"Hey, you!" I heard a gruff voice while I stood in the lobby of the Blueline Memorial Hospital.
My head swiveled to the left to see a very decorated guard with a shaggy blue mane approaching me. I nodded to him while I went to the front desk.
"Excuse me, I need to see Rarity and Sweetie Belle," I told the receptionist.
"For the Knight of Equestria, of course," the old receptionist smiled in her nurse scrubs, "they're in room 344."
"Are you Sif?" The guard asked while he trailed behind me when I went past the buzzed doors.
"Shining Armor, you are not permitted to visit," the receptionist argued.
"Miss, I will ensure he does not visit, but I must hear out the concerns of ponies."
She visibly frowned for a moment before she resumed her smile, "I suppose I can trust you with that duty after what you did in front of the castle today."
I continued on in with him catching up to my side.
"What is so urgent?" I asked him.
"I am Shining Armor, one of two rulers of the Crystal Empire, former captain of the Canterlot guard, brother of Twilight."
And my heart stopped for a moment, the guilt of leaving that scar across her would continue to pang at me.
"And why speak to me?"
"I thank you for taking the title that was encouraged for me. Princess Celestia said you wished to spar with me."
"Ha, hahaha," I began to laugh as we went up an elevator, my finger meeting the cold, sterilized buttons, "ah, this is a good turn of events. Listen, I'm sorry for the harm I brought to your sister and her friend. I was just trying to live."
"I understand, I'm sure my guard training would have drove me to do the same," he chuckled.
"So, we can spar later back at the castle. I need to visit these two and speak to them briefly. I can't go full out on you, those dragons really roughed me up. I thankfully didn't sustain any broken bones, only severe bruising and some cell rupture."
"Ouch, but you did good. I didn't think we could get someone in our service that could go head to head with a dragon by themself," we hopped off the elevator and using signs, took a left to head to room 344.
"Thanks," I accepted his compliment and footsteps filled the air until I got to the room, "why are you here?"
"To see my sister and her friends , make sure they're okay."
"I'll let you in after my visit."
I knocked on the door and shortly after a feminine voice called to me to enter. I pushed on the lever knob, walking into the room.
"Oh my Celestia, it's you!" A pristine white unicorn with an elegant curled purple mane and severely burnt fur on her right answered, claw marks over her face. In the other bed, fast asleep, was a unicorn foal of the same white, not as clean, and with pink and light purple frazzled mane, a large burn mark on her left side.
I approached her bed and sat in the chair next to it, my swords lightly tapping the floor, "I'm sorry I wasn't down there earlier."
"Oh, it's quite alright. You stopped anypony else from getting hurt," she cracked a smile from her visible pain clenched face.
"I was silly enough to think I was experienced enough to stand against those brutes. But you...you slayed them like the stories of old."
"I still wouldn't call myself a dragonslayer, I don't nearly have those kinds of superhuman abilities."
"But you are a knight. THE Knight of Equestria, darling. You can do so many more other things," she smiled again.
"I suppose that's true. Are you okay? I know your wounds are bad, but are you okay? Up there," I pointed to her head with my left gauntleted hand.
"Yea, I think I am. It just scared me, but to see you, my knight, slaying the dragons down and swearing to protect the ponies of Equestria. That made me happy," she smiled and sighed out quite oddly.
She's been ever so slightly hitting on me.
"Well, I wasn't unchallenged, that hit hurt quite a lot and I got lucky with the damage to my body. Just some big bruises. Maybe after you get cleared from the hospital, we can meet up and talk. I hope your little sister is okay, she must have been brave to stand up and against them like that," I stood up and reached for a paper that had been written on by a doctor, grabbing the quill next to it. I flipped the page over and began to write.
"What are you doing?"
"Are you Rarity or Sweetie Belle?" I asked.
Sweetie Belle, you might be cut out for a guard with bravery like that. MIGHT.
~Sif, Knight of Equestria
"Keeping spirits high," I walked over to Sweetie Belle's bed and placed the paper on the pillow in front of her face.
"Keep in touch, come visit after you get released," I waved and exited the room, Twilight standing in the doorway.
"We were just talking about you," Twilight smiled to me and I felt that pang in my chest.
"I need to go prepare for the sparring match later today. My armor is supposed to be done and reforged for my exact form. I must go see the smiths," I quickly excused myself and left the room and made my way out of the hospital, back to the castle.
