• Published 17th Nov 2014
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Memoirs of a Royal Guard - Anzel

Silent Knight assumed his story would be complete once he achieved his dream of joining the Royal Guard. To his surprise, it was only just the beginning.

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15. Opposing Forces

“You turned me pink, Runic,” I said as seriously as I could.

Runic’s head tilted. “What color did you want to be?”

“White!” I didn’t quite shout but Iridescence did look up from her shopping.

Runic looked me over, studied my coat, and then said, “Well, there you go.”

I brought my hoof to my face. “I realize I’m white now. I’m normally white. Could you just be a little more careful with what you sell to Iridescence? I don’t want to end up with acid in my sports drink.”

“One time...” Runic trailed off, shaking his head as he went back behind the counter. “By the way, I have some lovely new rocks. Would you care to see them?”

I started to argue that point but then I noticed he had a pile of precious stones as big as a foal on a table in the back. “Wow!” I said quietly, coming over. “You’ve managed to turn rocks into diamonds, emeralds, and rubies?”

“What? Oh, those?” Runic said with disdain. He pushed the priceless pile of gems into a bag and tossed it by the trash. “Those are failures. Look at these!” The pegasus set a box full of black rocks where the ‘failures’ had just been. “Volcanic!”

In all fairness, they were pretty cool rocks. At the same time, there was a pile of treasure less than a meter away that could allow me to retire. Let it never be said that Runic Phial obsessed about money.

“They’re great,” I said, giving Iridescence the ‘time to go’ look. She ignored it.

“Oh, by the way. We’re cousins,” Runic said while I was looking towards the mare.

I turned my head back to him. “Pardon?”

“Yup, just got back from Cloudsdale yesterday. Same great-grandparents on your mother’s side.”

I was skeptical to say the least but, in truth, my mother’s parents were a bit strange, so maybe their parents were even more so. “You were researching me?”

“You? Oh, no. I was looking up a favorite geologist of mine. At any rate I found the Phial family tree and I noticed a couple named Wintermane and Dawn Chaser.

"I also remembered that one time when we all got lunch and you told Iridescence that your sister was named for her great-grandmother. That had me curious so I followed that line in the Cloudsdale archives and sure enough, we’re second cousins. Family, as it were.”

He hastily added with a look of disappointment, “Unfortunately I’m not related to that geologist. Nor are you, so no luck there. Anyway, I thought you’d be interested.”

“I am,” I replied with sincerity.

I didn’t know any of my family outside of my parents and sister very well. My father’s line was a string of only stallions as far back as anypony could remember. All Knights. Winterspear was the first mare. She didn’t get the family name, though. Dad saved it for me.

I forgot about the potion and patted Runic on the hoof. “Glad to know you, cousin,” I said before turning to collect Iridescence. The longer we remained the more likely it was that we could be melted, exploded, or in some way altered.

On our way back home Iridescence looked pensive. It wasn’t like her and we were close enough for me to sense when something was off. Gently, I bumped my flank into hers to draw her attention.

She looked over at me and smiled slightly. “You know that you’re frequently two different ponies? One who knows when something is up and one who is totally oblivious.”

“I try my best,” I said quietly. “What’s on your mind?”

Iridescence walked along beside me a while longer before saying, “I’m concerned you’re taking us for granted.”

“Us who?”

With a slight grumble, she said, “You and I. As a couple. Since we’ve been together, you haven’t really changed much. You still treat me like your friend.”

I have never pretended to understand relationships but treating your special somepony as a friend seemed right to me. “I’m not supposed to treat you like a friend?” I asked. “Aren’t special someponies best friends?”

“Yes, of course we’re best friends. I more mean we don’t do the things that couples do, you know?” she asked and I didn’t. I had no clue.

“I see,” I said quietly. “You want to do things that couples do that friends don’t? We can do that.”

She smiled. “I’m glad you’re willing to try.” She then added after a pause, “You have no idea what those things are, do you?”

“No clue,” I replied and she laughed.

“I sometimes forget that you are you and nothing you do is malicious. I’ll take the lead on that, then. You just follow, okay?”

Nodding quickly, I replied, “Yes, Sergeant.” and Iridescence shoved me with a hoof. She may tease but when it came to relationships she was the boss.

Later that evening Iridescence and I sat on our respective bunks staring at each other while she tried to educate me in stallionfriend etiquette.

“And you’re certain there isn’t a manual for this?” I asked her after an hour of confusing and somewhat contradictory information.

Iridescence rubbed her nose with her hoof. “If there was, everypony would be matched up and we wouldn’t be having this sort of conversation. All I am asking for you to do is be a little more romantic, spontaneous, and at least consider my feelings before the job. Okay?”

