."
"I only require a rectangular buckler, a rather strong buckler," I informed.
"Very well, it shall have to be made to accommodate you. you are dismissed. Go explore Canterlot. It will be a while before you start getting your assignments," Luna sent another smile my way and I turned around, leaving the throne room in a newfound pride.
I exited out the main castle doors once I completed the silent journey out of the castle with odd stares, and I made my way down the steps and across the two bridges. Guards eyed the small green blood spots on my clothing and skin. They'll soon know who I am now.
But what about old me? What about the man know as Robert? My friends and family will worry to no end, but that will cease one day. I should at least find my own way to let them know I am alive, I am elsewhere. But I suppose the knowledge of me is dead, but the way of me is alive in this new life called Sif.
"Hey, you!" That voice was very similar. It belonged to Twilight.
I glanced to my right and the pony was making her way to me while I continued walking and receiving stares from the ponies in the city.
"Who, what are you? Why did you slay the bugbear?" She was at my side now, walking with me.
"I am a human, I am Sif, I was sent to kill it by Luna. I am now your Knight of Equestria," I spared her no further looks, my eyes couldn't move to her without the risk of seeing the scar I left her.
I continued my proud march down the main street of the city, looking at all the shops and food places. There was a lot of variety, but many were bakeries and sweet shops.
"Then, that means you serve me."
"I serve Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, not you."
"But there are three more princesses: me, Princess of Friendship; Cadance, Princess of Love; and Flurry Heart."
"Then if what you say is true, I do serve you."
"All alicorns are princesses, silly," she was teaching me about her world now.
"I apologize for harming you earlier. I was only trying to survive."
"I understand, the Everfree Forest is a rough place to live, just surviving is difficult. The guards are already locating your home and they'll soon be bringing all of your things back to the castle. You'll also have a room in my castle and Cadance's palace in case your are sent out to us."
"I hope I get my first real assignment soon. I hate not being productive," I filled the silent air with a new conversation.
"I hope you serve Equestria well,” the silence happened regardless.
Twilight left, heading in direction to the castle while I continued roaming the city and learning its main roads. The ponies stared to no end and some foals even looked as if they were about to gallop to me if it wasn’t for their parents holding them back.
It didn’t take long for them to finally begin talking about me. Rumors and fear, that’s all it was. I headed out to the edge of the city before I made my way back to the castle, the sun giving a clue that a few hours had passed and it would be dusk by the time I arrived back. My room and buckler had to have been done by then.
Luna met me at the gates, “welcome back, Sir Sif. You will find the items you requested to be in your room, there is a castle servant waiting to guide you there.”
I put my fist to my chest and bowed slightly, more of a warrior’s salute of respect. And Luna had definitely won my respect.
“Here it is, Sir Sif. Is there anything you need?” The sweet cherry blossom pink mare guided me to a separate tower across its own bridge that was exposed to the skies of this world.
“No, I don’t need anything else. Just show me where your laundry rooms are at some point,” I laid my hand on the gold ring of the door handle.
“Sir, there’s no need. We do all the laundry around here. We’re here to serve you after all,” she bowed to me.
I lightly put my hand under her chin and lifted her head back up so she wasn’t bowing any more, “now, I can do my own laundry. Just because I went from foreign threat to Knight of Equestria in a few hours doesn’t mean I’m suddenly beyond manual labor. Come stop up my room sometime after tomorrow. You can show me where it is and I’ll do my own laundry,” I ruffled her mane before I opened my door.
“S-s-sif...Sir Sif!” she quickly worried and corrected herself before bowing.
“There’s no need to be so firm on bowing in front of me,” I smiled to her. I had to play nice and make friends, that was my sanity and the key to happiness. You can tire of money, activities, challenges, fun, but if you have nobody to share those things with, the loneliness will crush all your happiness.
“Thank you, Sir Sif,” my simple gestures went a long way to this servant.
“It’s no big deal. I shouldn’t be such a freeloader anyway. You go on and have a good day or work shift,” I slowly closed the door. The smile across my face only grew every moment I took in her huge beaming grin.
I lived to make smiles like that.
I peered around my room. A simple yellow and red theme adorned the room, the walls white with a thick yellow stripe a few feet above the floor. A giant glass dome adorned the ceiling, secured by curved metal beams, reavelaing the brightening stars and the moon peeking out. Multiple large curving yellow paint arches graced the edges of the glass.
