“Miley Hooves? Seriously?” I called up.
Miley clung to the chandelier as it rocked slowly back and forth above Princess Luna’s chambers. “I’m sorry, Sergeant!” she called back.
I flapped my wings to fly up, and offered her my hooves. She chose not to take them and instead hopped off the wrought iron and crystal fixture while throwing her own around my neck.
I grunted as I caught her, then slowly brought her to the ground. “How?”
“There was a mouse. I jumped,” she replied honestly.
I looked at her and then up at the chandelier. That had to be some kind of earth pony record. “You’re afraid of mice, but you’ll fight a changeling?”
“We all have our weaknesses, Sergeant.”
“Okay, fair enough. Back to work, okay?”
She nodded and bounded back to her post. Shaking my head, I returned to my seat at the secretary’s desk.
Princess Luna was in her sitting area with Crystal Wishes and they were both catching up with Iridescence. She was off duty and the group had a lot to talk about. I wasn’t paying attention. Call it a professional talent.
I went back to drawing. Occasionally, I drew Miley but to be fair, most of my drawings of her were documenting the pony’s bad luck. I had drawn her stuck in the couch, stuck in the door, stuck in the… let me just say she got stuck in a lot of things.
Today, however, it was Crystal Wishes’s turn. I had probably been paying a bit too much attention to her lately. She was nice to me and very easy on the eyes. But her barn door didn’t seem to swing my way and Velvet Step was one of my friends, so thinking that way was a little awkward. It was still okay to look. No harm there.
The door to Princess Luna’s chamber opened and Lieutenant Haze walked in without knocking. Miley and I straightened to attention. He looked to me and then moved to advance on the princess.
“Sir, can I help you?” I asked, stepping around the desk and blocking him.
The lieutenant looked down his snout but, humorously, had to tilt his head up to me. “I wish to speak to the princess.”
“The princess has an appointment right now, sir. If you like, I can look at her schedule and find an appropriate time,” I suggested.
Lieutenant Haze snorted. “Sergeant, you work for me, not her. You do not keep her schedule and you’re not her secretary. Act like a royal guard. Now move.”
“Yes, sir.” I stepped out of the way and allowed him to pass.
He walked right up to the princess and curtly bowed. “Princess, I would like to discuss the state of your House Guard now and some suggestions I have to improve it.”
Crystal Wishes and Iridescence stared at him wide-eyed as he trotted right over their conversation.
Princess Luna stood up, her regal mane shimmering like the evening sky. “Of course, Lieutenant. As thou canst see, however, we have an appointment right now. If thou wouldst check with Sergeant Knight, we are certain he can find an opening for thee. As we are sure thou art aware, he receiveth a copy of my schedule each day so he can best leverage our security assets. We would have thought thou wouldst receive one, too. In fact, we know this to be true. Perhaps thou shouldst learn to read it?”
The lieutenant took a step back. “Princess… I think it would be best—”
We all caught the look Princess Luna gave him at that moment and he took two more steps back.
“Yes, I think that would be best,” he amended before hastily retreating. “Sergeant, put me in on the next available opening, please,” he called as he sailed by me on his way out of the room.
“Yes, sir!” I replied before opening up Princess Luna’s scheduling book.
“Silent Knight?” Princess Luna called.
“We shall not have any openings for at least a week,” she remarked, her voice booming in the room and the hall beyond it.
“Aye, aye, Princess,” I said and started flipping through the book, feeling a little smug. I passed up several openings and penciled the lieutenant in for 15 minutes three weeks from today.
I muttered, “I know who I work for. Do you, you pompous gryphon-flank?” as I looked down where I had written his name.
“What, Sergeant?” Miley asked.
I looked up and around. Had that been out loud? Oh… it had. I had four mares staring at me. Quietly, I closed the princess’s scheduling book and softly clapped my hooves together.
“Flank, Miley. Always go for the flank when engaging a gryphon. Wound their pride first!” I said before returning to my art project.
The heavy bag loomed in front of me. I stood up on my hindlegs and flapped my wings to help keep me upright. I started to batter it with my front hooves, working on my boxing skills. It was a great workout and I really liked to cut loose.