This was going to be my toughest assignment yet. “I will try my best. If you came off shift and I had your favorite flowers waiting, would that count?”

“The first time, yes. Although less now, since you’ve told me about it. Good for romance, but not high marks on the spontaneity side,” she explained.

“How about if I—”

She got up and pressed her hoof against my mouth. “No more hypotheticals.” She sighed. “This is what I get for chasing younger stallions.”

I wrinkled my nose and stood up, thinking, “I can do spontaneous.” I wrapped my hooves around her in a sudden hug.

She gasped and laughed. She squirmed, I lost my balance, and the two of us fell over onto the floor with a heavy thud. Iridescence continued to laugh as I lay on top of her. She had not been expecting that! Of course, neither of us expected the door to open and for Shining Armor to walk in.

He stared at us. “What are you two up to?”

It was clear Iridescence was in shock but I’m a professional. “Spontaneous attack training, Captain. I tackled her. She wasn’t expecting it. She’ll need to be better prepared next time.”

Shining Armor gave me a dubious look, but then seemed to accept that explanation. He, like everypony else, knew I didn’t lie. I got up, helped Iridescence to her hooves, and stood at attention.

“What can we do for you, Captain?” I asked.

The captain said, “I need a courier right now. Somepony fast. I know you’re off tomorrow, but I was wondering if you could take an important letter to General Ironhoof's headquarters in Manehatten.”

It seemed tonight would be filled with all sorts of tests. Here was the captain asking me to work on my day off again right after Iridescence coached me on being more considerate. I paused to consider my options. “You need a flier, Captain? No chance a train is fast enough? Iridescence is from there. Maybe she could see some family.”

Shining Armor shook his head. “Not this time, I’m afraid. Command needs it there immediately. Pegasus speed. You’re one of my few pegasi around here and you never let me down.” He paused and then added, “Not that Iridescence would if speed wasn’t an issue.”

I kept my eyes forwards, trying not to look over at my unicorn companion. I could sense her irritation and trepidation. This was not going to be fun. “You can count on me, sir,” I said, stepping forwards to take the sealed container.

“I have no doubt,” Shining Armor said before leaving our room.

I tried not to look back immediately and could hear the sounds of Iridescence moving. Slowly, I turned and found her in her bunk with her back to me. “I’m sorry… I just—”

She cut me off with a quick raise of her hoof. “Don’t. Just go do your duty. I knew what kind of pony you were.”

That stung, although I wasn’t entirely sure why. I dressed in silence and pulled my helmet on. On my way out the door, I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” and really hoped that was true. She might still be mad then.

My reputation as a fast flier was getting around in the Canterlot Royal Guard circles. It wasn’t surprising that the captain had asked me. I wanted to enjoy that and the fact that he knew he could count on me. Unfortunately, all I could think about was Iridescence. I was up in the sky flying east as fast as I could while she was back home alone, angry, sad, or all three.

I had to make this right. Somehow I would need to balance my job with my responsibilities to Iridescence. Perhaps it was the time we told the captain about our situation? He was a good pony. He’d understand.

On the other hoof, I didn’t want to risk my career again. What would I be if I wasn’t a royal guard? It is everything I wanted to be and more. What would my dad say if I was relieved of duty? The only son of Stratus Knight drummed out of the guard. Generations of uninterrupted service broken. It would kill him. Actually, prior to his death, he would hunt me down and kill me first. Dad always finished what he started.

That thought darkened my mood substantially. Dad wouldn’t let anything get in the way of his career. Of course, no matter how ignorant I was of anything outside of the guard, I knew that my parents’ relationship wasn’t great. Neither was my relationship with them. I didn’t even want to think about Winterspear’s situation with Dad.

I banked through the clouds and flapped my wings harder. This kind of thinking led to mistakes and I couldn’t afford to make any more. It was time to focus on the mission: get the scroll to Manehatten as fast as possible. Command was counting on me. The captain was counting on me, and that was all that mattered. He was worthy of loyalty.

Loyalty, honor, duty, and integrity. Those were virtues that lasted forever, even once a pony had passed on to the next life. How could doing my duty be wrong? I tried not to dwell on it as the lights of Manehatten were starting to draw near. It was time to make my delivery.

General Ironhoof's headquarters was co-located with Eastern Command. That was one of the largest royal guard installations in Equestria. My destination was one of the few places where you could still find what we’d call professional soldiers; that is to say, ponies whose sole purpose was that of waging war, not defending others. Ponies like my father.

The trouble with that concept is that ponies aren’t the sort of people to engage in wars carelessly. We are the sort to be ready for anything. That meant still keeping professional soldiers around. There is a delicate balance to training warriors that may never see a war but keeping them ready for it.