The bed was huge, larger than a California king and the red blanket over must have been custom. I had a door leading to a balcony, empty with a simple solid white painted stone railing, same as the rest of the castle. I must have taken over some sort of old observatory, given this room wasn’t as updated as the throne room, foyer, of the halls on the way to this area of the castle.
A large plush red couch faced a table, another across it staring back at the first couch. A wall looked freshly built, the bathroom. A large white door separated it from the rest of the room and revealed a huge marble counter and the largest bath I ever laid my own eyes on, complete with three shower heads. Towels were already placed on a rack, four varying sizes, hand and body soap placed conveniently for me until my belongings arrived from the forest.
“What a fucking room and what a fucking first day of contact,” my feet carried me to my bed. My belt with my equipment clunked against the nightstand I laid it on. This room was definitely fit for a high noble or visiting ambassador.
I laid onto the bed and immediately attempted to sleep. I always drifted fast, no matter where I was.
I ran, sprinted. My legs couldn’t fail me now.
Barking, but the crushing of wood and squish of flesh accompanied it, they finally tracked my home and I was trying to out run these fast bastards on foot. The trees, I climbed one quick as I could, jumping and reaching branches they couldn’t. Their brown bodies gathered below me, snarling, menacing with their green glows.
“Fucking shit, now I’m stuck for hours and anything in my traps can get away.”
I had run so far away it would take me at least an hour to walk back after being intimidated by these monsters for hours up in a fucking tree. Shit’s creek on high tide. I haven’t eaten in two days and while I was near a stream, I couldn’t find food, anything I could actually hunt and take down as easily as a rabbit. Boars with wings and tusks that belong on mammoths, giant bears the size of houses.
That’s when their hard paws fused to the trees and they started to climb after me. I jumped to the next tree, barely making it and to the next while they began leaping very fast and caught up in moments to the fourth tree I got to.
“Wood wolves!” I shouted and my back sprung to life with my arms. A Celestia stood in front of me.
“Are you alright, Sif?” There was a little concern in her eyes.
“Yea, I’m fine. Just a bad dream,” I put my hand over my heart to help myself calm faster and remove the fight-or-flight instinct.
“It sounded like you were dreaming about your time in the Everfree Forest.”
“Is that what you call those hellish woods?” I got up and headed to the bathroom, cracking the door so I could hear her.
“Yes, should I leave?” She was still very professional.
“Princess Celestia, the decision is yours, but I prefer your company,” I started the shower and the water immediately warmed to a hot temperature. My clothes were tossed onto the counter after they came off.
“What was it like trying to survive in there? Normal ponies would have only lasted a day if they had the utmost luck. That’s why there is a law forbidding ponies from entering alone.”
“It was exactly what I said. Hell, complete fucking hell. I had to constantly sneak around and be very quiet, it’s like you’re walking on glass shards 24/7. Even when I slept I set traps up to deter whatever intruder came or to make a loud sound and awaken me. That’s saved me a few times and even caught myself breakfast,” I stood under the water, letting it thoroughly soak my hair. It had been ages since my last shower.
“How did you find food? What did you eat?” She was assuming I was a herbivore.
“So, humans, me, we’re omnivores. There wasn’t anything in those woods I could consume that didn’t move. I’ve had to use my woodsman knowledge and survival skills, new tact too. Anything I could eat took forever to go down or something else got to it before I did and I didn’t dare try to fight with the predators in there. Those wood wolves constantly were a hassle, stealing my food, tracking me,” I started washing as quick as I could, finishing while Celestia said her piece.
“Timber wolves? They’re enchanted with foul magic, Sif. They aren’t real living entities. The malice of the Everfree commands them,” nice to know magic in this world existed and could definitely be evil.
I exited the shower and turned the water off, drying with a single towel and throwing it into the clothes bin after my hair was thoroughly dried. A brush laid on the counter just for me.
“Well, they wouldn’t give up trying to get me. I was like a challenge hunt for them, maybe some kind of trophy. They were super close to finding out where I lived, that’s why I was determined to travel out of there. I would burn those woods to the ground if there weren’t any consequences,” I dressed and brushed my hair back in the odd almost-mullet I usually wore.
“Many ponies share your opinion, but there are treasures inside the forest that have a natural deterrent from ponies with evil intent. It also contains many useful herbs and attracts visitors, some bit income, and provides a home for Zecora.”