Immediately, I went to the back of the castle and into the hot forge, one of the smiths started ushering me to the set that stood on a wooden stand.
My belt unbuckled and slipped it out once more and I donned the gambeson first, finding it to have some metal plates fixed into the cotton for added protection, the smiths began to help me put on the cuirass and attach the two pieces of it well. The three piece shoulder plates followed which lead into two large plates, a set on each of my upper arms. They covered my elbow with one flat plate that came off the sections for my forearm that connected to my plate gauntlets. I received the second as well. I pulled the greaves up and attached them to the cuirass with their help. While I put on the steel boots that went all the way up to my knee and covered them with an outstretched plate like my elbows, the two smiths attached a chailmail piece to my front and standards to my legs. I pulled the straps for the boots tight and found myself a newer man. The armor, while it definitely looked heavy, felt light as can be, it must have been enchanted.
I was handed a helmet while I heard a rolling sound. I put on the helmet and dropped the visor down, seeing through two main eye holes and breathing through the curved arches in the cheeks of the helmet. A mirror was displayed in front of me. I was indeed in steel armor, though not so shiny I would blind someone. The moon inside the sun insignia was displayed across the chestplate of the armor, stars all over it. There were some etchings of my weapons on the arms of the armor. My helmet had a very stoic expression and the inside was dark enough that I could just barely make out my eyes.
"Guys, it's wonderful. It'll be put in action today. You're welcome to watch while I fight Shining Armor."
"We'll be there," I heard one of them say from behind me. I started to move and it appeared that they padded the inside with some material so it wouldn't make nearly as loud a noise as it would without it. I picked my weapons up and found that custom frogs were already placed on the armor for me, made mostly pf metal and some thick cloth, almost leather, material. My gladius laid downward along my right leg while my longsword and rapier were on my left hip. I grabbed my buckler and saw two small slits for it to fit in. I quickly moved the strap of the buckler in and tied it tight when they came out the two exit holes on the other side. Secure, firm. These smiths were impressive.
I began to walk to the training yard, Shining Armor should be there by now.
The yard wasn't being used for practice, instead, guards were all gathered around Shining Armor, talking with him. Celestia, Luna, Twilight, and who I assume to be Cadance were off to the wall of the castle. Celestia and Luna quickly noticed me and smiled.
"Sif, please come," Luna beckoned.
I marched over in my new confidence of steel, stopping in front of the four royalty.
"What is it, Princess Luna?"
"Oh, no need to be so formal," Celestia chuckled.
"We thought you would like to be introduced to Cadance, ruler of the Crystal Empire," Luna gestured to her right and there was the princess in question.
The alicorn had yellow, magenta, and purple large streaks that served as her mane, a small golden crown with an amethyst in the center adorned her beautifully long mane. Her fur was a bright pink, devoid of all dirt and donning gold regal wear. She smiled warmly to me and opened her mouth to speak, my eyes latched onto her gentle magenta irises.
"Hello, I understand you're Sif, the new Knight of Equestria?"
I put my fist to my chest and did a slight bow, "that I am. A pleasure to meet you Princess Cadanza Mi Amore."
"Still so formal," she giggled, "but Cadance is just fine. I'll have need of you soon actually, but Celestia has a more pressing matter, I believe."
"Sif, are you ready?" Shining Armor spoke behind me.
"Always," my feet lead me to the open dead field of the training yard. Shining Armor was in more armor, his battlefield and not ceremonial.
I looked at his spear and drew my gladius, noting the longsword on his side. I rolled my shoulders and pounded my feet, ready now.
"Ready whenever you are."
Shining Armor began to come forward and I met him with the pounds of my feet, closing quickly. My left arm stayed front and forward while my other was a little out, tilting my gladius, but keeping it firm and ready for a thrust.
Though he looked somewhat young, he was grizzled enough to know what I was baiting for and swept his spear out at me in the midst of jumping back. My buckler slammed into the head of the spear and I reached for the handle with my hand, but too slow in my attempt to grab the shaft. I heard some hoof stomps on my left, my eyes flickered and the princesses were all stomping for us...like a different applause.
"I'm already satisfied, all the guards here are hard-wired to stab, but you saw past my bait."