The compound itself was far larger than what we had in Canterlot. There were multiple barracks, chow halls, and command buildings. I dropped out of the sky and came to a rest on the parade ground just as Princess Luna raised the moon. As I trotted towards the large headquarters, it started to dawn on me how fatigued I was. In all of my musings I had barely stopped to rest. Oh well, I could rest when the job was done.

I approached the main door and the guard lifted a hoof to challenge me. I produced the sealed scroll from my saddlebag and said, “Missives from Canterlot Command for General Ironhoof's headquarters.”

He took a look and nodded. “All the way down, turn right, third door on the left. Knock first,” he said.

“Thank you,” I replied as I headed inside.

The headquarters interior was spotless. It was made out of some sort of smooth, gray stone. Runic would have known what it was. It had the feel of an old Equestrian Castle, the kind you read stories about from the ancient days. I followed the guard’s instructions exactly and ended in front of a wide, metal door. After knocking three times, I took a step back and waited.

The door opened and I found myself looking at a brown-red earth pony in uniform. Not armor, but one of the Equestrian Army uniforms. He was a lieutenant so I snapped to attention.

“Yes?” he asked.

“Missives from Canterlot Command, sir,” I said, offering them to him.

After taking them, he nodded and started to close the door. “Thank you. Dismissed.”

From behind him, a strong, stern voice said, “Hold on just a moment. I don’t recognize that armor. Bring that pony inside.”

The lieutenant pulled the door open and stepped out of the way. As he retreated I advanced into a sparsely appointed office. The walls were practically bare, other than a map or two. The only furniture was a single desk at the very back and everything was arranged in a functional, efficient way. Standing behind that desk was General Ironhoof himself.

The general and I had never met, but I knew him instantly. He looked exactly as my father had described him: tall, stocky, and pristine. He had his signature flat top mane but its legendary jet black color had faded to almost all gray at this point. His coat too, actually, but he looked as fit as any royal guard I knew.

I stood quietly and confidently as the general looked me over. On the inside, I was excited beyond reason. Generals were a rare commodity. Legendary generals that actually had experience in battle were practically non-existent. Ironhoof was both.

“What unit are you with, son?” he asked, stepping around his desk to get a closer look.

“Princess Luna’s House Guard, sir,” I responded clearly. I kept my eyes forwards as he circled me.

“House Guard, huh? So you’re some sort of elite Royal Guard?”

I didn’t move and replied, “No, sir. I was in the right place at the right time. We are trying to build that reputation though, sir.”

General Ironhoof snorted. “A lucky pony, huh? That is fine. Soldiers need luck. You have a familiar look. You're not the normal courier.”

“No, sir, but my father did have the pleasure of serving with you and I look like him. Stratus Knight, sir.”

The general laughed and slapped me on the back, “You’re Stratus Knight’s boy? How about that! I’ll have had the pleasure of serving with three generations of Knights. How’re you liking the Guard?”

“Everything I hoped for, sir,” I said honestly.

The general chuckled. “Oh, you’re most certainly a Knight. Good stallions, good soldiers. How is your father? I know he hated to retire after that bad business with the gryphons.”

“To be honest, sir, I haven’t seen him in some time but when I last did he was as well as could be expected.”

“As well as could be expected?” the general asked. “He could still fly, move, and train. It was just the running and fighting that the bad knee hindered.”

Had the general not heard? Actually, why would he have? Well, there was no harm in telling him. “I’m sorry, sir, I should elaborate. Dad… Stratus Knight lost his eyesight completely about three years after he got home. He was a fine instructor but it has made flying rather dangerous.”

All of the air seemed to be sucked out of the room and General Ironhoof just shook his head. “What a waste. I’m sorry, son, I didn’t know.”

“Not at all, sir. Stratus still does his part. Commander Tsunami has him working with the Cloudsdale guards. They think a blind pony can't use a sword and quickly find out that underestimating an opponent will yield bruised flanks and egos,” I said, pride creeping into my voice.

General Ironhoof laughed. “That is the spirit! Well, son, you’re the Knight now. What did you say your name was?”

I hadn’t, but you never correct an officer. “Silent Knight, sir.”

“Silent Knight. I like that. I’ll remember that,” the general said and I’m confident he meant it. “Keep up the good work, son. Someday Equestria is going to need the service of the Knight family again and when it does, I’ll be asking for you.”

That sent shivers along my spine. Did he mean he’d want me to be a soldier like my father? In a war? “Thank you, sir. I will,” I replied, stuffing the feelings I was suddenly having deep down inside me.