“I never knew there was anyone else out there,” I came out, showered. My socks and shoes were next to go on with my belt of equipment last, my weapons placed at my side.
“So, I take it you didn’t sleep well?” Celestia was oddly concerning for how my first impressions with her went.
“I kinda did, the bed was definitely more comfy than what I was working with. Princess Celestia, I know all you’ve seen of me is myself in brutal combat and an aggressive kind of attitude, but I want you to know that’s not me all the time, not even most or half. I’m softer than that, I’m not mean. I just have a complete different life philosophy than anyone here, I think.”
“You’ll have to go over it during breakfast. Come, we don’t want to be late,” I nodded to her and followed her out of my room, across the bridge, and through a few corridors before we entered a large room, Luna already sitting down and drinking coffee at the table, eating pancakes with a look of disdain. She seemed to brighten when I entered.
“Good morning, Sir Sif. Did you have a good sleep?”
“He had some sort of nightmare when I came to wake him,” Celestia outted me already and directed me to a a third seat among the two at either ends of the table. Mine was right in the middle.
I sat in silence, awaiting some kind of food or instruction to make food.
“We saw timber wolves, hmm? I know somepony in Equestria continued to have recurring dreams of timber wolves but I had never been able to enter them until now, nor see whose dreams they are. Sif has a strong conscious and willpower we’ve never experienced often,” Luna had a very odd speech pattern, like she talked a little ancient, maybe during bohemian eras or before then.
“Oh, Sir Sif! I was told you would be attending. I am Hot Coil, what do you desire for breakfast?” This stallion was big, well built in a muscular way like the guards, but his chef hat covered his brown mane and contrasted against his red fur.
“Do you have eggs and diced fried potatoes per chance?”
“I can whip those up immediately!” He zipped back out and into what smelt like a kitchen.
“Thanks!” I shouted after, laying my head in my hands.
“Does something trouble you, Sif?” Luna addressed me.
“I’m just thinking about my plans, I have plenty to keep me busy even if I have no assignment or duty given.”
“If you’re worried about me thinking you’re a bad person, you have nothing to fear,” I peeked at Celestia who was even eating syrupy pancakes with grace.
A plate stacked of eggs and seasoned potatoes slid in front of me with a fork and I immediately grabbed the utensil.
“I didn’t know how much you eat, so I apologize if this is too much, Sir Sif.”
“No no no no, it’s been AGES since I’ve had a real meal!” My fork dug into potatoes, grabbing a stack before delivering the hot heaven to my mouth, eggs following, “it tastes even better than it looks! Fucking hell, Hot Coil, you gotta teach me some time!” I continued to dig in, earning giggles from the princesses.
“I-I-I, S-Sir Sif, I’m humbled,” he took his hat off and placed it against his chest before bowing his head.
“No no no, you be proud, my dude! This is impressive. My last meal was days ago and this...dear jesus,” I had already emptied half the plate.
“My my, he has quite an appetite then,” Celestia announced with another soft chuckle.
Hot Coil was mesmerized by how I was devouring his food and watched until all of it was gone, even the tiniest of scraps. I knew I wasn’t acting extremely uptight in the presence of the princesses, but there wasn’t anyone around except for those three and it couldn’t do any harm.
I leaned back and lightly laid my hand on my stomach, belching into my hand, “that...ahhhhhh, I can’t go back to eating anything else that’s not your cooking.”
“Th-thank you, Sir Sif,” he took the plate and trotted off back into the kitchen. The princesses were still working on their breakfast.
“Sif, the smiths in the forge at the back of the castle need to gather your measurements. Your buckler is also done and awaits you there,” Luna had finished her pancakes and stood, leaving the table. She still looked tired after her coffee.
Usually, I started the day with coffee, but the glass of water in front of me went down my throat fast and I stood up.
“Your belongings should all arrive today, I received word that they were able to locate your old home yesterday. My night guards reported numerous packs of timber wolves interfered with them, an ursa major cave to be near, and two pegaboars with a cragadile in the pond downstream from your home. You are still impressing quite well,” Luna spoke while she left.
“I...Sif, it’s a miracle you survived even for the weeks you told me you did,” Celestia empathized.
I stood, bowed, and headed for the exit to go to the forge, “what doesn’t kill you, only makes you tougher, Princess Celestia.”
