• 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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29. A Gryphon Summit

Gryphons, unlike ponies, were not all united under a single flag. Historically speaking, they were a highly competitive bunch and often resolved political differences with swords. For the most part, their lands and kingdoms had been stable for the last two decades or so.

Centuries before that, as I understand it, they had divided their continent into four parts after the death of the last living heir of their royal family: northern, southern, eastern, and the island. After that, four powerful nobles rose to power and each claimed to be king. And that is how they ended up with four kings.

The northernmost kingdom of Nordanver was, without a doubt, the most stable of them all. Those gryphons were primarily seafaring traders who were more interested in selling to ponies and other gryphons than fighting with them. They were the biggest market for pony exports on that side of the world. They also had not betrayed us… yet.

A few years before I was born, there had been some major battling between the southern kingdom of Sudramoar and the eastern kingdom of Austveger over a mountain range. It was rich with precious stones and other resources. Both kingdoms had sent settlers and when the armies got involved, civilians found themselves trapped between them.

Sudramoar’s King Kronson had begged Princess Celestia to send peacekeepers to protect the non-combatants. In her endless kindness, she agreed. General Ironhoof led that particular expedition. My family, of course, was there. In theory it was supposed to be easy. Go to the civilian outposts, fill them with pony soldiers, and make it unappetizing for either army to attack them.

Nothing is ever easy when it comes to war, however.

Stratus Knight had never been the same after he returned from that operation according to my mother. The leg wound was one thing... but his mind wasn’t right. The ponies that went over there had seen horrible things. Things Stratus couldn’t convey to her or me. All he would say was that they saved lives and all they received in return was a knife in the back.

The army of Sudramoar, the very gryphons that asked us to help, had attacked our peacekeepers without warning. Stratus never forgave them and I didn’t trust them. Logically, I realized that the gryphons from Nordanver weren’t those traitors… but a lifetime of your father warning you is hard to let go.

Gryphons or not, mistrust or not, this meeting was going to be Princess Luna’s reintroduction to world politics. I could tell she was still nervous but she also had a resolve the likes of which I had never seen. We stood together on her rostrum awaiting the arrival of our guests.

The official meeting went off without a hitch. Princess Luna greeted the dignitaries from the gryphons, pleasantries were exchanged, all ceremonies were followed to the letter, and as a result our kingdoms agreed to continue to live in peace.

In truth, it had been little more than a polite meet and greet. I would almost say there was little that was noteworthy… at least until the curve ball at the end. Duke Cassius had personally invited Princess Luna to visit his brother’s kingdom in the future and she had agreed. That was going to be interesting and a logistical nightmare.

Once the official function was over, everyone—gryphon and pony alike—had moved to the reception hall where refreshments were being served. I never left the princess’s side, which meant listening politely to numerous stories about why this city or that town was worth visiting and what to do while there. It wasn’t bad conversation; it just wasn’t something I was interested in.

To be fair, Duke Cassius was quite polite and charming. He and Princess Luna seemed to be on the same wavelength and I imagine, as far as politics go, that they got more done in one meeting than most do in several. I actually found myself enjoying his company to some extent. He made the princess smile, so that helped him earn my approval.

“Your aide is so stoic, Princess Luna. The perfect image of Royal Guard pony professionalism,” the duke said as he motioned to me.

Princess Luna softly laughed and nodded. “That he is. Silent Knight was our first guard and hath been with us ever since our return to the world of politics. He is a good luck charm and a confidant.”

My ears gave a slight twitch, but I didn’t dare change my expression or look away. My eyes were set on the wheat-feathered gryphon guard captain that was strutting about the room. Unlike the duke, I had immediately wanted to buck the guy in the beak.

The gryphon in question, Captain Alastair, had criticized our security efforts before the meeting. Now that it had been concluded, he was personally going around to each of my guards and disparaging them individually. Politely, of course… with backclawed compliments. Secretly, I hoped to one day meet him in battle so that I could stomp him. Celestia forgive me for having such dark thoughts.

“That is a delight to hear. I’ve had trouble finding an aide that suits my eccentricities,” the duke went on. “They keep sending me career soldiers. I barely know the current captain. Believe me, I enjoy being safe as much as the next gryphon, but there has to be more. I need someone I can talk to and who helps with details outside of how many soldiers will be with me.”

“Perhaps in time one will grow to suit you? Silent Knight had required a tiny bit of polishing,” the princess replied with a gentle laugh.

My ears were barely registering the conversation that was occurring near me. What I had heard was Alastair ‘whisper’ to one of his men while looking at Miley Hooves, “Look at this one. I imagine she is quite the adept warrior when she isn’t tripping over her own hooves.”

I wanted to leave the princess’s side and go set the gryphon straight but I had already made that mistake once in my life so, instead, I stood there cool, calm, and collected. The perfect aide and guard.

Miley Hooves made me proud and did not react at all. She may have had some bad luck but she wasn’t a poor guard. She was the sort of pony that never gave up and she didn’t even offer a hint of notice to the rude gryphon.

“We love flowers! Especially the pale white ones… carnations, lilies, and the like. We would be so thrilled to see thy wife’s flower garden. Is it large?” Princess Luna asked excitedly.

Duke Cassius shook his head. “No, she only has four bushes or so, but if you want to see one of the most amazing gardens in the whole world you simply must see my brother’s. He is so enamored with the hobby and tends it himself. Other than ruling our kingdom, it is his greatest passion.”

It went on like that for a while but, eventually, Captain Alastair lost interest in his teasing because he was never able to get a rise out of any of Princess Luna’s house guards. It probably wasn’t obvious to anyone in the room, but I was filled with pride. My ponies were professionals even in the face of outright rudeness.

