• Published 6th Dec 2014
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Twilight Sparkle of the Royal Guard - King of Beggars



Twilight Sparkle is the newest member of Celestia's Royal Guard. Fresh out of the Military Academy, she's ready to prove herself, but will her first assignment be too much for her to handle?

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Chapter 0 - Heads or Tails?

Night Light stared his wife down, his face set in stony determination as he met her angry glare. His eyes darted away for only a moment to make sure the door to their bedroom was still closed and locked. Night Light had told his son to wait in his room while he and his wife talked things out, which almost assuredly meant that Shining Armor was standing in the hallway with his ear pressed to the door.

"No," Twilight Velvet said flatly. "He's going."

"He said he wants to go to a regular school," Night Light countered.

"He's too young to make that kind of decision for himself. Going to Celestia's school is an enormous leg-up. His test scores from magic kindergarten were high enough to get him considered, and there's no reason for him to not at least take the entrance test."

"He's old enough to know what he wants, and what he wants is to be like any other colt his age," Night Light said. "Trust me, I went to Canterlot Academy, I know what it's like there. It's all testing and grades and strict scheduling – he'll miss out on so much of what it means to be a child."

Twilight Velvet snorted in a very unladylike manner. "I know you went to that school, and now look at you – Royal Astronomer, at your age. If he goes to that school he can be anything he wants."

"He wants to be like everypony else."

Twilight Velvet growled impatiently and ground her teeth in frustration. "Why are you fighting me on this!? Don't you want what's best for our son?"

"I do," he said wearily. Night Light stepped closer to his wife and nuzzled her gently. "He's a smart boy, and plenty strong. He's already better at making shields than I am! It doesn't matter what school he goes to, he's going to be just fine."

"I know he will," she groaned as she returned her husband's affections. "I just... it's my job to worry..."

"Oh?" Night Light questioned with a snicker. "And mine isn't?"

"No," she grumbled. "Your job is to be the irresponsibly 'fun' parent, which means I always have to be the 'bad cop'."

Night Light frowned at what he felt was an unfair assessment of his parenting style. "I resent that. I'm very responsible."

"Who keeps taking him to the ice cream parlor and letting him eat until he gets a tummy ache?"

"He... he was being a good boy. That's a reward for doing all of his chores."

"A reward for doing the chores he's supposed to be doing anyway?" she asked as she pulled away and looked at him in amusement.

Night Light had the sense to give up a fight he knew he couldn't win. He turned away bashfully and muttered: "Okay, maybe I am a little too permissive sometimes."

Twilight Velvet smirked victoriously and hopped onto the bed. She spread herself out on the soft comforter and stared at the ceiling until she felt a shift in the mattress that indicated that her husband was joining her. She scooted over and allowed him his usual side of the bed.

"So what do we do?" she asked. "I want him to go, you want to leave it up to him."

Night Light rolled onto his side and began to softly caress his wife's exposed belly – a tactic that he'd learned during her pregnancy to be a surefire way to calm her down. "Remember when we first got married and we were having all those arguments about stupid little things?"

"I remember you being stupid," she replied puckishly.

"Well, okay, yes, sometimes... but do you remember how we used to solve those arguments?"

Night Light didn't wait for an answer. He merely lit his horn and opened the drawer of the nightstand, withdrawing a single golden bit from his coin purse. The coin floated above them in the pale blue of his magical aura.

"No," she whispered with a shake of her head. She pushed his hoof away from her belly and sat up, staring in disbelief at the coin. "We are not trusting our only child's future to a coin flip!"

"Why not?” he asked as he stared up at his wife. "It always worked before. Heads, we make him go take the test; tails, he makes his own decision about whether or not he wants to go to Celestia's school."

"You're placing an awful lot of faith in a six year old's decision-making. Was it really so bad going to that school?"

Night Light watched the coin slowly spin above his head. The shiny bit flashed periodically as it turned in the air, whenever it was at just the right angle to catch the light of the desk lamp next to the bed.