That reminded me I should train to stay at my best.
The guards and servants of the castle still gave me many odd looks or stared intensely at me, a lot of them haven’t seen me yet.
The training yard on the way to the forge was quieter than I imagined, even with the wood and steel clashing, they didn’t produce much noise and they didn’t pay me any attention. The guards kept sparring each other, training, exercising, and completing drills. The forge was hot and clearly smelt of fire and metal. An old looking stallion, large and muscular, approached me and pushed against my back with his head.
“Welcome, Sir Sif. We’re all excited to get to work on your armor so come quickly so we can get your measurements and finish our plans,” his voice was gruff.
“Are you the master blacksmith?” I walked faster and he stopped pushing, guiding me into the forge and into a separate room.
“Aye, that I am. I’ve hammered many a pauldron and forged countless blades.”
Other smiths, covered in grey stains all over their different colored furs surrounded me. Tape measures were plastered and hovered over my body for just a few seconds.
“Sir Sif, that’s all we need. Your buckler is by the door. Have a good day, we’ll be working all day every day on your armor,” the smiths all filed out as quick as they were there.
They didn’t play around, it’s like working the coals of the forge is what they lived for, they were so eager to return. I went back to the entry door of the storage room for metals, warehouse actually. My new buckler was sitting there, the perfect size of my forearm in a rectangular way. The metal stretched up past my elbow a little as added defense. It shined brilliantly and proudly displayed a moon and stars within a sun on the face of it, the insignia of the two princesses.
I left the room and the sound of bellows was far louder than before, the smell of metal more permeating. They weren’t lying when they said they would be working hard on my armor and non-stop. I could feel the great heat rush over the stone enclosed forge that had many windows and vents for all the smoke, fans pulling it free of the open room. I left and headed back around to the side of the castle to the training yard and I entered the area where I saw guards claiming the wooden practice weapons from, they had all conceivable weapons in here, steel and wood, spears to flails.
I gripped a longsword and left, entering outside and staring at all the guards who still trained on with no attention to me. I wandered off to an unoccupied area of the dead grass and started with remembering positions on my longsword, half-sword positions. It was calming, a ferocious art of battle could make my muscles relax whenever I practiced the basics of it. My days in HEMA were over, but my time with the longsword was far from it. I moved on to stances before I began simple slashes and stance transition for countering specific strikes that my opponent would send back.
“Sir Sif, what brings you to the training yard?” I kept at my work while the leader of the current training regime spoke to me.
“Just some practice. You have to keep knowledge of your swordmanship fresh or you get rusty.”
“I’m Captain Gilded Banner. I’m in charge of the current team training, Celestia’s personal guard. I’ve never seen any of the techniques you are using with your longsword.”
“In my world, I mostly studied Germanic, Italian, and a lot of tactics used during the end of the Holy Roman Empire era. It’s when the knights of that time knew almost everything about the blade.”
“Would you like to spar with any of the boys?” That was an offer I couldn’t deny.
“Full contact?” I asked.
“That’s the only way we do it in our platoon.”
I smirked before I chuckled, “point one at me and I’ll show you what I’m made of. After all, that’s what you want to see from the Knight of Equestria, isn’t it?”
“Oh ho! So he is as witty as I’ve heard with a mouth to boot. Marching Blade! Get your longsword, you have a challenger!” Gilded Banner shouted out, “he’s the equivalent of four good stallions.”
Boasting always got me excited to take someone down, it didn’t matter if it was combat or a party game.
“Form the dueling pit!” His team of guards heeded his commands and formed a circle, Marching Blade already awaited me with a longsword inside the circle. I entered, stretching on the way.
I took many deep breaths and my nose snorting turned to ragged gasps and grunts, I was feeling it as they say, a battle rhythm I could conjure up on a whim.
“I take it you’re the best?” I asked, taking an Italian stance and gripping my pommel loosely.
“Gilded Banner is the best fighter of all of us, but I can give him a run for his bits,” the unicorn also took the same stance I was in.
No friggin’ clue how ponies held things in their hooves.
“Begin!” Gilded Banner shouted and I immediately started with a simple slash aiming for his head. He quickly blocked it.
“Ha! You couldn’t possibly be worthy of the title Knight of Equestria!” He sounded a bit like an asshole, and I liked taking assholes down to the ground.