Princess Luna said, “We are so excited about the opportunity to come and visit. We thank thee for the offer. It hath been a pleasure spending time with thee.”

“The pleasure has been mine, Princess Luna. I shall return home and eagerly await your arrival. Perhaps in the meantime we should start exchanging letters? You could write my wife and share gardening tips as well,” the duke replied.

“Verily! It shall be so,” Princess Luna cheered before offering her hoof to the duke. The pair shook before the gryphon stepped back to bow.

The princess and I returned the gesture. I went lower than she did due to my station.

“Until we meet again,” Duke Cassius toned warmly before drawing his entourage close and leaving.

At the end of the evening, after we bade farewell to the gryphons and everypony was finally able to relax, we had been ushered into one of the smaller palace banquet halls. Princess Luna had set up a surprise party for us. Drinks had been poured and she levitated hers high.

“To our first successful negotiation! May we have many more!”

We raised our glasses as a unit. It was good to see the princess feeling confident and happy. She was still trying to find her place in Equestrian politics and this was a great start.

“And to my House Guard, the finest ponies in all of Equestria,” the princess cheered and we lifted our glasses a second time… just a little bit higher. “And now, please enjoy this gathering. It is my token of appreciation for such a fine group of royal guards and their commander.”

All of the ponies stomped their hooves in appreciation before heading over to the buffet to share a meal. The palace staff had been brought in to cater for us and the phonograph was playing some upbeat but quiet dance music.

“Did you hear what that nasty fellow said about my mane? Why, I doubt he would know style if it slapped him in the beak. It isn’t my fault the helmet crushes all the work I put into it,” Lavender was saying in mock offense to Shadestar and Iridescence. The three laughed softly.

Mixer’s ears twitched as he heard that and he peered in their direction. “Who cares what they said. It was the smell that got me. That big silver-feathered one reeked of… Celestia knows what!”

Solar Flare replied, “Dead fish?”

“Spoiled fruit?” Blackblade put in.

Cog shook his head. “No… it was used diapers. For sure.”

Mixer asked with a curious grin, “Why do you know what used diapers smell like?”

Before Cog could come up with a reasonable answer, Night Frost caught me looking their way and asked, “What would you say he smelled like, Sergeant?”

“Probably a towel that was left on the locker room floor for a week, or a day if we’re talking about one of Mountain Stone’s towels. I’d say he was sweating because he was intimidated by all of you.”

The group laughed in response and Mountain shook a playfully angry hoof in my direction. It was all in good fun, of course.

“You betcha!” Starry Spur chimed in. “Fierce is our middle name, y’all! Well… maybe our first name. Wherever it sounds the best in the unit name.”

I chuckled at that and went over to stand beside Radiant Orchid. Even at private functions, it wasn’t appropriate for sergeants to mingle too much with regular guards. We stood in silence and watched the crowd of younger ponies.

Orchid looked over at me and asked, “Care to dance, Sergeant?”

My brow lifted and I looked back at her. “I’m no homewrecker nor am I a foolish pony. Your husband is bigger than me.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “My husband is barely bigger than my oldest foal and you know it. Now come on, stud. Humor an older mare with a dance.”

With a chuckle, I offered my forehoof. “Humoring an older mare got me in trouble before, but you look safe enough. Come along, then. Let’s show these young ponies that I have four left hooves.”

Radiant Orchid took my hoof and we moved out onto the dance floor. She took pity on me and we danced slowly to the rhythm of the phonograph.

Orchid lightly teased, “You realize you’re barely older than any of those ‘young ponies’ you’re talking about. Actually, some are older than you.”

I thought it over a moment and then shrugged. “Doesn’t always feel that way, does it?”

She shook her head as we went into a short turn. “No, being in charge has a way of aging you. You’ve been through an awful lot in a very short period of time. I worry sometimes that you’ve taken on too much… but then I realize I’m being silly.”

“Is that so?”

“It is so. You did an excellent job today,” she said quietly.

“It was a team effort.”

“Every good team needs a good coach and you make a very good coach, Silent Knight. I’ve been a guard at least one day longer than you and I know a leader when I see one,” she replied as we took a slow turn.

“That means a lot coming from you Orchid and I appreciate it. I can’t help but wonder what you’re up to, though.”

She smiled. “Iridescence told me that you once talked about trying to become an officer. Maybe you should consider that. Celestia knows you would do better than the last one, not that anypony would have much trouble with that achievement.”

The song drew to a close and I nodded. “Maybe I should… to be honest, I have considered it but I couldn’t see leaving Princess Luna. It must have been hard for you to leave Princess Celestia and you only had to walk down the corridor. For all I know, I’d end up in Cloudsdale.”

We walked together over to the punch bowl in silence. Finally, she spoke up again. “I see your point and yes, it was very hard… I’d have never considered it if it wasn’t for Shining Armor. He said this unit needed somepony like me. Perhaps in time you’ll find a different unit that needs somepony like you. Just don’t keep blinders on, okay?”

“I hear you loud and clear,” I said. “You know, you make an excellent advisor. Are you sure you’re not wasted on this royal guard stuff?”

Orchid shrugged. “As I said, Shining Armor said you’d need somepony like me… for your unit.”

The way she phrased it gave me pause. The captain always seemed to have an angle. Not in the bad sense, of course. Everything he did helped improve my abilities as a royal guard. This particular revelation would probably require a little thinking over.

After another moment, I nodded. “I bet he did…”

Author's Note:


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2nd Edition Version

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