“Is the lieutenant just a jerk or is he really as dumb as he seems?” Iridescence asked me.
We were off duty, but bad-mouthing an officer wasn’t a great idea in general, even if every word was true. “He is new,” I panted as I continued to hit the bag.
Winterspear was next to Iridescence, doing yoga with her. The two had gotten along fairly well after an intense ‘how could you do that to my little brother’ conversation.
My sister said, “That is code for huge gryphon rump.” She evidently wasn’t worried about bad-mouthing somepony else’s officer.
“He sucks all of the fun out of the room,” Iridescence said, holding an impossible pose. She had one hindhoof down, one tucked against her thigh, and her forehooves pressed together. “When is the captain getting back from his honeymoon?”
I dropped down to all fours again and went over to the standing targets. Lining them up, I started bucking them fiercely. “Three... days,” I huffed each time my hindhooves landed.
“I hope Shining Armor sets him straight. He certainly turned you around,” Iridescence said in my direction.
My eyes narrowed in a glare before I bucked the targets harder. That went on a bit longer before I felt like I’d worked hard enough.
Grabbing some water, I came over to the other two. I laid down at the edge of their mats while both them stared at me upside-down. They had managed to get their forehooves beside their heads and their hind ones were stiff and straight up in the air. They looked ridiculous and frankly, the poses weren't very flattering.
“I could push you over right now,” I teased Winterspear.
“You had best not. I like her better than you,” Iridescence said.
“Mares!” I huffed before getting up and heading to the showers.
My shower had run a little long. I had been enjoying the feel of hot water on sore muscles. There wouldn’t be time for a proper lunch but Princess Luna kept snacks in her chambers. Quickly, I trotted down the hall and made a quick right and—crashed right into another guard.
“Ow!” the mare exclaimed. Her coat was the same color as gold and she had the most cheerfully colored yellow-and-orange mane.
I helped her up and stood at attention. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant, I wasn’t being mindful.”
Sunny Day, the lieutenant that replaced Astral Dyke, was what ponies call a perpetual optimist. She was always happy, positive, and cheerful. The word around the palace was that she was also an amazing officer and always took her job 'all the way.'
She waved a hoof. “Oh, you’re fine, Silent Knight. I wasn’t looking where I was going, anyway. I just needed to get some air.”
I remained at attention and nodded. Then I tilted my head. “Air, ma’am? Down in the gym and similar sweat-soaked areas?”
The unicorn laughed, her nose scrunching up a bit. “Figure of speech, Sergeant.” She looked around to see if there were any ponies in ear shot, then leaned in to say in a low voice, “Your lieutenant is frustrating and doesn’t understand what collaboration means. We have an event that includes both princesses soon and he is insisting that we each do our own security plan.”
“That doesn’t make sense, ma’am,” I said. If we did that we’d have guards stumbling over each other.
“Good luck getting him to see it that way,” was her reply but then she smiled. “I shall endeavour to do so, however! He will see the light… or I’ll go tattle on him.” Cheerfully, she trotted on down the hall while I remained at attention. Royal guards typically don’t prance but I’m confident that was the only way Sunny Day moved.
The day before Shining Armor was supposed to return home, I was standing with my squad at our morning meeting. We were just about to rotate off with Sergeant Orchid’s squad and I wanted to get them briefed.
Before I could get started, Lieutenant Haze walked in. We all stood at attention immediately.
“Listen up, ponies!” he called. “I just learned through a friend at the command intelligence group that there is an obsidian dragon located near Canterlot. The brass is worried and I want first crack at the beast. We’ll be heading out immediately to handle it.”
“Sir. Command has assigned us to this duty?” I asked.
“What? No. I just said I learned it from a friend. We’ll be able to get down there and show initiative,” he explained.
I nodded. “So you want all of us to go with you, sir?”
“Yes, this is a dragon! Every one of you.”
“To clarify, you’re ordering every one of us to leave with you to engage the dragon?”
