Daring furrowed her brow in confusion as the stallion pressed himself to the wall, drawing heavy breaths for several long minutes before he calmed down again...right as the train shifted again with only the slightest of thumps, and the stallion put his back to the wall once more.
“I don’t get you,” Daring finally observed, receiving no response. “You run through the Everfree Forest twice without so much as a second thought, but you’re scared of trains?”
“The noise of this infernal contraption is akin to an angry dragon! In addition to that, we are moving at speeds few pegasi can hope to match! How canst thou be so calm onboard this…monstrosity?!” The stallion’s breath slowly returned to normal, as did his posture.
Daring shook her head with a slight chuckle. “I go all over the world. I’ve been on everything from airships, to trains, to giant tamed sand-worms, you big baby. Now that you’re not hyperventilating again, back to it.”
Barrier frowned as his horn flared to life and he once again began to recite the lines on the paper Daring had so kindly thrust onto him.
“You are most detestable, and your glasses are vastly oversized for your face.”
“You’re,” Daring groaned. “There’s no reason to say ‘you are’, just use the contraction, dammit. Besides that, the only ponies that use ‘detestable’ these days are nobles.”
Barrier’s expression soured at the comparison. While he had technically been a noble, they’d never been a particularly enjoyable bunch, and he doubted they were any better in this peaceful time.
“You’re a bitch,” Barrier stated flatly, “and your glasses make your look like an idiot.”
Daring snorted, adjusting the glasses in question as well as her grey hat. “Just stop talking and come on, we gotta go around to the back of the museum.”
“And why would we not simply enter through the main entrance of this establishment? If thou desirest for the memorial to beeth displayed within, I shall require to see all that this place containeth.”
Daring growled slightly, “I know you’re talking like that on purpose.” She grit her teeth. “There’s no way somepony this stupid could be a Captain of the Guard.”
“I will not give confirmation unto thy claim that I may or may not have been been a-paying the utmost attention unto thyr lessons on the differentiations between ancient and modern Equestrian speech patterns.”
Daring’s eye twitched slightly and she let out a throaty sigh. “Just shut up…” As Daring spoke, she grabbed the handle of the large metal door and jerked it open.
“So,” Barrier repeated the question the mare had blatantly ignored, “why did we not just go through the front?”
“Because that costs bits, and it’s what normal ponies do.”
Barrier raised an eyebrow but otherwise stayed silent, following behind the pegasus, eyes drifting downward towards flank once more.
“Take a picture, it’ll last longer,” she shot to him as she came to a stop and rapped sharply on a door.
“I will see if I can find an artist who is speedy,” the unicorn replied casually, shifting his gaze from her flank to the plaque next to the door. “Curator,” he recited aloud, gaze drifting once more as the door opened and revealed a bright green mare with a curly blue mane.
Thy coloration is offensive to the point of inducing vomit, Barrier thought idly as he shifted his head, taking in the open-book cutie mark on the older mare’s flank.
“Miss Yearling.” The mare smiled warmly. “You’re late! We were all afraid something had happened to you! Come in, come in!” She quickly ushered the pair into her room, the door clicking shut before her gaze rested on the unicorn in the room, “I wasn’t aware you were bringing a friend, Miss Ye...” the earth pony fell silent when Daring raised her hoof.
“No need for that, Dusty, he knows who I am.” Daring sat down on a cushion, Barrier following suit.
“Ah, I see. In that case,” she turned to the stallion and thrust her hoof out, “I’m Dusty Tome, Curator of the Canterlot Museum of Equestrian History.”
Barrier took the smaller mare’s hoof and shook lightly. “Magic Barrier, former Captain of the Equestrian Royal Guard.”
The mare’s expression shifted several times rapidly before her eyes finally widened. “That’s not possible.” Her eyes darted around the unicorn's flank.
“Uh…you okay Dusty?” Daring asked, noting the critical eye and outright silence of her long-time friend.
