Secrets of a Royal Guard

by Anzel

38. Conversations

I sat at the secretary’s desk in Princess Luna’s chamber, doing my paperwork. It was a lot like old times, which was fun. The reason for being there wasn’t as fun, though. The princess was keeping a close watch on me. She kept coming up with excuses for me to be here instead of in my office.

On the plus side, Willowy Tempest was off to the side working at a new, smaller desk that had been set up. She was clearly livid but kept her mouth shut. That, at least, was somewhat amusing.

My being in the room had set all of my guards on edge. They were uncomfortable with their commander sitting there and staring at them. They didn’t understand why I was there, and my guess was they thought I thought they’d been slacking off. That wasn’t the case, but it wasn’t high on my list to explain that the princess and I were having a… whatever it was we were having.

There was a soft knock at the door and Princess Luna called, “Come in.”

The door opened and Russet Rook stuck his head in. “Hello Princess,” he said, his eyes shifting to me.

“Well, hello, Lieutenant Rook!” she replied. “Welcome back.”

“Thank you, Princess. Forgive me for disturbing you. I was told Lieutenant Knight was in here. I need to speak with him,” Russet explained.

Princess Luna nodded. “Of course,” she said before turning back to her work.

Russet looked at me and then back at her. “Could I perhaps speak to him in private?”

The princess’s ear flicked and she nodded. “Of course.”

I stood to head for the door. “We can speak in my office.”

Russet just nodded at me. I led him over to my office and unlocked the door while he asked, “What is that all about?”

I waited until we were both inside and the door was shut before I replied, “To be perfectly honest, she is mothering me right now.”

He blinked. “Mothering you?”

I took my helmet off and set it on the desk. “Yeah… She and I had some words. I mentioned my misgivings about what happened over in Nordanver. Now I have an alicorn mother.” I waved a hoof. “It isn’t important. Welcome back.”

Russet stood quietly in thought for a moment. “Alright… that actually seems important. When you say misgivings…” His brow arched.

“Survivor’s guilt, or whatever you called it. Anger, too. I’ve slipped up a few times lately and let it show,” I explained as casually as I could, trying not to draw more attention than necessary.

“Well… uh… nothing to be ashamed of,” he stammered out, not inspiring a lot of confidence in me. “I still have nightmares. The counselors are pretty good, you know. I saw one for a while. Perspective and all that.”

Why did ponies want me to talk to a counselor? Why did they think that would help? How could a stranger, who hadn’t gone through what I had, possibly understand how I felt?

I forced a smile. “Right. I’ll keep it in mind. Anyway, you wanted to talk privately? Not that I’m not happy to see you, which I am.”

“Oh yeah, sure.” He let it go. Bless him. “Although maybe you shouldn’t be.”

“What does that mean?”

“I get back from training and find out I don’t have a job. My company doesn’t exist anymore,” he started.

“Yeah… So about that. I—”

He held up a hoof. “Before I got home, though, a courier brought me a message. Evidently, a pony wrote a very compelling letter of recommendation for me to become Shining Armor’s aide-de-camp. It was such a strong reference that he offered me the position.”

“Congratulations. That is a fine position for you.” I tried to sound excited but knew immediately that I’d failed.

Russet picked up on it and chuckled. “Yeah, I was trying to figure out who would write that recommendation. It certainly wasn’t Vice Colonel Glamour. I mean, how would she even know about the position?”

I shrugged. “She said she was going to make sure you were placed well.”

“Oh yeah, she absolutely did.” He reached into his saddlebag, pulled out a piece of paper, and waved it. “Baltimare City Guard. Executive officer for one of the shore patrol companies. A real winner.”

I cringed. That was not exactly a wonderful billet in general. Even less so coming out of the House Guard.

“So it was really easy to refuse it, especially since I already had another offer. The vice colonel was surprised. Then I got to thinking. There is no way Shining Armor would come straight to me.”


His expression turned serious. A kind of serious I’d seen before, felt before. “Silent Knight, if this is about what happened with Princess Luna’s Guard… I don’t want your charity.”

I shook my head emphatically. “It isn’t like that. Russet, he wouldn’t take some officer out of pity. You know he isn’t that kind of pony. If you weren’t right for the job, he wouldn’t offer.”

