Completely refreshed from my extra-long and mandatory vacation, I was more than ready to start work again. Mercifully, the pink coat faded without any kind of antidote. Leave it to Runic to have a potion not work as advertised. Not that I would have complained in this case.
“You seem awfully excited about getting back to work,” Iridescence said from across the table. She had a great poker face and was using it on me then. I wasn’t sure if it was because we were playing a game or for some other reason that I didn’t understand.
I smiled a bit and moved my figure closer to a couple of zomponies and rolled the dice. “Two hits,” I said and then added, “I am. I love my job.”
Iridescence nodded and moved her figure. “It will be nice to have you come relieve me again. It is odd working with another pony.”
That was certainly true. Not seeing Iridescence at work was strange. I had been seeing her more at home as a result but somehow we had less to talk about. We ended up playing a lot of games. “Agreed. Getting things back to normal will be great.”
“Normal indeed,” she said, rolling the dice. “Speaking of which, we’ve been doing a lot of the same things lately. Would you mind if we did something different for our next date?”
Looking up, I nodded. “Of course not. You let me know what you’d like to do and I’m on board.”
Iridescence smiled and winked. “Great! Also, tomorrow you’re taking Princess Luna to the Equestrian Writers Convention.”
“I’m doing what now?” I asked, my attention pulled from the game. “A convention?”
My unicorn companion was grinning widely. “Oh, yes. Princess Luna’s favorite author is going to be at the show and she let the captain know she wanted to go. They both felt like you’re the perfect pony to take her.”
“What exactly does a convention entail?” I asked.
“Oh, you know, nothing too exciting. Just tons of ponies going to panels, booths, and dealer tables. They’ll be chasing autographs from authors. Your mission is to keep the princess safe and, more importantly, be sure she gets to meet C.W. Step,” Iridescence explained. “The rest of us will make sure the venue remains secure.”
I pondered that a bit. Social events were typically Iridescence’s place. If I was there, I always just sat in the background. Me alone with the princess seemed like a strange plan. “Why me?”
Iridescence explained, “Princess Luna feels that, in this type of setting, one guard is more appropriate and that if you aren’t chosen to be that guard, you’ll probably show up in a silly costume to protect her anyway.”
I blinked. “Really?”
She laughed and shook her head. “No! She just feels safe with you and we both agree you could use more social experiences.”
“We agree? We who?”
“Luna and I,” she said plainly.
“Princess Luna and you? You discuss me?”
Iridescence got up and softly patted me with a hoof. “Of course. We’re friends and friends discuss their relationships.”
This was getting confusing. “You and Princess Luna are friends? When do you have time to get together and discuss me?”
“When I’m on shift, of course. You may just stand there all day but when she talks to me I talk back. We’ve really hit it off,” Iridescence explained.
That wasn’t against the regulations but there were dangers in getting too close to the pony that you’re guarding. Of course, you could also get in trouble being your partner’s special somepony, so who was I to throw stones?
“Very well, then. I’ll escort the princess to her rendezvous with this C.W. Step pony.”
Iridescence laughed. “She is just going to go to C.W. Step’s booth and get an autograph! Try to keep it light.”
Keep it light. It was a social event. I sat quietly, looked at our zompony game, and then planned tomorrow out in my head. I would need a map of the layout, a schedule of events, and information about where the guards would be patrolling. Tomorrow was going to be busy.
The Equestrian Writers Convention, or EWC as ponies seemed to call it, was being held in the Canterlot Convention Center. It was, more or less, controlled chaos. There were ponies everywhere navigating narrow thoroughfares, trying to get a few minutes with their favorite authors. Some wore costumes and others seemed to have forgotten to bathe. It was a lot to keep track of as I trailed behind Princess Luna.
The princess seemed to be completely in her element. She stopped at booth after booth, meeting ponies and talking shop. Much to my relief, most ponies were more interested in the convention than the princess. Several asked to get pictures of her ‘great Princess Luna cosplay,’ whatever that meant. Some ponies even insisted I be in the pictures as well because my armor was so authentic.
“Princess, shouldn’t we be getting to the rendezvous point with C.W. Step?” I asked.
Looking over her shoulder, the princess replied, “She will be there all day, Silent Knight. We… I am enjoying the convention. Can’t we simply enjoy it a while longer?”
The look was something I’d never seen before. The princess was really having fun and I think the idea of rushing through it made her sad.
I stuffed the schedule into my saddlebag with all of the princess’s ‘swag’ and smiled. “It would appear, Princess, that your schedule was just cleared.”
“Thank you,” she said softly and went back to the convention experience. I kept behind her and collected the various things she bought or was given. It was actually kind of fun to see all the colorful booths. There were posters, banners, and displays featuring all types of literature. It was impressive to see and I realized I should probably look into reading more. Being a soldier meant having a sharp mind, not just a sharp sword.