“If you’re Captain Barrier, then I’m descended from King Charlatan and Princess Porcina!”
“…well, I guess you’re descended from a penguin and a pig then, because as hard as it is to believe, he’s the real deal. But how would you know him? I don’t remember seeing him in the history books or anything.”
“Well of course not, he’s not in the history books,” Dusty snorted, the earth pony retreating around her desk and pulling a drawer opened. “I know about him because he was mentioned in Legends of the Lost Empire by Sage Greens.” The mare shut the drawer with a click and sat a cracked tome on her desk.
“Your book is in modern Equestrian,” Barrier motioned to the title on the cover, “Miss Greens would not have been versed in modern Equestrian.”
Dusty flipped the dusty tome open, carefully flipping through it. “It’s a modern translation…sort of. Not many copies are floating around these days.”
“Figures,” Daring groaned. “I didn’t even believe in the Empire until a couple days ago.”
“Anyways, you can’t be Captain Magic Barrier. He died fighting Nightmare Moon!” Dusty turned the book around to the pair, pointing out one line in particular, detailing the description of the conflict by a pony named Flash Sentry.
“Why would that be in there if it’s about the Crystal Empire?” Daring asked the obvious.
“Because Captain Barrier sent her brother to the Empire, where he met his death.”
Daring inhaled sharply and the temperature in the room seemed to drop several degrees.
“Apparently, he became somewhat of a family friend after the incident.” Dusty continued, oblivious to the utter silence of her guests.
“…his mother never forgave me,” Barrier finally stated, his voice empty. “His sisters, father and aunts did, but his mother blamed me at every opportunity she had.” Taking a slow breath, Barrier raised himself off of the cushion and turned towards the door. “I’ll wait outside for the tour, Miss Do.”
Daring winced as the unicorn tugged the door open with his magic and walked stiffly out, door clicking shut behind him.
“You have no idea how much you just screwed up,” Daring finally stated, tiredly pressing a hoof to her face as she too climbed upright. “I need you to set aside a room for a new relic. It details the names of over two-hundred ponies who died in the Crystal Empire. Ponies that Captain Barrier,” Daring hissed, “who recently returned one-thousand years away from home with Princess Luna, sent to the Empire – as well as their deaths.” Daring tugged the door open. “And a pony that you pretty much just spit on.” The door shut with a slam.
“You okay?” Daring glanced at the unicorn sitting outside of the room, noting how his body seemed to sag.
“I shall endure, Miss Do. Let’s get this over with.”
“Sure thing. Come on, I’ll show the area where they’re gonna set up the Nightmare Moon exhibit.”
Some two hours later, Barrier found himself smiling; these guards were adorable.
“Halt!” One of the palace guards held up a hoof, bringing the pair to a halt. “State your business.”
“Oh, hold on! I’ve got our summons right here.” Daring buried her muzzle in her saddlebag, fishing around for the letter in question.
Barrier eyed the guard and his companion critically, approaching the guard that had spoken, eyes hard as he took in his appearance with a scrutinizing gaze. Reaching out with a hoof, Barrier placed it under the guards chin, paying no attention to how the grip on his spear tightened.
“Chin up, chest out!” Barrier stated loudly, his usual tone shifting to a noticeably harder, no-nonsense tone. “Forehooves together!” Barrier sharply tapped the stallion’s knees, causing the confused guard to pull his hooves in and stand up straighter.
“I know I had that letter, dammit!” Daring groaned and jerked her muzzle from the saddlebags, cloak fluttering slightly. “Don’t sup…” Daring’s mouth hung open in confusion, noting how both of the guards were standing stock-still, at perfect attention. The guards were by no means undisciplined, but it wasn’t uncommon or really even frowned upon for them to stand rather casually when stuck on guard-duty for lengthy periods of time.
“Come, they’ve given us permission to enter the castle,” Barrier stated casually as he walked by the pair, “Keep up your vigil ponies, your captain would be proud.”