“Oh, you bet I know I’m capable. That’s the thing, though. You’re capable too and you’re his favorite. So why me instead of you?”

That was easy. “No captain’s training.”

“Crabapples. Don’t treat me like I’m an idiot. I may not have lived the Guard life like you, but I learned real fast how Royal Guard politics are played.”

Maybe not so easy. I sighed and leaned back against my desk, rubbing a hoof against my right temple.

“I want an answer,” Russet said firmly.

“I couldn’t stand by and let them railroad you again. Princess Luna let slip that the only reason I was sent to the academy was because she wanted me in a safer position. She didn’t want me directly in the line of fire anymore. Shining Armor fought her but ultimately went along with it.”

Russet blinked, the fire in his eyes doused. “What?”

“Yeah. I don’t know what to say otherwise. I do know that I don’t feel like I earned this position anymore and I don’t know if that one is just an apology for this. Either way, I’m not taking it. You got in the academy by yourself. You caught our attention by yourself. Then you got shafted because Princess Luna wanted me in her pocket. This isn’t charity. It’s being rewarded for your good, hard work.”

He blinked again. “This... is not how I imagined this conversation would go.”

I shrugged and smiled. “Congratulations, Russet. It’s a one-in-a-million position. I’m jealous but I also know, without a doubt, that you’ll be great at it.”

He offered his hoof to me and said as I shook it firmly, “Thank you, Silent Knight. For what it’s worth, I know up in your head you’re questioning your commission right now, but back here on the ground, there is no doubt in my mind that you earned that bar.”

It was a nice sentiment, but that’s all it was. He didn’t understand. I still appreciated hearing it even though I knew it wasn’t true. “Thanks, buddy. I’m sure I’ll figure that out soon. Before you leave for your new job, go see Sunny. She’s bad off.”

Russet’s ears twitched. “She is? What the hay happened here while I was gone?”

“Something was in the air. Took out a major, a captain, and two lieutenants. Beats me what it was, but if anypony asks, I’m blaming you from now on.”

Russet opened the door and chuckled. “Always a good strategy. Blame it on the last guy.” He clapped a hoof to my shoulder. “Get right, Silent Knight. Equestria needs guards like you.”

“Yeah, so they tell me,” I replied.

We exchanged nods and, after he left, I went back to my desk. I wasn’t ready to go back into the lioness’s den yet.

Just when I started to get settled there was a knock at the door. Seriously? Couldn’t I have just a moment to myself?

I sat up straight, put my helmet on, and pulled a few papers in front of me. Keeping my tone even and strong despite the tickle in my throat, I called, “Come in.”

The door slowly opened. Azurite walked in and peered around as if she was looking for somepony.

“Warrant Officer Azurite?” What was she doing here?

She replied in a tiny voice, “Yes, sir, I hope I’m not bothering you.”

“No, not at all. Something I need to know?”

She bobbed her head in a nod. “Yes, sir. I thought you’d want to know that I’ve finished your request. All of those files were properly returned to the archive. You should know that an in-depth audit will likely turn up the work, though.”

“Oh.” Right, the files. Covering my trail. I’d actually forgotten about it. It didn’t seem to matter anymore. “Only in-depth? That is better than anticipated. You didn’t have to break any rules, did you?”
She was looking at me funny… or past me. “No, sir! It was all done strictly to policy as written.” Then she blurted out, “You have toy ships?”


She pointed behind me and I turned to look. Princess Luna had insisted I teach her Airship Armada and that I brought all of my miniatures to work, probably so that we’d spend even more time together to get over our spat.

“You have a lot of toy ships,” she squeaked. “You didn’t have any when I was in here before.”

I looked them over and then back at her. “They aren’t toys, they’re miniatures for wargames.”

Azurite nodded knowingly at me and then winked. “It’s okay, sir. I have a plush doll as big as me! Adults can have toys.”

“They’re not toys, Warrant Officer. They’re exactly to scale. They’re true approximations of the real things and I use them to simulate combat.” Why was I talking to Azurite about my airships? “Can we talk about the files?”

“Yes, sir… but that was really it. I took care of them all. Every little detail to a T. Evidently, this comes up now and then. Lieutenant Brook said so, and he took you at your word it was necessary.”

I winced. “Of course he did.” One more abuse of Silent Knight’s good name. “Thank you.”