"I was offered your position once."
And that's why i needed to win this, to prove myself. If not to them, to me. I felt something well up in me, a feeling of power, maybe battle rhythm, but it felt different. Unstoppable.
Let. Me. Out.
Those weren't my thoughts, there was another thinking process in my head.
Channel me. Your sword.
I listened and began to concentrate the feeling into my gladius and a bright blue light emanated from my hand.
"Sister, do you see this? Magic?" Luna noticed.
It burned, it was painful, somewhat unbearably so.
I pounded my feet over to my opponent and slashed at his sweeping spear with my gladius. Some of the blue light was let free and a magnificent streak of cyan entered the air from my gladius. Shining Armor's spear was sent flying far into the air and out into the city beyond the walls.
"Aaaaaagh!" I screamed in pain and slashed at the newly drawn sword.
Shining Armor's hoof that bound his sword to him slung back hard, whatever force ran in my veins and head, propelled my arm faster than an F1 engine would. I thrusted the gladius forward as its best function and it connected with his armor.
"Fuuuuuuuuck!" I cried out in pain and a very deep blue, but not navy, shot from my arm and gladius.
A shattering noise pierced the air and my eyes witnessed my opponent flying into the air a little before tumbling on his side.
"W...what was that?" He groaned before he stood.
A ripple went up my arm, again and again. Before the pain stopped.
"Perhaps you two should consider halting your match," Luna suggested.
"Not until I am properly bested," he approached me again, with a somewhat concerning thrust mark in his chest. I destroyed his chestplate, it was lying in pieces around the yard.
"I...I didn't mean to destroy your chestplate. It...it just wanted out."
I sheathed my gladius, finding it cooler than normal. My hand drew out my trusted longsword and I prepared myself with an Italian sword stance. We met, staring each other down. I felt hot in my armor now.
I started with a slash to his right shoulder and transferred into a German tactic to work around his parrying blade and strike his head. He blocked that as well and began his counter attack while my arms and feet retracted into the ox stance.
My hands sprung to life and bounced his blade back with a twist of my blade and cut into his shoulder at the same time. Fingers wrapped around my blade, one hand at a time and I spun. Germanic tactics caught him off guard. My pommel met the side of his head and he fell down to the ground, dazed.
"Wo...wow. Just...is that how they use swords in your world? That's impressive," Shining Armor stood back up, wobbling all over the place, "you have to teach me some time."
I sauntered over in pride, extending my hand and helping him up to his hooves, making sure he was stable for a while. His helm held a large dent in the side.
"Sif, you're simply amazing in your combat prowess," Luna trotted over to us first.
In my days of practicing, I never did a murder-stroke as people knew it. A hilt strike or pommel strike was quite illegal and far too dangerous.
"Shining Armor, I wanted to end that fight quick. I never should have done a pommel strike on you. You should probably go get checked for brain damage. My arm is absolutely on fire," I started to shake my right arm around, trying to numb the needle pain, "thank you, Princess Luna."
"You know, I didn't expect him to get this thrashed, but it was fun seeing the look on his face when you shattered his chestplate or flung his spear so far away," Cadance giggled.
"Are you okay, Shining?" Twilight came up behind him.
"Sif, what exactly happened? I didn't feel any magic presence in you," Celestia came up to me.
I flipped my visor open, letting some cooler air on my sweat drenched face.
We are the spirits of the past. The prior Equestrian Knights. We tire of seeing the land we swore to protect being ravaged. Whenever you get sent to Tartarus, we will guide you. Disaster is closer to this world than you think. Our spirit power is yours. Tell Princess Celestia and Princess Luna hello for us all.
There were the others thoughts, my head felt empty during their speech.
"Princess Luna, Princess Celestia, the past Knights of Equestria say hello," Luna's eyes looked a little hurt while she smiled. Celestia beamed and put her face close to mine.
An immediate red covered my face from her close contact, it faded when she put her horn to my open forehead. My skull felt devoid for just a moment.
"Luna, they're...they're all there. They entered him. That was their own paranormal power, a new kind of magic," Celestia pulled her horn from my head, "amazing."
"Sif, you said it hurt, you certainly sounded like it did. You shouldn't try to force that much magic out just yet," Twilight instructed me.
"I'm not even sure what happened," I mumbled, "I don't think it was magic."
