“Silent Knight!” came the captain’s voice in my dreams. It was extremely lifelike and I quickly realized that this was real.
I fumbled about, fell out of my bunk, and immediately sprung to attention. “Yes, sir!” I replied from under the blanket that had landed over my head.
Captain Shining Armor was standing in our doorway. I heard him come over before he pulled the blanket off. I didn’t move.
“I’m sorry. You’re normally awake by now. I realize it is your day off,” he said.
“No problem at all, sir,” I replied.
“I need a reliable pegasus right now. Are you up to the task?”
The captain looked me over and nodded. “I knew I could count on you. Get dressed.” He dropped a sealed scroll case on my bed. “Deliver this to the Royal Guard commander in Cloudsdale. Get there as fast as you can. Understood?”
Cloudsdale? I wasn’t thrilled by that prospect, but I wasn’t going to let the captain down. “Yes, sir. Consider it done.”
With a nod, he said, “Good stallion.” Then he turned and left, shutting the door behind him.
“Will you be alright?” Iridescence asked.
I blinked, pulled out of my thoughts. I had forgotten she was there. Looking over at her, I nodded. “I’ll be back in time for my shift tomorrow.”
Getting out of bed, she came over and patted me with a hoof. “You know that isn’t what I meant.”
I did, but it was time to get my armor on and into the sky. Giving her the best smile my face would allow, I replied, “It will be alright. I’ll see you tomorrow. Why don’t you go to the Phial and Filly today since we can’t go on our picnic?”
Iridescence gave me an evil smile. “It isn’t as fun when you’re not there to grimace.” I glared at her just as she plopped my helmet onto my head. “Out, mister! You’re on the clock now.”
Tucking the scroll case into my bag, I headed out of the barracks. It was still very early in the morning; Princess Celestia had not yet raised the sun. Orienting to the west, I leaped into the air and started flying.
It wasn’t a short trip and a wise pony would set a reasonable pace. I flew fast, pushing the limit to see how rusty I was. Evidently, I wasn’t rusty at all. Even with the added weight of my armor and the occasional cloud stop to rest, I made good time.
Cloudsdale looked different than what was in my memory. It was very bright and colorful. The weather factory was in full swing, too, which added even more vibrancy in the form of rainbows, storm clouds, and other weather patterns.
Flying through town, it quickly became obvious that the ponies of Cloudsdale had never seen one of Princess Luna’s House Guards. Many looked out of idle curiosity, but I could also sense fear in others. Perhaps in time, they would forgive and forget.
After a bit of searching, I located the Royal Guard headquarters and landed. More odd looks, which was off-putting. Royal guards should know better. We would sometimes have a friendly rivalry with the “goldies” in Canterlot, but we were all on the same team. These ponies gave me a wide berth as I walked into the building.
The Cloudsdale headquarters was somewhat ancient. It was once the Pegasus Warrior Hall, built right after the old tribal times. Pegasi have always been exceptional warriors and the hall showcased that fact. There were rows of carved statues honoring our greatest heroes from the most recent all the way back to Commander Hurricane. We loved our warriors, regardless of what kind of ponies they were.
I paused at one of the somewhat recently finished statues. It was not as large as many of the others, but we didn’t have great war heroes as often anymore.
I hid my smile. They had done a good job capturing my father’s likeness. He looked as stern and proud as ever. Duty called, however, and it was time to report to the commander’s office.
The Royal Guard loves tradition. Most of the large commands have a special title associated with them. Colonel Shining Armor was the Captain of the Canterlot Guard. Colonel Tsunami was the Cloudsdale Commander. Both titles went back to ancient times.
Commander Tsunami's office had not been hard to find. All a pony needed to do was follow the statues.
“Message from Canterlot Command, sir.” I produced the sealed case from my bag and sat it on his desk.
Commander Tsunami is what ponies call “old school.” He never liked the modern gold armor. Instead, he wore a traditional pegasus set made of the finest Cloudsdale steel. It had been handed down along his family line for as long as anypony could remember. Soldiering was more important to him than guarding. If we ever had a real war, he would be one of the ponies to lead us.