“Very good. Dismissed,” the general said.

I drew myself to full attention and saluted. That isn’t something you normally did inside, but who knew when I’d have the chance again. The general took the cue, stood at attention, and returned the salute.

“Dismissed,” he repeated but I saw him smile. I backed out of the room and waited for the lieutenant to shut the door before I turned away.

The exhaustion I had been feeling when I arrived seemed to be gone. I felt like I could fly home immediately but knew only a fool would do that. I checked in to the guest barracks and crashed into a bunk. I’d head home tomorrow.

I was so excited to tell Iridescence about the meeting. Then I remembered that she might not be in the mood to hear that sort of thing. In that moment, I figured sleep first, problems tomorrow.

Tomorrow came a little too quickly as I awoke to an unfamiliar pony shaking me just before sunrise. “Missives for Canterlot Command,” he said, dropping a heavy satchel on me.

I gasped a “Thanks” and rolled out from under it. Those were going to slow me down. I trotted over to the chow hall and got some breakfast before heading out.

In truth, I flew slowly and the reason wasn’t the weight of the satchel. It was the weight of the conversation I would have to have with Iridescence. She had every right to be mad, as she wouldn’t be mad without a good reason, but I still didn’t understand why. We were both guards. We both had our duty. Why was it wrong that it was so important to me? Maybe she could explain it once she calmed down. That was assuming she was still there waiting to see me.

In my entire life, I had never been so full of dread at the sight of Canterlot. Not even when my father brought me there the first time and left me. I think all stallions have an inherent base instinct to fear an angry mare. Mares rule the world and we are their minions.

The captain seemed pleased when I dropped off the satchel with him. He gave me some sort of positive compliment. I barely heard it. I just smiled, nodded, and thanked him before heading back to my room.

Cautiously, I pushed the door open and peeked in. I had once seen my mother wing a dinner roll from the kitchen, across the living room, and right into my father’s snout when they had a spat, so I knew the danger of projectiles.

“What are you doing?” Iridescence asked, glancing up from her book. She was sitting on her bed, sounding and looking surprisingly calm.

“I’m not entirely sure, per the normal,” I replied as I came inside and started removing my armor.

Iridescence closed her book and gave her full attention to me. “How was your trip?”

“Lonely,” I said in all honesty. After placing the last piece of armor neatly on its stand, I turned to face her. “I’m sorry.”

My mare companion tilted her head and asked the dreaded question: “Do you know why you’re sorry?”

I shook my head. Lying isn’t something I do unless there's a really good reason, and I didn't have one. “Not entirely. I realize that our job encroached on our time together. I also understand that I should value that time equally as job time.”

“You may understand better than you think, then,” she said softly. Iridescence crossed the small room to stand in front of me. “Look, I may have gotten a little angrier than I should about this. Part of me had to realize that you and I are in different places in life and have different goals and that is okay.”

My ears pinned back and I couldn’t help stop my head from drooping. That statement gave me a chill I couldn’t explain at the time. Call it instinct. “What does that mean?” I asked, fearing the worst.

Iridescence blinked at me. “Wow… you’re really upset. I honestly didn’t expect that.” She set her hoof on my shoulder. “Look, nothing worth having is easy. I’m not giving up, I swear. We’ll both just have to try harder. Okay? You try to be less you. I’ll try to be less me. We’ll meet in the middle. Compromise.”

Compromise, I could compromise. Anything to keep my friend. I’d never had a lot of friends and certainly not one like Iridescence. It had never occurred to me when we started dating that it might ruin our friendship. Now, suddenly, I was terrified of that prospect.

Rearing up, I threw my hooves around her and hugged tightly. I think that caught her by surprise because she gasped. I’m not saying that I cried that day but I will say I couldn’t look her in the eyes.

I whispered, “Iridescence, promise me. Promise me that no matter what, you’ll still be my friend. It wouldn’t be worth having anything else if you weren’t.”

“What? Of course! Of course, I promise. We’ll always be friends.” She nodded against my shoulder and hugged me back.

That gave me peace. Iridescence wasn’t the sort of pony to break promises. We stayed like that awhile. I guess sometimes a little fighting isn’t bad if this was the result.

Author's Note:

Runic Phial is one of my favorite supporting characters. Writing him has been a joy and he'll be getting more time in the future.

Silent Knight is struggling to deal with his dedication to his duty and his responsibilities in a relationship. After all, he has never had a marefriend before.

If you are enjoying this story, please consider taking a look at Crystal and my's website QuillnBlade.com for extra content such as mini stories, an Ask Us form to submit questions, responses to said questions, and special rewards for the awesome folks who support our Patreon.

2nd Edition Version

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