Daring squinted her eyes before she quickly made to follow.
“Uh, Downpour…?” one of the guards finally inquired after the pair had departed. “The hay just happened?”
“Well Fox…” The guard Downpour sagged. “I think we just let two ponies in without any paperwork. Captain Armor is gonna have our flanks when he finds out…”
“Hah, found it!” Daring grinned triumphantly as she held the Royal Summons out in a hoof to the pair of guards standing in front of the throne-room.
“You may enter,” one of the guards replied imperiously, the two of them shifting their spears aside in perfect synchronization.
“That is adorable,” Barrier chuckled slightly as they walked past the pair. “You two are cute. Tell your captain I said good job.”
“Announcing Sir Barrier and Miss Yearling,” the seneschal called out as the two ponies in question made their way into the throne-room, suddenly becoming the center of attention for all the nobles in attendance.
“Ah, Barrier, Miss Yearling.” The familiar alabaster princess descended her throne wearing her usual motherly smile. “I trust your trip here was pleasant?”
“Just fine, thank you,” Daring bowed respectfully.
“Permission to speak freely, Your Highness?” Barrier asked stiffly, his own posture at attention.
“You know you don’t need to ask me that,” Celestia tittered slightly.
“The new national capital is an eyesore.”
There was an audible gasp from the assorted nobles while Celestia simply broke into a grin and chuckled loudly, much to everypony’s surprise.
“Ah, I was wondering what your thoughts would be,” Celestia smiled as she turned and ascended her throne once more, horn flaring to life as a scroll popped into existence. “Miss Yearling, I believe you know what’s on this parchment. I leave it in your capable hooves.”
Daring bowed deeply and took the scroll, tucking it in her saddlebags before she adjusted her glasses and took a few steps back from Barrier and the throne.
Ponies in the audience began to whisper amongst themselves.
The charcoal-coated unicorn held his head slightly higher, hooves clopping slightly as they set themselves on the stone. “M’lady,” he replied firmly.
“It has recently come to my attention that you were never technically discharged in an official capacity. Something to do with the mess that followed Nightmare Moon.” The diarch of the sun started to grin as her horn flared to life once more, levitating a thin, dark-wood chest to the unicorn, who quickly took it in his own aura.
“Contained in that chest are your discharge papers, the medals you were to be awarded for your role in the banishment of Nightmare Moon, and a cheque for the Royal Treasury for your one-thousand years of service totaling sixteen million, two-hundred and thirty-two thousand, nine-hundred and fifty bits.”
The silence in the room was palpable. Celestia was grinning like a mad-pony.
“Good and many thanks, Your Highness! It hath been an honor and a privilege to serve under both you and your sister,” Barrier responded after only a short moment of surprised silence.
“The honor has been ours, captain,” Celestia said softly, her grin fading to a more subdued smile. “And before you go, my sister also requested a meeting with you."
"Captain Armor!” Celestia called out loudly, an impressively-sized unicorn that looked stunningly like a younger and white coated version of himself trotted out from the rooms behind the throne. “Show Magic Barrier to my sister’s chambers.”
The stallion saluted sharply and walked up to both Daring and Barrier, smiling faintly. “If you’ll follow me, Sir Barrier.”
“I shall,” Barrier nodded, following his younger counterpart.
“Well,” Daring started when they departed the throne-room, “I guess this is where we part ways, horn-head.”
Barrier felt a slight twinge in his chest, but responded none the less, “I suppose the time has come, Miss Yearling.”
“Keep up with your lessons in modern Equestrian, yeah?”
“You have my word. Should I assume somepony will come to retrieve the memorial?”
“Yeah, the museum should have ponies out there by the end of the week.”
The pair stood there in awkward silence until Shining Armor cleared his throat softly,
“Right uh…see ya when I see ya.” Daring nodded, and with slight effort turned her gaze and started off down the halls.
“One can only hope, Miss Do.”