The commander focused his one good eye on me and nodded. “Thank you, son. Dismissed.” I turned to leave, but he added, “Wait. You look familiar. Do I know you?”
I shook my head. “No, sir. I’ve never had the pleasure of serving with you. Canterlot only.”
Commander Tsunami stroked his chin with a hoof and then nodded. “That is a shame. That place is a waste of a real soldier and I know real soldiers when I see them. If you ever get tired of it, I’ll approve a transfer. What is your name?”
“Silent Knight, sir.”
He repeated it and said, “Good soldier. Dismissed.”
Good soldier? If anypony could read a pony it would be him. Was I honestly wasting my potential in Canterlot? Should I be here? No, I was a house guard. I would miss the princess and Iridescence too much. Besides, living in Cloudsdale would have been complicated. I would—
I fell flat on my face when my hooves tripped over something.
“Good soldier, indeed,” came the teasing voice of a mare.
I had been pretty lost in thought but had she deliberately tripped me with her spear? A quick look down confirmed it. What sort of childish, rude pony would—oh.
“Still up to dirty tricks?” I asked before righting myself. Like any good soldier, I straightened up to my full height and set my jaw. Our eyes locked beneath our helmets: she in her gold and me in my purple. We glared in silence.
Finally, she laughed. “Wow, you’ve gotten good!”
I glared just a little longer before smiling. “How’re you, Winterspear?” What were the odds?
“I’m doing well, little brother. I got your letters. A princess and a unicorn! Aren’t you a stud?” she teased. Always teasing.
“You’re one to talk… Sergeant,” I said, mock saluting her. “Or if you prefer… Your Majesty the Dark Queen.” I knelt and she bonked me on the helmet.
“Oh, get up, you. Come on before somepony sees us.”
Winterspear led me back to her room. As a sergeant, she had her own quarters, which was considered a perk. I only saw it as a detriment. Less time with Iridescence. For my sister, though, it was nice. Once the door was closed, my helmet came off and I plopped into a chair.
“I have duty tomorrow,” I said.
“I’m sure you do,” she said. “Surely you can spend some time with me, considering I haven’t seen you in who knows how long?”
Guilt. That was a new one for her. I smiled and nodded. “Of course. You could come visit me, you know. You have days off duty as well.”
She made tea and waved a hoof at me. “You know how it is. A sergeant’s work is never done. Cats, cradles, and all that.”
I did know how it was, but I still would have liked to see her more. She made really great tea.
“You should marry that unicorn,” she blurted out.
I blinked and stared. “What?”
“You clearly have feelings for her. You write about her in every letter. It is obvious to me she likes you and if she is half as attractive as you say, you should do something about it before some other stallion does.”
I continued to stare. We’d never really had a conversation like this and she sounded crazy. “But… she is my partner,” I managed to say.
That yielded me another bonk on the head. “You’re so rigid! That. Mare. Likes. You! When has that happened before? Do something about it.”
Clearing my throat, I skillfully guided the conversation another direction. “What about you? Don’t you have a special stallion in your life? I don’t see you married and you’re older than me.”
“My barn door doesn’t swing that way,” she said. “And age has nothing to do with it.”
I tilted my head, pondering where she had a barn.
“What? You don’t approve?” she asked.
What was she even talking about?
“Silent Knight? Don’t tell me that is a problem for you?”
“What?” I asked.
“Do you have a problem with that?”
“With what?” I was confused. Very confused.
“My barn door?”
“What is wrong with your barn door? If it only swings one way we can fix it,” I replied simply.
She glared at me. “Are you speaking metaphorically about fixing me or do you believe we’re literally talking about a barn door?”
“I can tell by your tone that if I say it was the second one, it may result in another blow to the head.”
Winterspear's hoof slapped to her face. “It is an expression. It means I don’t like stallions.”
My eyes narrowed. “I’m a stallion.”