The lieutenant looked at me like I was some kind of idiot. “Yes, Sergeant. You, me, all of these ponies. NOW!”
“I’m glad to hear you say that, sir.”
“That is the spirit,” he replied.
I shifted to face him and stated matter-of-factly, “Lieutenant Haze, I hereby relieve you of command.”
The lieutenant’s jaw dropped. “On what grounds?!”
“Derelictions of duty, issuing illegal orders, misappropriating Royal Guard resources, conduct unbecoming of an officer, inciting mass desertion, unnecessarily endangering lives for personal gain…”
The lieutenant’s face shifted from surprise to impatience to anger. He actually started turning red. Then he did something really foolish. He took a swing at me in front of the whole unit.
I ducked. Then, in one quick move, I punched him in the gut and followed up by sweeping his legs out from under him. He collapsed and while he was trying to catch his breath, I continued, “...assaulting a fellow royal guard, and anything else I can find.”
“Miley, Harvest, take the lieutenant to the stockade while I do the paperwork. Night Frost, go inform Sergeant Orchid that I’m assuming command until the captain returns.”
There was a thunder of “Yes, Sergeant!” and they all set off to do their tasks.
The following morning, I was working quietly in my reclaimed office. There was a knock at the door and then it opened immediately. Captain Shining Armor stepped in and I rose to attention.
“Welcome home, sir!”
“Thank you, Silent Knight. It was a great vacation but I’m honestly glad to get back to work. Everything seems to be running smoothly. Where is the lieutenant?”
“In the stockade, sir,” I replied cheerfully.
“Alright then,” he said before slipping out and closing the door behind him.
It was good to have the captain back.
Not all of my charges against Lieutenant Haze stuck but the damage was done. Even though command has a way of protecting officers, Obsidian Haze still spent more than two days in the stockade. It also became clear to everypony that he had questionable decision-making skills. The final straw was that Princess Luna just plain wasn’t thrilled with him and said so in front of the captain and several other officers.
As such, command gave him a nice, quiet job commanding a supply depot somewhere out west. They also gave me a medal for being brave enough to stand up to him. All of that suited me fine.
The captain was in my office again and I had brought him up to speed on everything that happened in his absence both with my helmet on and off.
“I wasn’t even gone that long!” he complained.
I shrugged. “The palace never waits.”
Shining Armor nodded. “That is true. Listen, I’m going to go personally find a new lieutenant for the unit. I’ve made it abundantly clear to command that we will not be accepting another important pony’s nephew, son, daughter, niece, or love foal. You need somepony that will fit with the culture. Until I find that pony you’re in charge.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
He turned to leave and then paused. “Any issue with this situation putting Iridescence under your authority?”
“No, sir, that won’t be an issue at all. The job stays first from now on,” I assured him.
The captain nodded, paused for a moment as if to say something, and then shrugged before he left the office.
Alone again. I started to straighten up my desk a bit in preparation for being in command once more. It was something I was starting to enjoy. Would we ever have a decent lieutenant that I could trust?
“Knock knock!” came the cheerful voice of Sunny Day in my doorway.
My body stiffened to attention and I replied, “Come in, ma’am. What can I do for you?”
Sunny pranced in with an extra spring in her step. “Oh, you already did it! At ease, by the way.”
“Pardon?” I asked as I settled into a more casual stance.
“Helping Lieutenant Haze find a new position. I knew he was a silver spoon, arrogant, son of an ‘important pony,’ but I never guessed he would make such a rookie mistake. Especially around a pony like you.”
With a flick of my tail, I asked, “A pony like me?”
Sunny Day approached my desk and set her forehooves on it. She stood and looked down at me. “You’re a tactician, Silent Knight. I’ve kept an eye on you. You’re always six moves ahead.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of what she had said or where she was going with it. “Thank you?”
“Yup!” she practically chirped before hopping back down. “Well played, Sergeant. Looks like it is you and me again when it comes to joint meetings. I’m looking forwards to it.”
“Yes, ma’am…” My eyes followed her as she left. Peering down at the rock Runic had given me, I asked, “What was that about?”
If the rock knew, it wasn’t telling.