Eventually, we found C.W. Step’s booth and stood in line to meet her. C.W. Step was a white unicorn mare with a brilliant blonde mane. There were little hints of pink visible under the hat she wore. As I looked at her, I couldn't help but think she was somehow familiar. It was as if I’d seen her before, but I knew that couldn't be true. I’d have remembered a pretty unicorn with a blonde and pink mane.
When we were about three ponies back, C.W. Step spotted us and seemed to get really concerned. She started hurriedly placing some of her books behind the booth while also signing copies for other ponies. As our turn came, she looked up in horror and said, “Princess Luna! What a wonderful surprise.”
Princess Luna was looking past the mare at a big banner announcing her new book, The Princess of the Knight. Her mouth hung open. The cover featured a white pegasus royal guard holding a blue alicorn princess with one foreleg, wings spread wide. He even held a sword high in the night sky and was looking rather dashing. It was clearly like one of the romance novels I always saw Iridescence hide in her footlocker.
About that time, I noticed Princess Luna looking from C.W. Step, who stared on in horror for some reason, the banner, and me.
“Princess?” I asked softly, since she looked distressed.
“Dost thou not see, Silent Knight? That is clearly thou and I!” she exclaimed, pointing a hoof at the banner.
I looked again and didn’t see it. “No, Princess…” I raised a brow. “That stallion clearly has violet eyes. Mine are silver.”
C.W. Step stuttered, “P-Princess, it is loosely modeled after you. I hope you don’t mind, I’m just such a big fan! Everypony is so tired of the typical ‘Princess of the Sun’ romance. I felt like it is your time to shine, so to speak!”
“Thou art a fan of ours?” Princess Luna asked. “We… I mean, I am a fan of thee. I brought a book for thee to sign. Silent Knight?”
I dug around in the saddlebag and pulled out Princess Luna’s first edition, hardcover copy of The Mare’s Temptation.
C.W. Step took the book and opened the cover, her cheeks still flushed. “This is a real honor, Princess.” She levitated a quill with her unicorn magic and started to sign.
“What does C.W. stand for?” I asked.
There was a chorus of gasps and I’m pretty sure a mare behind me fainted. Suddenly, everypony was staring at me, including Princess Luna.
“What?” I asked, looking around and preparing for an assault.
C.W. Step laughed softly and shook her head. “No, it’s all right. I’m sure you don’t know, but it isn’t normally appropriate to ask an author what their real name is. It helps to protect our anonymity.”
Tilting my head, I asked, “Anonymity. Like an alias? Like a criminal might have?”
Princess Luna put her hoof over my muzzle and laughed nervously. “Nay, Silent Knight. Authors are celebrities and they don’t have overzealous house guards to protect them.” With her other hoof, she tapped the book. “If you could just make that out to Luna…”
C.W. did just that as I stood there quietly. Mostly because I had to. The princess’s hoof was still plastered on my mouth.
“Thank you,” the princess said before adding, “Come along, Silent Knight. We would like to see some more booths before we leave.”
I nodded and we started to make our way down the aisle. As we did, C.W. Step leaned across and offered me a copy of The Princess of the Knight. “Just for you,” she said softly.
Later that evening when I got home, I took a moment to open the book. She had written inside the cover, “Thank you for being a good sport. This will be our secret. — Crystal Wishes.”
She was right about that. I hid the romance novel in my footlocker.
Acclimating to the idea that Princess Luna and Iridescence were friends was proving slightly difficult. The part of my mind that focuses on rules, regulations, and best practices kept tingling. It also didn’t help that the two of them started to spend time together while I was on duty.
“You should invite her to the palace! Make it an official function to honor one of the up-and-coming ponies in literature,” Iridescence said.
Princess Luna shifted on her couch. “I don’t want to come across as a fanmare. It seems too eager to invite her so soon after the convention. There is also the matter that her latest book is clearly about Silent Knight and me.”
Iridescence laughed softly and waved a hoof. “Loosely based. I’ve read about halfway through. She gets Silent Knight all wrong. Sir Chevalier is a passionate swashbuckler who makes mares weak in the knees.”
Speak only when spoken to. “I’m right here,” I said quietly. Nopony seemed to notice and that was fine with me.
“Come now, Luna,” Iridescence said so casually. It set me on edge. “If you’d like to meet her, meet her! Give her some small award. She’ll be flattered.”
“Dost thou really think so? Would it not be abuse of royal power?” Princess Luna asked.
“Why don’t we ask the expert?” Iridescence mused, turning to me. “Silent Knight, if the princess invites C.W. Step here to meet her but also gives her an award, would that be an abuse of power?”
I thought that over a bit. “If the award is solely given for the excuse to meet C.W. Step then yes, it is an abuse. If the princess intends to create a new award and give it at a regular interval, it is perfectly in line. Perhaps an annual award for the best pony author?”
“Verily!” the princess exclaimed as she levitated her quill, ink, and parchment. She leapt from her couch excitedly and hurried to her desk.