I sent another but feinted into an ox stance, watching his own parry come down as a normal slash. I twisted my blade as I sent it up and pushed his aside. I forced my hand onto the blade of my wood weapon and sharply contacted into his neck, “come on, Marching Blade. Fight like you give a fuck!” I taunted. Combat could always bring out more vulgarities from me, it is where I let myself free and loose in my mind.
I transferred into a half-sword thrust, stabbing twice before I reared back and let him barely block a forceful swing, watching him back up and reorient himself.
“I didn’t expect him to have that big of a mouth on him,” Captain Banner remarked while the guards began to whoop and holler at us, happy to have entertainment.
“In battle, a man should free himself of all his constraints and live in that moment and only that moment,” Marching Blade lit his horn up, shooting a magic bolt out at me.
“I’m not the best in duels against skilled opponents, but against many, I’m the best here,” he boasted again while I stepped out of the way and slowly advanced on him.
“I still don’t see you fighting like you care,” he sent a strike from below at me and I rushed to the left and to him, out of the way.
I shoved with my blade, watching him stumble and his sword go down, my body continued its rush and a pommel bashed his nose hard, blood slowly leaking from his nose, I hit again and again before he fell off his hooves from my rush. Usually a duel ended when one party was hit, but these ponies seemed like they were going until someone was compromised.
I fell onto him,my blade pressing against his neck lightly, this would be that position.
“Well done, Sir Sif! You’ve won!” I stood and pulled my once foe to his hooves.
“No hard feelings, right?”
“Hah! Never! You’ve taught me how to use a sword without relying on the blade,” he put his hoof to his nose.
“Marching Blade, go on down to the infirmary and get that looked at,” his captain excused him.
“Unless you have someone who can challenge me like that, let me continue practicing my movements. I like to spar, but you and the rest of the guard force need to start practicing more seriously, after all, you defend the people, the crown, Equestria. That alone should be enough to make you wake up every morning with the one objective of getting better and never failing the Princesses,” I walked out of the circle enclosure with all the guards in silence, their banter gone. I know some of them would hate me for what I said, but if Marching Blade was one of their best and couldn’t even manage to hit me when I wasn’t trying my best, then they needed to hear it.
They left me alone for the remaining time that I was there. The sun had begun to droop low and dusk would soon be upon Equestria, it was time for dinner. I marched my way back to the dining room, face covered in sweat and hair matted down. I sat at the chair in the middle of the table, still sore and achy from all the practice time I had today.
“Ah, Sir Sif! A pleasure to see you again!” Hot Coil greeted me with a bow and a warm smile, “what does your stomach desire?”
“I loved to end training days with such a specific thing, but I’m afraid you don’t serve omnivores. I’ll go simple, mashed potatoes, corn, and sandwich of your choice,” I leaned back.
“My friend, if you desire meat, there’s no need to beat around the bush. We’re stocked with some meat from Everfree creatures to serve some of our exotic guests. What does your tongue desire?”
“Have the Princesses already dined?”
“Princess Celestia has, but Princess Luna always comes at dusk, just before she begins her duties. Princess Celestia, praise be to her, always has such a long day and remains eager to end them. Princess Luna enjoys a hearty meal to begin her night duties.”
“Pegaboar then, just any part you feel like cooking. And no worries, I will never have an interest in eating your kind, you were treated like friends back in my world,” I stopped slouching and sat properly in the comfy chair, I was excited for the booming flavour of meat, no better way to end the day.
“Right away, Sir Sif!” He disappeared and I was left in silence.
The light coming through the elegantly stained windows on either side of the dining hall slowly waned. The right was dark, filled with lights from the city. The darkness of the night hid Celestia’s mural of the stained glass and pronounced Luna’s form on it. The left window was quickly dimming, but still held bright light. Princess Luna soon trotted in while my food was slid in front of me and Luna’s at her seat. I could smell the meat.
“Hot Coil, may I get some napkins or cloths?”
“Right away,” he zipped away and zipped back, placing them next to me, “enjoy, Sir Sif!”
“Good evening, Sif,” Luna smiled to me even while I stared at the haunch of a pegaboar.