"It wasn't bad, per se," he admitted after a few moments of thought. "I just wish I would've been given a choice about it. My parents said the same things you are, about what a great opportunity it was and what it could do for me in the future – and it's not wrong at all, they were completely right. I just wish they'd have asked me what I wanted.”

Night Light waved his hooves around in the air, as though his thoughts were floating above him and all he had to do was gather them up. “It was the first big decision of my life, and it was made for me. I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel a little like I'd been cheated out of it."

Twilight Velvet tilted her head in confusion. "Would you have chosen to go somewhere else?"

He shook his head sadly. "I don't know. I'll never know, now. I mean, I do owe a lot to that school. After all, I was out late doing an assignment for a class the night we met – that might not have ever happened if I'd gone to a school with a less demanding curriculum."

"I'd like to think that fate would have brought us together regardless," Twilight Velvet said hopefully.

"Maybe, maybe not. Fate's a strange thing, especially when it comes to the way it brings ponies together. For all I know, I might've ended up married to that filly from down the street that used to yank my tail and run away giggling."

"That's not a very romantic thing to say to your wife," Twilight Velvet clucked impatiently.

"Sorry, just thinking out loud," he chuckled, "but, really, if you believe that much in fate, why not trust it for this? Fate will guide the coin and make the right decision for us."

Twilight Velvet snatched the coin from the air and inspected it closely. It was a normal bit, like any other she'd in her life. On the face was the emblem of the sun, the Cutie Mark of Celestia herself, and on the flipside was the same motif as on the Equestrian flag: the sun and the moon represented as ponies, chasing one another in the eternal cycle of day and night. All in all, it was a rather mundane instrument of fate. It was difficult to believe that such an innocuous thing would be the turning point of her son's life – one that would lead him down any number of paths in life. This first split in the road would lead to another, and another, and another...

It was almost laughable when she really thought about it.

"Heads, he goes to take the test...?"

Night Light sat up, a victorious grin on his face as he mentally tallied this one as a victory for himself. "Tails, he makes his own decision."

"You do realize that this isn't just stupid, it's completely negligent," she stated as much for herself as for him. "We're his parents, we're supposed to more responsible than this. If anypony found out that this is how we made such an important decision, they’d probably have him taken away from us for being unfit parents."

"I've got a gut feeling, honey," he assured her with his most confident smile. "This is the right choice, even if it looks foolish or negligent or whatever. I can feel it in my horn that we're doing the right thing."

* * *

Shining Armor sat at the desk in his bedroom, poring over several books at once. Beside him sat another stack of books from the Royal Archives, and next to those books was another pile of books, and another pile of books lie next to that pile...

He rubbed at his dry eyes to try to get his tear ducts working again, and groaned as he closed the largest of the books before him with a loud snap. The shades were drawn to keep out the bright afternoon sunlight and beside him burned an old oil lamp that his father had used as a colt. It was something of a double edged sword, reading by firelight like that. The dim-lighting always caused him a bit of eye strain, but it helped him focus better, which was a fair trade when dealing with especially dry or challenging subjects.

He magically pulled open the curtains to let some natural light in as he blew out the oil lamp. "There's gotta be an easier way to learn this stuff," he groaned as he stretched his sore, cramped muscles.

Canterlot Academy was no joke. It was the toughest school in Equestria, with the tightest curriculum and the best teachers – and that was just for normal students. Being Princess Celestia's personal student brought on a host of advantages and perks, but it also came with a frightening amount of additional homework. Four years into his studies, he still wasn't sure if all the extra work was actually worth it.

"You can't go in, he's studying!" shouted a high-pitched, muffled voice from other side of his door.

"He's my brother, too, Spike!" Twilight replied tersely. "I can see him if I want to!"

"Well I'm his assistant and I say you have to wait, young filly!"

"You're only a year older than me, Spike," she countered, "you can't tell me what to do!"

"A year older is still older, Twily!"

Shining Armor snickered happily and opened the door, sending his two younger siblings tumbling into the room. They'd obviously been wrestling against the door when he'd opened it.

"You know better than to fight with girls, Spike," Shining Armor said with exaggerated disappointment in his voice.

