• 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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37. Agent of the Night

“How has nopony ever noticed this?”

The stone circle was not exactly subtle. By my estimate it was ten meters across with ancient runes ringing the outside perimeter. They were unintelligible to me. The center itself contained a smaller circle with a crescent moon emblazoned on it. All in all, not something I’d think an explorer would miss.

Yet the stone itself looked very similar to the mountain face in color and I had known what I was looking for, unlike a wandering pony. It could have also been the fact that all of the surrounding plants were in bloom, keeping it obscured from casual sight. During late spring most of Equestria is particularly lush.

It was more likely the fact that it seemed impossibly heavy and was perfectly flush into the cliff had run explorers off. My wings flapped and lifted me up to the small circle so that I could place the pendant against it.

There was a rumbling from behind the stone. Dust and small rocks began to fall from above so I thought it prudent to back off. Slowly, the circle drew inward about half a meter before rolling off to the side and revealing a gaping entryway. There was no light on the other side, just a long dark tunnel. It took a moment to push the memories of my last trip into the darkness away before I trotted through the opening.

This particular gloomy interior was different than the first. Instead of an endless dark tunnel leading down into a mountain, this one led up. It didn’t take long before shadows engulfed the way in front of and behind me. Even my magically enhanced vision couldn’t see around the spiraling walls.

Darkness is unsettling, even for an adult. On top of that, enclosed spaces aren’t my favorite. They remove the advantage of my wings. This cavern was not as large as the first which limited me even more. That wasn’t going to stop me, however. In fact, nothing could. Princess Luna felt this was important so I was going to see it to the end regardless of how unsettling the location was.

My pace was slow. I hadn’t found any ponies in the first village, but I wasn’t going to assume anything. It was unlikely I’d find anypony, but if I did, they might not be expecting visitors. Slow and steady movements allowed me time to listen. Unfortunately, there was nothing to hear other than my own breath and hoofsteps.

A light breeze brushed across my bare ears, teasing the little tufts at the top. That froze me in place. There had been no movement of air before. Listening carefully yielded no results, nor did looking around. The breeze had stopped so I pressed on.

In the dark, I crossed some form of threshold and instinctively felt the cavern expand before me. It wasn’t nearly as big as the one I had delved into prior, but it was large even for the interior of a mountain. Ahead, I could make out a small group of buildings and started toward them.

Drawing close, it became clear that the architecture was identical to what I’d seen before. Stone buildings, still in decent repair, but with the wooden parts starting to show their age. The doors were little more than sagging curtains that would have hardly kept anypony out.

Carefully, I crept around the nearest block of homes. Poking around inside of the first few proved to be fruitless. Everything small had been removed. There was still some furniture intact but time was taking its toll. It was too similar to be a coincidence. These ponies had simply left as well.

As I stepped back out onto the street, the hair of my coat stood on end. There was something else in the darkness. Perhaps even somepony else. It wasn’t so much that I saw or heard anything. It was just a feeling. Keeping my flank to a wall, I slowly made my way towards the village center.

To my relief, there was no ominous keep. Thank Luna for that. Instead, had it not been buried deep inside a mountain, I would say that it was a quaint plaza. In the center was a large marble fountain that featured a likeness of the alicorn now known to me as Nocturna. Numerous stone benches were scattered around the area, offering a quiet place to rest and watch whatever water that might have flowed in ages past.

Once more I felt the sudden movement of air through my coat and I dropped into my combat stance. It was the feeling you get when another pegasus swoops near: brief but fleeting. My eyes darted about in the darkness but there was nothing to be found. I was exposed in the plaza and an easy target for anything lurking in the darkness.

It was time for action. I wouldn’t be caught unaware by ancient magic a second time. With a heavy flap of my wings, I took to the air and set course for a three-story building that was nearby. My sudden motion seemed to yield results. The air moved once again, but this time clumsily. Whatever was in the gloom had been surprised by my movement. That was to my advantage.

Just below me I heard a soft thump—the sound of something falling to the rock floor and echoing off of the empty buildings. In an instant, I jerked left and swooped back down. It might have been a trick from a would-be attacker, but it may have also been a clue. The risk seemed worth the potential reward.

My hooves touched down near where I’d heard the sound originate. Quickly, I scanned the area and saw that on the ground, near one of the benches, was a small book. Where it had landed, the dust had been disturbed and there wasn’t a hint of any on the cover. I was certain somepony was here and that they had dropped it.

“Hello?” I called.


“I am not here to fight. I’m looking for ponies.”

Even more silence once the echo of my voice ceased. Carefully, I scooped up the book and pocketed it. Princess Luna would know what to do with it. Keeping my eyes turned skywards, I beat a hasty retreat to the nearest building side.

There was no movement of air for the entire journey. Somepony had been here with me for certain, but it seemed that they weren't looking for a fight. Either that or they'd missed their opportunity. In any event, they really seemed like they didn’t want to be found. So much so that in their haste they had left me a book. It was time to see if there was anything else worth finding.

As carefully as I could, I investigated several of the larger buildings near the plaza. They were all in the same shape as the rest. Emptied, abandoned, and slowly decaying. There had been no further sign of my companion in the dark. Were it not for the book, I may have questioned whether or not I was imagining her or him.

I settled my rump into the corner of one small building to limit viable avenues of attack. I’d also effectively trapped myself, but it was a risk worth taking. It was time to take a look at my prize. The book itself was relatively soft and bound in what I’d guess was silk. The cover was a rich purple but otherwise blank.