“Evening, Princess Luna,” I immediately grabbed it directly with my hand, not caring to use the fork and knife brought before me. I dug my teeth into it, the perfect temperature, tougher outside, soft inside, it tasted a little like cattle, but mostly like pork, but the juices were definitely not swine. I felt the savory blend of liquids hit my tongue and my teeth rip the meat apart. I chewed and relished every moment before I wiped my face clean with one of the two cloths Hot Coil brought me, he stared at me from across the table at the kitchen archway.
“Oh my god, Hot Coil. It’s been so long since I’ve had properly prepared meat like this. It was quite a while since my last roast in the Everfree and I didn’t have the cooking instruments for the job let alone seasoning. Props, my friend,” I raised my glass of water up as if it were alcohol in his name before drinking some and beginning to really dig into the meat.
“You’re too kind, Sir Sif,” he bowed again before he returned to his duties.
“I’ve never seen anypony really get to eating like you, Sif,” Luna commented.
I wiped my face again, “with all due respect, Princess Luna. I believe during meals, people should be free to eat at how they wish, especially if it is a well deserved one.”
“What makes you think you deserve this meal?” Luna smirked my way. More water ran down my throat.
“Again, with due respect, I was out training all day,” Luna laughed.
“We saw you spar against Marching Blade and heard what you said. I couldn’t agree more. Our sister has been far too easy on her day guards. She babies them. Marching Blade, while a good swordstallion, isn’t nearly as good as he could be or should be. He usually sticks to fluid movements and attacking during his enemy’s attack, which is why you quickly got the upper hand and even bled his nose. Her guards aren’t accustomed to new tactics, pain, harsh treatment, endurance, or a calm mind. If you would like a challenge, I encourage you battle our Nightwings, they are the best of the night guard and duel quite well,” Luna started on her own food, a massive stir fry with a cold macaroni salad on the side.
“Hot Coil!” I called for him and he zipped out of the kitchen, “would you happen to have any wine on hand?”
He quickly fetched two bottles, a red and a white, “the red, please,” he zoomed away and came back with a glass and poured it himself and left the bottle with me.
“Is that all, Sir Sif?”
“Yea, thanks,” I sipped it and found it to be potent, sweet, but mostly bitter, however, not overwhelming. An excellent taste for a wine and exactly what most drinkers look for. I may have just turned legal age back on Earth, but I was still an experienced drinker.
“I didn’t know you consumed alcohol, Sif,” Luna remarked.
“Ah, in my younger days I often got utterly trashed, hammered, plastered. Those were enjoyable, the days where I couldn’t walk well, laughed a lot, and was happy without a care. Now I drink as a way of relaxing, for some health benefits, and a way to lull to sleep if I need to,” I finished off the meat, not leaving any left and started on my potatoes and corn.
Luna began to whisper, “if you’d ever like to drink like that again, do come to me, I keep a large selection in a hidden grove in the garden and in my quarters. I am also guilty of that,” Luna’s speech pattern was always changing, like she was trying to start talk more modern.
“I’ll have to take you up on that, Princess Luna,” I smiled, she was definitely my kind of princess.”
“Sif, when you sleep tonight, please open up your conscious to me and keep your barrier down. I’d like to dreamwalk with you.”
“Is this because of my nightmares?” I was already halfway down my wine glass and almost done with my food, “I don’t believe I’ll be having many more.”
“We see. We’d just like to show you how you can control your own dreams and be where you wish,” Luna remarked.
“Ah, in that case, I’d love to,” I finished my food and the glass of wine. I poured another sipped at it, corking the bottle back. Hot Coil rushed out and took away my dishes, the cloths I used, and the wine bottle.
“And Sif, I’d like you to tell Celestia what you said to the guards today during her court with nobles tomorrow, but don’t be too harsh. We’re glad you’re here to serve and protect Equestria, your first assignment is coming soon,” Princess Luna stood up and left, her large meal finished, she trotted out of the dining hall, using her magic to snuff the candles at her part of the table out. It was blackness outside.
I sipped on my wine, the dining hall quiet and dimly lit from the only three candles in front of me. I leaned forward and blew each out, the hall pitch black now.
This would be a good life, one worth living and one I would make worthy of tale.
I raised my glass, “to a new life, knightly chivalry and honor, and death in service or bloodied combat,” it was a toast to no one except me and my vows here in the darkness, “to looking toward the future,” I stood, letting the cold glass touch my lips and drinking the last third of the glass and chugged my water down afterward, leaving the hall and heading to bed.