"I didn't feel any magic," Cadance noted, rubbing her hoof on her husband's back.
Our power. Channel it anytime. We are always with you.
My veins in my right arm pulsed again, roaring with their life while I focused the spirits. A person materialized in my thoughts, a burly pony to be exact. A blue phantom shot free from my right hand and stood in the yard.
"Sir...Sir Battle Blood!" Celestia cried out and hugged the phantom who hugged her back.
"Ah, yes, my dear little Celestia. Still the young alicorn I knew," his voice was shaky and deep, "it is through Sir Sif I live here."
"What are you doing with him?" Luna asked while Celestia stayed latched on tight.
"We, Princess Luna, we are all inside him. We have always lived on through the next Knight of Equestria. As long as a Knight lives, so do we. Only now do we have enough collective power and a Knight has enough willpower and conviction to use our power, I am surprised Sir Sif could summon me."
"That's...frightening. But also very interesting," Twilight commented.
"Do you know why his name is Sif? We know his thoughts. It isn't his real name."
"What is his real name?" Luna asked, looking at me with suspicion.
"I believe he wishes to not tell you, so I withhold my tongue."
"T-thank you," my mind felt like a bundle of sea urchins over a fish.
"Then what does his name mean?"
"Song of Ice and Fire. It's a literary piece back in his world," I quickly called him back into me, forcing Sir Battle Blood back to me.
"It's not whether a man will break, it's when. Plucking a rusty helm from a corpse for battle, then it's not far from stealing food to not go hungry. Pillaging, raping towns. And one day that man will look around him and find none of his family or friends he once knew on the front line. He won't know the lord for which he fights. He won't know why he fights. He'll see that he became the very monsters he despised. And that's when that man will break," I recited from memory as best I could, "or something like that."
"I, that's...Sif," Celestia looked to me with pain in her eyes.
"Why did you choose such a remorseful name?" Shining Armor asked, "as true as it was according to the history texts of old."
"To remind myself, I know what I fight for, I know who I fight for, and though none of my family or friends fight my battles with me, I have that and I have new friends. To remind myself I can't break, I will be the unstoppable blade of Equestria, to serve for as long as these legs will walk and these arms will slay. To remind myself what's at stake," my voice was so deep it scared me.
"There is no war we are fighting, though. Nothing is at stake," Luna answered with a smirk.
"I..." I stopped myself and sighed out, the spirits didn't want to let them know of the horrible secret here. They only told me to go to Tartarus when the time is right, "I wish to practice these new powers."
"We'll leave you be, Sif," Celestia began to trot away and Twilight followed her.
"Sif, I look forward to your visit to the Crystal Empire," Cadance smiled warmly.
"Especially me, I might want a round two," Shining Armor made his exit with a chuckle.
"Sif, I recommend practicing in the hedge maze, it's quiet and nopony ever visits it out of fear of getting lost," Luna advised before she left herself, leaving me alone with the guards who still stared in awe of my feats. I promptly left for the hedge maze.
And true to Luna's words, nobody and nopony bothered me there save for the distant rhythmic chirping of birds from the royal gardens. These new powers, gained from he spirits of the past, would definitely come in handy seeing as I had no kind of magic to use in a world that would readily use it to kill me if In staunched against the evils in it, not to mention to overwhelming amount of mythological creatures roaming.
These spiritual blessings seemed based off my own will and desire to use them, like an extension of my own mind. I had gained control over them, but not mastery in using them, that would probably take a few conflicts and actual combat for me to gain a firm grasp of.
There wasn't much more left for me in the day, it was just a simple training and then I left to go eat in the dining hall, surprisingly, the princesses didn't wait for me. Celestia liked going to be early so she could raise the sun on time band be as regal as she could be for the day court. Luna had to sleep early even though she was a night owl, the ponies required her help in their sleep so she could give each of them valuable insight into their own lives and advise them on better paths that will lead them to a stable mind and a peace in their hearts.
So entering the dining room with the entire place being keep alive with a singkle candle left for me, was odd, and the more off-putting factor was seeing Hot Coil gently walk out from the kitchens and bowing, his hat drooping once more.
"Ah, Sir Sif, did you have a good training session in the hedge maze? I heard from the princesses you were very eager to see what you could do with your new powers."