Spike got to his feet and lowered his head in shame. "Sorry, Shining..."

"And you know I'm busy studying sometimes, Twily," he said as he turned to his sister.

"Sorry, Shiny..." she muttered with comparable embarrassment.

Shining clucked his tongue in thought as he considered how to handle this latest little crisis. He glanced at the clock and noted that it was nearly time for his afternoon break anyway.

"Spike, mom told me earlier that she was going to be baking cookies around this time," he informed the pint-sized dragon. "I bet if you go down right now you can watch how she does it. Maybe if you learn to make cookies she'll let you bake some yourself."

Spike gasped and was off in a flash. The pitter-patter of his little feet faded away as he bounded down the hallway and down the stairs to the kitchen.

"As for you..." he said, turning his gaze to Twilight. “How about you tell me what you needed that was so important that you picked a hoof-fight with a fire-breathing dragon?"

Twilight kept her gaze down, a blush of embarrassment tinting her cheeks. "I just wanted to come see you. You're always so busy, and I wanted to see what you were reading."

Shining Armor smiled and levitated an extra cushion from the corner of the room, setting it down next to himself. He spun around and nodded at the cushion, indicating that Twilight should take a seat. Once she was settled in, he placed the large book he'd been reading on the ground before them.

"It's nothing too interesting," he explained, "it's just a biology book. It's about various species and where they live, why they evolved the way they did – that sort of thing."

Twilight's eyes danced across the page as she read, eagerly studying the various diagrams and charts peppered throughout the dry reading. If Shining didn't know any better, he could've sworn that this filly – barely old enough for magic kindergarten – was getting at least the gist of the subject.

"This is really fascinating," she squeaked cutely.

Shining Armor chuckled at the word 'fascinating' coming out of such an adorable little filly. "I guess," he admitted halfheartedly.

Twilight looked up at her brother with confusion in her eyes. "Why do you always look so sad when you talk about studying?" she asked. "Do you not like school?"

"What?" he asked in shock. "I... no, I like school, I like studying!"

"Then why do you get this kind of frowny-face in just your eyes when mom and dad ask you how school is going?"

He shifted uncomfortably on his cushion. It wasn't an easy thing to answer, what she was asking. He did enjoy studying, and he did like learning new things, but there was always that little bit of doubt and regret nibbling away at the back of his thoughts...

"I guess... even though I do like it, I sometimes wonder what things would've been like if I'd had a choice."

"What do you mean?"

Shining Armor checked to make sure nopony was standing at the door and closed it gently. "Can you keep a secret?"

She swallowed a lump in her throat and nodded. Secrets were scary, but also kind of fun.

"If I'd had the choice, I would've asked mom and dad if I could go to the military school," he admitted.

Twilight blinked. "Military school?"

"Yeah, I've wanted to be in the Royal Guard since I was your age," he said excitedly. His enthusiasm was bubbling over as he finally let out the one thing he'd kept bottled up for years.

"What's so good about the Royal Guard?" she asked with a frown. She saw guards every day, living in the Upper District of Canterlot as she did. They were scary stallions, that stood perfectly still no matter how many funny faces you made at them, and they all looked and dressed alike. It was weird.

An old book floated down from the bookshelf above Shining's bed and took the place of the biology book as it was shoved aside.

"This book's all about the history of Celestia's guard, and it’s full of war stories about brave ponies from history," he explained eagerly.

"History's neat. Can we read some of it?"

"Yeah! I'll tell you about all the best historical battles and about all the best, coolest, strongest soldiers from Equestria's past!"

"Is this really that cool?" she asked with steadily growing excitement of her own. She loved learning new things, and her super smart big brother was about to show her something that even he thought was cool.

"Twilight," he said as he cracked the book open to a random page, "by the time I'm done explaining to you how cool the Royal Guard is, you're going to want to join up, too."

* * *

Author's Note:

For those of you wondering how Shiny's test went, it'll be discussed in a later chapter.

Next Chapter: Pissing Off Your C.O. and Other Hazards of Cake Guarding

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