With careful hooves, I flipped the cover open to investigate. It struck me immediately that the pages were hoofwritten, not pressed. The characters were foreign, however, like ancient unicorn or some other old script. They certainly didn’t make any sense to me so back into the saddlebag the book went.

Drawing upon as much of Iridescence’s stealth as I could, my search took me through a few more of the nearby buildings. Unfortunately, that proved fruitless which meant it was time to leave and report back to the princess. Double-quick trotting seemed to make the most sense to clear the cavern and get back into the relative cover of the tunnel out.

It didn’t take near as long to exit as it had to enter simply because I wasn’t being as cautious. Getting out was the priority and facing would-be ambushers outside the mountain seemed preferable. The scent of fresh air ahead tickled my nostrils and I broke into a gallop. Nothing got in my way as I sailed across the threshold and back out into the night.

Behind me, the mountain rumbled once more and the large round door rolled into place to seal the village away. The fact that it happened without my interaction was odd, but I never really understood magic. With a mighty shake, I knocked all of the dust off my coat before leaping into the air and heading back to Canterlot.

"Thou art certain that somepony were there?"

“Yes, Princess. There is no way that book had been there as long as the village. I believe it was dropped by mistake. Possibly out of surprise.”

“And the village was as the other? Abandoned?”

“Identical, minus the keep with the frightening statues. In its absence was a wonderful plaza with a fountain. It was much preferable.”

Princess Luna softly chuckled. “The statues of which thou speakest are called gargoyles. In ancient times, it was believed they could ward off evil spirits.”

That gave me cause to snort. “Evil spirits, ponies, foals, and anything else with half a brain.”

Princess Luna gave me a curious look and then tapped the book. “I must review this. There is a benefit to having been trapped in the moon so long. These symbols still yet hold meaning for me. My deepest thanks for another mission successfully completed. My heart sings at the thought that thou mayest have found ponies.”

“I know it isn’t my place to ask, Princess, but who are these ponies I’m looking for? Isn’t it likely that they’d just have moved out into the other cities of Equestria?”

She shook her head. “No, they were unlike most ponies and preferred their seclusion. I fear for what may have become of them without a voice.”

“A voice?”

“In time, Silent Knight… in time. Now, it is far too late for thee to be up. Go and sleep. We will speak of this again.”

More secrets. I bowed and replied, “Yes, Princess. Until then.”

“Silent Knight?”

Immediately, I rose to attention. It was Shining Armor in my doorway. “Sir!”

He waved a hoof. “At ease.” The captain came in and shut the door. “I understand that sometime back you had a little intruder drill with your staff.”

I didn’t like where this was going. “Impromptu, sir.”

Slowly, he nodded and then pressed on, “And last night you flew off into the west. Mostly out of uniform.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is there something I should know about?” he asked.

Lying to the captain was the lowest thing I could imagine doing, even for Princess Luna. Thus far, my missions had occurred during my off-duty time. If I hadn’t had a tussle with my own guards it wouldn’t be anypony’s business. “It is not Guard related, sir.”

He snorted. “I gathered that by the fact that you went without a helmet. Still, the question stands: should I know about it?”

Honor my promise to the princess or honor my oath. They weren’t necessarily at odds. “On the request of the princess, I did an errand. As a friend, not as a royal guard. I chose to wear my armor but I did not act in an official capacity in front of any ponies.”

The captain’s brow went up. “I see. Can you elaborate on the request?”

“I apologize, sir, but I cannot. My word was given and it was of a personal nature to the princess. Please don’t take that as an unwillingness to speak to you or any suggestion of duplicity. You are, of course, at liberty to ask her about the errand in question.”

His expression softened some. “I know how serious you take your oaths, Sergeant. Were I to ask her, would I get an answer?”

“Hard to say for certain, sir, but I imagine no. As stated, it is of a personal nature and, to the best of my knowledge, I am the only pony to which she has spoken about this.”

He nodded. “Should it become a Royal Guard or security issue, what are your intentions?”

“Should that happen, I will refuse any further errands without proper authorization from command. If I believe it necessary, I'll report on it immediately. I give you my word on that.”

“There are few stronger bonds than that. I don’t like the secrecy but the princess is entitled to her privacy. Carry on, Sergeant.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Oh, one more thing. Cadence said you didn’t have any plans for Hearts and Hooves Day.”

“No plans of the nature she suggested, sir, no. She did try to fix me up with Princess Luna. In fact, she did get her wish there, since I’ll be covering for Iridescence and Miley Hooves.”

The captain chuckled. “My wife has her eccentricities. Still, I’m sorry to hear that. You know, my little sister is single. I’m pretty protective of her but you’re the honest sort of stallion I hope she likes. You’re actually a lot alike. If you want, I could send her a letter. Perhaps set up a date?”

Being married to a unicorn that specialized in love magic must have been rubbing off on the captain. “Sir, with all due respect, dating your little sister terrifies me more than facing off against a company of gryphons.”

Shining Armor laughed and waved a hoof. “I just thought I’d offer. She could use a grounded stallion like you and the word around the palace is that you only have eyes for unicorns.”

My entire face felt hot and flush under my helmet. There was a good chance my white coat was now red. This was not a conversation I had ever wanted to have. “Captain, I am at a loss for words. Although that gryphon company sounds appealing at this particular moment.”

The older stallion laughed all the more. “At ease, Sergeant. I’m just giving you a hard time. Don’t forget about being well rounded. Have a good day.” He pulled the door open and headed out.

Doomed. The captain was trying to fix me up now? And since when did the palace have words to get around?

Author's Note:

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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