"Well, they're...new. It'll take some time to use them, but from such an eventful moment, I doubt I'll forget I even have them. And thanks for waiting for me, you didn't ahve to. I'm not that useless in cooking."
"But Sir Sif, the kitchen is very new to you, you wouldn't know your way around it like I do. It could take you an hour or two to find all that you need to cook something a simple at stir fry let alone begin cooking," his face began to warm red, "oh! But I didn't mean to say that you were incompetent in the least! After all, you must have far more than just brawn and combat prowess to earn the title of Knight of Equestria. What would you like to dine on this evening, Sir Sif?"
"Well, it was a harsh training session so some protein would do me well. Could you maybe try a honey glaze of some kind of meat? Your choice, Coil. And with that, maybe some broccoli smothered in cheese and some...tomatoes! A salad with plenty of cut tomatoes! Sauced with an oil based dressing, but not milk in it...not ranch. Maybe with some poppy seeds...no. That'll be it!"
"My, that all sounds so delicious, you're making me tempted to make some for myself!"
"Then do it! Join me in eating tonight! It's no fun eating alone," I chirped, thoughts tended to run wild if you ate alone, especially in such a large dining room in the middle of a well defended castle as the moon already stands high in the sky.
And time seemingly went by fast and both of us had matching meals, except for the meat. Hot Coil had decided to go with pork, grilled, and glazed in honey and some other sauces. Even if he had a bite of meat before, he could certainly taste the sauces and somehow he always knew how to flavor meats. He must have done quite a bit of travelling in his cooking career which would mean that being the princesses personal chef was more of a semi-retirement for him.
"Hot Coil, where have your cooking adventures taken you?"
"See, that's what I mean by more than brawn and combat prowess. I take it you noticed how ell I seasoned and treated the meat?" I nodded, "well, I've been many places. I've cooked for the dragons over at their island, I've been to the badlands and Clugetown to cook for the elite their and with the professional chefs as well. I spent a lot of time cooking with the griffins in Griffinstone. For their race, their upscale restaurants were hidden away well to only the elite would know where they are, but they cooked food as divinely as possible to make up for the poor atmosphere. Speaking of you, I've heard whispers throughout the entire castle from the guards and the guests and some rumors about the city even!"
"Rumors? About me?" As interesting as our talk about world restaurants in Equestria would have been, this was a little more pressing. My public image was a big importance to me and to the princesses. Their choices should always be sound and rumors migrating around the city about me could hurt their reputation as much as it could hurt mine.
"Well, you have been the talk about town, but this is the first bad thing I've heard about you."
"Then tell me already, Hot Coil!" I let out before another bite of salad leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olive found its way into my watering mouth.
"Well, word is that the mares are looking at you and it's making a lot of the stallions annoyed. All they can hear is how strong and skilled you are, not to mention your heart. They rant about you being the savior of Equestria and the hero they truly needed so long ago. The guards think they're exaggerating, but having seen you practice and watching your duel against Shining Armor from a distance...I think there's some truth to what they're saying. You might be exactly what Equestria needs for future threats. To imagine if you were here for the changeling invasion. Just be careful, it won't be long until the mares around town begin flirting with you and trying to win your favor. You're earning their eyes despite being human, Sif."
Hot Coil was leveling with me, he was giving me advice and insight. He was a connection to the ponies for me and it made perfect sense.
"Hot Coil, why do you say all this?" I asked, knowing the exact answer I was going to receive.
"Well, because you NEED to know what the ponies think. I've cooked for gathering of political parties in this room before, I may be just a personal chef, but I know how politics work around here and the images of the princesses is a key to ensuring the ponies listen to their consul. And now you're a part of all that, even though you don't attend any political events. Your actions and deeds will carry weight, even your words will. I also thought I should give you a heads up about the mares so you could prepare for it. Stallion Code," he smiled before taking another bite of his food.
"Thanks, Coil, really. You can be the one pony I go to for accurate feedback on what the ponies think of me," a small chuckle escaped my lips, "I thought I'd eventually have to deal with the mares coming after me, but not this soon."
And the night finished with idle chatter of the diplomats that have visited and the kinds of yearly events that were held at the castle like the Grand Galloping Gala.
And we both blew out the candle and headed our separate ways to bed, a glass of water following me to resolve the dry wine I had just moments ago.