“Sure. Say… uh, sir. Can I ask you something?”

It took a lot of effort not to sigh. I wanted this conversation to be over. “Is it about my airships?”

“No, it’s about Lieutenant Day. Have you seen her lately?”

I nodded. “I see her a few times every day.”

Azurite sucked in a breath and then asked quickly, “How has she been?”

That was an odd question. They were together. They were a coup—wait. Sunny had said she screwed things up. Clearly, she meant with Azurite. No… surely not. The realization surprised me into a quick coughing fit.

The pieces started falling into place. I’d never seen Sunny so upset in the past about something work related. This was all about a relationship and not work.

It made sense, actually. I had seen Azurite with Soarin. Had she already moved on after dumping Sunny? That seemed too cruel for the little mare to do. At the same time, Azurite didn’t look down or heartbroken. Maybe she was that cruel after all. I struggled to actually believe that, though.

What was I supposed to say? Not the whole truth, certainly. This wasn’t my business. I needed to stay out of this.

“She has been... less chipper than normal. For any other pony I’d say that was okay but for Sunny that is odd. There has been less prancing.” There had been none, actually, but that seemed like a bad thing to say. “Why do you ask?”

“I’m just making sure she is okay. Could you tell her I asked about her?”

Could I? This required further investigation. “Why me? Can’t you talk to her? Aren’t you two together?” That last part I’d blurted out without really meaning to. What happened to staying out of this?

Azurite froze, staring up at me. This time I was sure it was me and not the airships. “We are… on a break. I don’t know. Stuff happened. Things are going on. Look, it’s complicated and now I’m staying with a friend. She’s also busy, so I think that made it worse. You seem to know what that means. You look like you’ve been busy, too. Lots of frowny!”

What did she mean, on a break? Ponies went on breaks? Neither of them seemed happy about it, so what was the point?

She didn’t seem like she wanted to talk about it, and that part I understood, so I didn’t press. Then I smiled to prove I wasn’t frowny. “There is no rest for the wicked, or so they say. I’ll deliver your message. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir. Please take care of yourself,” she replied before heading out.

Yeah. Take care of myself. As if there weren’t enough ponies already doing that for me. I grumbled under my breath as I dove into the paperwork that had been left on my desk, hoping I could linger here awhile longer before Mother Luna would come for me. Just the thought made my head throb with a deep ache.

An hour slipped by when there was a knock on my door. I sighed and stood up, ready to be escorted back by the alicorn I was supposed to protect. However, when I looked up, Sunny was the one standing at my door, her ears folded back and a nervous look on her face.

“Hello?” I tilted my head and sat back down. “What can I do for you.”

Sunny walked all the way inside and closed the door behind her. “So, about the other night…”

I arched a brow. “What about it?”

“We were a little drunk, we said some things. You know, you were there.”

I chuckled. “You were drunk. I was only a little almost drunk. It’s no big deal. You were upset, I was upset, we said some stuff, and it’s done. What’s on your mind?”

Sunny came over to lean on my desk. “Yeah… look, I’m not sure it is done. You were pretty upset and I wasn’t listening as much as I should have. When you said you’d made a mistake—”

My head shook. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve really got your own problems right now, don’t try to add mine to your stack.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Azurite was in here earlier. She said you won’t talk to her. What gives?”

Sunny sucked in a deep breath as if I’d hit her right in the gut. “You…” She stopped and closed her eyes tight. “I told you on the tower. That’s what I screwed up.”

“She’s worried about you,” I said softly.

“She would be, but I’m bad candy. Look, relationship stuff is just relationship stuff. That happens to ponies all the time, but your stuff doesn’t sound like that. Yours sounded more critical, so let me help. What’s up?”

I glared at her. She glared back at me. I had to admit: Sunny had a good glare. The glare of an experienced officer.

Finally, I looked away, letting her win. “I don’t know, Sunny. I’m worried about my relationship and I’m worried about my job. My father always put the Guard first and it was hard on us. Now I do that to Crystal. We’re not even married yet and I missed her birthday for… well… for Guard stuff.”

“Living up to the oath, huh?” she asked plainly.