“Ponies should be rewarded for work well done. We shall create the Fresh Ink Award to honor one up-and-coming author each year for their achievements.”
Iridescence got up and went to the desk to watch as the princess worked. “You could form a committee after this year to help choose the most important new literary works of the year and then vote on a winner.”
“That is a wise idea, Iridescence,” the princess said as she scribbled away. “We will invite scholars and critics to help… After this year, of course.”
It only took a few moments before she lifted the parchment and said, “Done! C.W. Step will be the first Fresh Ink Award recipient. We must get this into the mail and to her publisher immediately.”
I softly cleared my throat and added, “And create the award.”
Both mares turned to stare at me and then the princess quickly nodded. “Yes, and create the award. I think a medallion shall do. Come along, we have much work ahead of us.”
Iridescence walked next to Princess Luna while I stayed one pace left and two back. It was weird, but I supposed times were changing. Who was I to question the magic of friendship?
The reporter ponies loved Princess Luna’s idea to create a literature award. It was her first press conference and it went extremely well. Iridescence and I were assigned to keep an eye on the event but there really wasn’t anything noteworthy security-wise.
Everything worked out and within the week C.W. Step showed up at the palace to accept her award. The ceremony was elegant, brief, and low key despite being held in the throne room. Princess Celestia, Captain Shining Armor, and Lady Cadence were some of the more notable guests. There was also a handful of reporters, critics, and Canterlot elite.
I couldn’t help but notice that C.W. looked pretty nervous throughout the whole thing. Perhaps crowds bothered her. Not everypony is accustomed to being stared at by royalty. She was gracious, however, and her acceptance speech was most kind. She even thanked Princess Luna and I for being inspirations. I’d never been an inspiration before and, to be honest, I liked the idea of inspiring unicorn ladies.
Eventually, the official functions wound down and Princess Luna invited C.W. back to her office to talk shop. That was the goal, after all. Iridescence and I followed along for security. Once we were inside, I took my position. Iridescence didn’t take hers. Instead, she went to the sitting area in uniform. I said nothing.
“With your permission, Princess,” Iridescence said and was quickly given the nod. She took her helmet off, set it aside, and sat down. I guess that was okay.
C.W. looked a bit confused and stopped mid-seat to say, “With your permission, Princess.”
Princess Luna softly laughed and said, “Thou mayest call me Luna and be seated.”
C.W. finished taking a seat and said, “Thank you.”
Iridescence cleared her throat. “As a royal guard, I need her permission to deviate from protocol. As her guest, you don’t need to do so. You see, some royal guards are strict and completely by the book. They might take exception.”
“Oh, I see. Silent Knight won’t be joining us?” C.W. asked.
Princess Luna smiled and started setting out tea. “Silent Knight is one of those by-the-book royal guards. He likely feels somepony must be on security right now and, should I invite him over, he would be most uncomfortable. Is that not correct, Silent Knight?”
“Yes, Princess,” I said confidently. Somepony had to be on watch.
“Oh,” C.W. said. “What a shame.” Turning back to the princess she added, “Thank you so much for this award. I was worried you would be angry with me after you saw The Princess of the Knight.”
“Angry? No. Confused initially. I am not very accustomed to being… well… included. Fitting in has been a struggle,” Princess Luna admitted.
C.W. nodded knowingly. “That is something I understand well. I almost never published a book because I was worried nopony would understand or like it.”
She accepted a teacup that floated to her, taking it over with her own magic. Unicorns made everything look easy.
Princess Luna smiled a bit at that and sipped her tea. “I am glad thou decided otherwise. We rather enjoy thy books, Iridescence and I.”
C.W. looked confused. “Iridescence?”
With a gasp, Princess Luna said, “My apologies. How rude of me to forget proper introductions. C.W. Step, this is my friend, Iridescence.” She motioned to Iridescence. “Thou also knowest Silent Knight already.”
Iridescence and C.W. shook hooves while C.W. said, “It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Crystal Wishes.”
That knowledge seemed to please both the princess and Iridescence.
“If it pleases thee, Crystal Wishes, wouldst thou share how thou comes up with thy stories? I write a bit as well, but it would be amazing to learn about thy process.”
Crystal Wishes shifted a bit and said, “I don’t think I do anything special, Princess. I just look for inspiration around me to start. What is something perfectly normal that I can just slightly tweak? Then I build interest in a character and write organically.” She sighed softly and smiled. “I idealize a bit. I write about guards or knights… and I hope that one day I can meet a real one like the ones in my fiction.”
Princess Luna tilted her head and pointed a hoof at me. “But thou canst. He is right there.”
Iridescence softly snickered as Crystal Wishes blushed and said, “Oh, no, I mean like the way I make them out to be in the stories. I doubt Silent Knight is anything like the brash, passionate, and dark stallions I write about.”
“You’ve certainly got that right,” Iridescence said and then giggled. They all giggled, in fact.
“I’m in the room,” I said softly. Nopony seemed to have heard.