“Oh, Celestia. Please marry that unicorn before she figures out how slow you are,” she started before setting her tea down and reaching across the table to hold my cheeks with her hooves. She looked me in the eyes and said, “I don’t want to marry a stallion. I want to marry a mare.”
Oh. Barn door. So that is what that meant in secondary school. I rolled my eyes. “Why didn’t you just say that? I don’t care if you want to marry a rock, as long as it loves you.”
Winterspear glared at me and then her eyes softened and she smiled. “You… You’re so sweet. I could always count on you.” She kissed my cheek and then hugged me.
We didn’t do that sort of thing much, but it was nice. I hugged her back.
“How is Dad?” I asked and she went rigid in my hooves. That was a mistake.
“I wouldn’t know. Mom is well, though. We have lunch once a week,” she said coolly.
“You two are still fighting, then?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” was the reply. “Are you going to see them before you go?”
No, I wasn’t. “No… I have to be at my post. I’ve never missed a shift and don’t intend to start now.”
“Good soldier,” she replied, hugging me still. Those words had a lot more meaning.
Dad and I got along, but I wasn’t thrilled about seeing him. Duty was a convenient excuse. We stayed in our embrace for a while. I was starting to see what Iridescence meant. I missed my sister.
“Do you have a special mare, then?” I finally asked.
She parted the hug and was all smiles. “I do, but you wouldn’t approve. Caramel Mint is also a royal guard. Different ranks. She makes me happy, though.”
That was against regulations. A pony could be relieved of duty for that.
“Keep it quiet, then,” is what I said and I meant it. I think that caught her by surprise. No lecture. No mention of regulations.
If it made my sister happy, then it couldn’t be bad. She deserved happiness.
The flight home felt almost too easy, as if the winds were carrying me along. Nothing could darken my positive mood. My duty was done and I’d spent an evening with my sister. Even if she was a little strange with her ideas about my love life, she was still my favorite pony in the world. What did she know about love?
Probably a lot more than me, actually.
Iridescence didn’t like me in that way. We were friends… partners. She was after some other stallion that never noticed how much she was into him. Some pony that was so oblivious that he didn’t see her for what she was. Some pony that was… never around? I’d never seen anypony else around her but… me. Oh, Celestia, I had been an oblivious fool.
Spreading my wings I dove towards Canterlot, flying faster than I ever had in my life. It was almost time for my shift. I had to see her. She would be there, outside Princess Luna’s door, standing guard. I had to tell her what a fool I was.
The landing was rough and I broke into a gallop across the courtyard. The frantic pace continued inside the palace. Down the hall, up the stairs, and into Princess Luna’s wing. I saw Iridescence standing there and considered all of the most romantic words the great poets had ever written about a mare.
I would swoon her. I would dazzle her. I would crash into her in one second. Wait!
I collided with Iridescence, knocking us both to the floor and making all sorts of horrible noises. Armor colliding with other armor sounds like that. I knew we’d drawn attention. She looked up at me shocked, as if I had lost my mind. I had.
I swallowed, thought back hard on those few love poems I had been forced to read in school, and said, “You are relieved…” No, that was wrong. “Relieved to be my special somepony,” I quickly whispered.
Iridescence just stared at me in shock. Half of that was probably because I had tackled her. I knew the other half was my words.
Two guards charged around the corner and she waved them off. “Clumsyhooves fell, but everything is perfectly all right now. We’re fine. Everything is fine, thank you. How’re you?”
The pair gave us strange looks, but took her word and left.
I panted as I remained still and she pushed me off and over. All that flying and galloping had done me in.
Iridescence looked over at me and whispered, “You express affection in a very idiotic way.”
“Yes,” I huffed.
“I’m going to see the medic. You have twelve hours to think about how you’re going to make up for not noticing for this long.”
“Yes,” I groaned as I dragged myself up.
Iridescence followed suit, keeping her professional decorum. She whispered as she went by, “But I’m glad you finally came around. I’ll see you at home.”
Yes. She would see me at home. I smiled briefly before I took my post and stood rigidly at attention.