“Yeah. And I can’t get past losing all of those ponies. I thought I had a plan to move on, but it didn’t work. Now that it’s done, I’m back to square one, but I actually feel worse. It’s like a part of me is gone. I’m not sure what to do next. How do you get over losing ponies?”

Sunny lightly patted my hoof. “I don’t know, Silent Knight. I’ve been in the thick of some things, but I’ve never been in a battle like that. I’ve never had guards killed. I’ve certainly never been as close to death as you. The royal guard has programs for it though. Maybe you should go to one.”

“I’m not interested in some pony staring at me and judging me while I try to explain that I’m just trying to do my job. You agreed with me before. How do you explain what we do to other ponies?”

“Have you tried?” Sunny asked.


“Have you tried? Honestly. You keep saying that and yeah, I agree with you, but have you at least tried? Are you willing to make a decision without ever saying anything? Look, I don’t know what you’re going through, but if you need me, I’m here. My social schedule is pretty free.”

She poked me in the chest and added, “And just so you know, I don’t see an empty suit of armor. I see one of the best ponies I’ve ever met struggling with tough but real issues. He just needs to find the right help. I need to get back to work though. See you later.”

“Yeah Sunny… see you later,” I replied, watching her as she left. Had I tried? No… but again, how do you explain it? Maybe she was right, though.

I fumbled with the key as I unlocked the door to my quarters. To put it simply, I was beat. My workload had grown steadily over the course of the day, and any moment I could have had to catch my breath was taken up by Princess Luna. I appreciated her concern for my wellbeing, but I was starting to get irritated.

It didn’t help that my head felt like it was full of cotton. Too much time spent poring over papers. I really missed standing guard.

When I got inside, I found Winterspear in the kitchen standing over a pot. She shot me a quick look of feigned surprise. “Look at you! You’re not as late as normal.”

“Still late, though,” I grumbled as I went into my room to set my armor on its stand. As I came back to the living room, I noted, “You’re cooking late.”

Winterspear shrugged. “I’m making extra soup for this week.”

I settled into a seat at the table. Soup sounded good. Really good. “Why?”

“Because we’re going to need it.”

“Why?” I repeated and then coughed.

She just shook her head. “Your section sergeant has a runny nose and a cough. Iridescence said Miley has been sneezing.” She waggled the wooden spoon at me. “And now you have a cough.”

Miley Hooves… the original plague bringer. I’d been spared her wrath before, but that time she hadn’t sneezed in my face. Certainly not twice. I rubbed a hoof over my face. “Nopony has put in any sick leave.”


“Fair enough.” I sighed. “Can we talk a minute?”

“Sure.” My sister turned the burner down and came over to sit across from me. “What’s on your mind?”

My ear flicked. “A lot.”

“Well, where do you want to start?”

That was a loaded question, wasn’t it? “Remember when I promised you I wouldn’t be a hero and then I… you know… did that thing that ponies said I was a hero for doing?”

Winterspear peered at me curiously. Her feathers started to ruffle in preemptive agitation. “Yes. Why?”

“You were really upset at me for making that decision. Would you have ever forgiven me if I’d died instead?”

My sister sat up straight and her brow furrowed. “What kind of horrible question is that?”

“I need to know,” I pressed.


“I’m struggling here! You’re a city guard. You go out and protect regular ponies, solve crimes, and do the police thing. I’m a house guard. My oath literally says that I’m supposed to give up my life without hesitation so the princess can live. Can you understand that? How do you live knowing what I do?”

Winterspear leaned back in her chair and stared at me. “Silent Knight… some things I just try not to think about, alright? Do you think I’m unaware that my brother and my marefriend consider themselves expendable? I know it’s a concern, but I don’t think about it. There aren’t exactly a lot of assassination attempts, you know.”

“Winterspear… please. You’re a guard. If you don’t understand, I need to know… because if you can’t, Crystal never could, and I need to know so I can—” I had to choke back the words. I couldn’t say them. I could hardly even think them.

Winterspear’s expression changed when our eyes met. “Whoa! Easy, Silent, easy. Look, to be perfectly honest, I don’t like it. I’m proud of you, but I don’t like it. I do understand, though. This is important to you. This is who you are.

“You may have started on this path because of Dad but…” She sighed and smiled. “This is you. You’re Silent Knight, Commander of Princess Luna’s House Guard. If, Celestia forbid, some day you do save the day and die in the process, I’ll be devastated.”

She reached across the table and took my hoof before continuing, “Devastated… but at least I’ll know you died doing what you believed in. You do believe she is worth protecting, right?”

“To the very core of my being,” I replied, puffing up and flicking my wings.

She gave my hoof a squeeze. “Then I’ll make peace with it. I suspect Crystal would, too… but that is a conversation to have with her. She isn’t a guard but she isn’t weak, either.”

I held Winterspear’s hoof and nodded. “She isn’t the most important pony in my life. Can you have a marriage like that?”

“I don’t know, but I’d rather try and fail than not try at all.”

“Yeah… thanks. This helped I think.”

“I’m glad.” She started to draw back but I held her hoof tight. “What?”

“I need to tell you something, but knowing it will put you in very hot water.”

She shook her head. “Not a concern if it involves you.”

I took a deep, measured breath that turned into a cough that I quickly tried to suppress. Now wasn’t the time to be weak. “Do you remember when I said I wished Alastair was dead? That he cast a shadow over me? That I was struggling with it?”

“Sure… why?”

I looked her straight in the eye. “Since the moment I got physically better, I started training. Physical, combat, working with an armsmaster, ancient warrior stuff… anything and everything.”

Winterspear nodded without breaking eye contact with me. “Yeah… I was worried about the bruises and whatnot, but I’d read exercise was healthy for that sort of thing.”

I snorted softly and nodded. “True… but you see, I also found an EIS operator that was really upset too. One that was highly placed. The two of us started working together. Plus, we had some help from the armsmaster I mentioned.”

“Yeah?” Her tone dropped to a whisper.

“Yeah. Together, we appropriated Royal Guard Intelligence assets, EIS operatives, and royal guards to execute a plan to trick him into coming to Equestria and out into the open. Him and whatever soldiers he had left.”

Winterspear’s hoof flexed in mine as I held onto it and she swallowed. “Silent Knight, this… this sounds scary.”

“I swore to root out all threats, both internal and external, and remove them for her wellbeing and safety,” I quoted from the House Guard oath. “He fell for it. My unit and I struck out in the early hours of the morning before sunup, ambushed them, and killed them all. I personally killed Alastair.”

Winterspear gasped and her grasp on my hoof tightened. “What?”

“It was something I had to do… or thought I had to do. I thought I’d be able to let the guilt about losing ponies go after he was gone. Justice was served. The threat was removed. It didn’t help the feelings, though.”

“You’ll lose your commission for that, Silent! Your oath is pretty flimsy ground to stand on!”

I peered at her. “That’s all you have to say about it?”

She paused to mull it over and then snorted. “Do you expect me to be sympathetic to a bunch of gryphon soldiers that killed fellow guards, tried to abduct a princess, and almost killed my brother? If you’d asked, I might have even gone with you.”

For a while, we just sat there, letting everything settle. I sniffled and shook my head. “I’m sorry. You’re an accessory now… but I had to tell somepony.”

She reached out to stroke my cheek with the back of one hoof. “I’d gladly lose my career to protect you. You did what you thought you had to. Maybe it was misguided, maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter now. He’s dead and you need to think about your future. Bury this and let’s find out another way to deal with the guilt. Are any of the other ponies going to make this known?”

I shrugged. “I was careful. They all believe it was a black operation that was official but unsanctioned. For all I know, it was, given the level of the EIS operator. They’ve been ordered to turn me over if necessary. I don’t suspect they will have to, though. It actually went smoothly as far as battles go. The plan was exceptional and they never saw us coming.”

Winterspear shivered.


She avoided my eyes. “Nothing.”

“What?” I pressed.

“I just…“ Her wings pressed in tight to her sides. “Dad said something like that once. And the casualness. You got yourself in another battle and that doesn’t bother you?”

My ears folded back. Being compared to my father was not something I was proud of anymore. “My ponies getting hurt bothers me. I still feel awful about my ponies they killed before, and more got hurt in the operation.”

“Well, keep that in mind. Don’t go looking for other battles, either. If they come to us, fine… but maybe you focus on your career and that mare you’re going to marry.” She got up and went back to the stove. “And you’re going to need extra rest. Trust me.”

“Agreed. No more black ops. No more battles. Don’t worry about me… I’ll be fine.”