• Published 17th Nov 2014
  • 22,776 Views, 2,838 Comments

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.

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
43. Into The Gryphon's Roost - Part 3

“Sergeant! Sergeant!” Miley Hooves called as she and Harvest Moon galloped into the sitting room we had been using as an office. They were out of breath and looked worried.

Standing immediately, I asked, “What‘s wrong?”

Miley pointed a hoof out the door. “One of the gryphons was asking us about our rotations and schedules. He said he wanted to compare notes.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back down. This was concerning, but with the way they’d came in I had been ready for a fight. “What did you tell him?”

Harvest Moon beamed with pride. “We told him our schedule back at the palace. That wasn’t a lie! He didn’t specify which schedule he wanted.”

“Do you happen to know which gryphon it was?” I asked.

Miley shook her head. “No, Sergeant. They all look the same to me.”

I raised my brow at her. “Miley, that isn’t nice… But I get what you mean.”

“I did look at his armor and uniform, though. It was the same as that mean gryphon, Captain Alastair,” Miley continued. “That is important, right?”

I stood once more and said, “Very. Good work, you two. I want you to go speak to everypony. Pass the reminder that they should not discuss our procedures with anyone. Just have them direct any questions to the lieutenant or I.”

“You’ve got it, boss!” Miley said before she and Harvest trotted out to get to the task at hoof.

Something was happening in the background and I wasn’t exactly sure what. It could be a threat or it could just be Alastair playing games to annoy us. In either case, I needed to bring the lieutenant up to speed.

“It is my distinct pleasure to sign this agreement between Nordanver and Equestria,” King Ranald said loudly to the assembly as he signed the oversized parchment on the table in front of him. He sealed it before adding, “May our great kingdoms prosper through these mutual agreements.”

Princess Luna levitated her quill to the page while speaking loudly, “It is my privilege and honor to enter into this arrangement. Thou hast been a most generous host and I know we shall reach a new level of cooperation with our most valued partners.” She then sealed the document as well.

The chamber burst into hoof stomps and claw clapping as the agreement was finalized. This had been a major accomplishment for Princess Luna and I knew she would be very proud. I was glad to be going home soon, but the exemplar’s words still haunted me. The deal was done, so what was left to do here?

A reception was to follow the formal agreement and I motioned a few of my ponies off early to ensure the hall was secure. I lingered with the lieutenant so that we could both keep an eye on Princess Luna.

King Ranald and Princess Luna clasped claw to hoof and lifted both over their heads. The room was once again filled with cheers of approval.

“Thank you, my friends,“ King Ranald said. “Please, join us for some refreshments and entertainment in the banquet hall.” He motioned to the door and everyone started in that direction.

The procession was quite informal and as the sea of bodies moved before me, I realized I would not be able to easily reach Princess Luna should she need me.

I started to move through the crowd. “Excuse me… Please. Excuse me. Official business,” I said, bumping into gryphons on the way as I crossed the stream.

Looking out from the crowd, I could see that Captain Alastair and two additional gryphon soldiers were on the dais with the king and princess. Thunder Tumble was there by himself.

“Pardon!” I grunted as I bumped into another gryphon. This was it. I had to get there. My wings twitched as I prepared to leap into the air.

The lieutenant saw what I saw and was caught pushing against the stream trying to return to the dais. We had miscalculated. We sent too many ponies to the reception.

It was now or never. I leaped as high as I could, wings snapping out to both sides. They clipped several gryphons and I said firmly, “Excuse me.” I also drew the attention of everyone that had not yet left.

Captain Alastair was closing in on the princess. Thunder Tumble turned and advanced as well. No one was to get within a meter of Princess Luna. Especially not a gryphon soldier. There were gasps in the hall as I landed heavily on the dais right in front of the princess, wings spread wide to shield her.

“What is this all about?” King Ranald demanded.

Quickly, I turned the motion into a formal bow, watching the smug look on Captain Alastair’s face.

So that was his game all along. It wasn’t to hurt the princess. It was to make us look foolish and we… no, I had fallen right into his trap like the greenest guard. All of the probing and games were just to make me paranoid. Diplomacy would be wrecked over a rash action by a stupid sergeant.

With as much decorum as I could muster, I started, “Apologies, kind king. I—”

Princess Luna’s hoof came over my wing and she tugged me closer to her. “Indeed; apologies, my friend. Sergeant Knight reacted on instinct to the crowd. He would never intentionally try to offend thee. He hath merely been conditioned to act as such.”

I fell silent and let my wings slowly fold.

“Of course,” King Ranald said, his expression shifting to a smile. “They train constantly and never get to use those skills. When a situation even mildly resembling what they’ve trained for occurs, they’re probably ready to leap into action.”

Princess Luna’s grip on me loosened and she softly laughed. “Literally. Come, Sergeant, perhaps thou wouldst feel better standing close to me during the reception?”

Knowing my place, I quickly nodded. “Yes, Princess.”

If I had anything to say about King Ranald, outside of his positive personality, it would be that he was a generous monarch. The reception was, without a doubt, fit for a king and princess. His palace staff had gone all out to ensure there was a huge selection of food for both ponies and gryphons.

Then there was also the dessert table. The centerpiece was a giant cake that was decorated with gryphon heraldry on one half and pony heraldry on the other. I guess it symbolized unity through treats. It was surrounded by just about every other dessert I could have imagined. It was the sort of thing that, if missed, would haunt the cake bandit for years.

To keep the mood light and fun, King Ranald had brought in the Royal Army Festival Orchestra. They played all sorts of upbeat dance numbers on their classical instruments. It was certainly something. I had a twinge of regret that I had made a fool of myself and ended up at Princess Luna’s side. It certainly would have been nice to sample all the delights and maybe even dance a little.

The celebration went on for a couple hours before everyone, gryphon and pony alike, started to wind down. Some went home while others mingled and shared quiet conversations. Princess Luna had met and greeted half the nobles in the kingdom by that point and was looking tired. A smile crossed her face, however, when she spotted her friend.

Duke Cassius approached and bowed. “Princess Luna! I am delighted that my brother was so agreeable to you. I think this trip has been a rousing success! Though I am concerned that it has been nothing but work for you. It was my hope that you’d be able to see some of our beautiful country. Captain Alastair suggested that I invite you to my manor so that you may relax and meet my family. Would you do me that honor?”

Princess Luna smiled. “I most certainly will. My schedule is flexible and it would be wonderful to see more of Nordanver. Accept my deepest gratitude for the invitation. I am eager to spend some time with thy family. We’ve often spoken of thy wife and I am excited to meet her.”

“Thank you, Princess. I shall go and make the preparations immediately. My manor is a mere day’s ride away by train. Would tomorrow be too soon to leave?”

The princess looked to me and I spoke with a confidence I didn’t feel, “We can be prepared to move you, Princess. That won’t be a problem at all.”

Ferrel’s words ran through my head. How had she known? It seemed that we were going to stay in the gryphon kingdom a while longer.

Gryphons and ponies seemed to have very different ideas about train design. It only made sense. All gryphons can fly, so there was not a pressing need for them to have passenger cars. Their trains were generally used for hauling heavy materials.

Duke Cassius, however, had a lot of sway and did find a couple of cars for the princess to use. They were far older than the ones we use in Equestria but the gryphons had done a good job cleaning them up. Despite that, age is hard to hide.

The pair of cars were pretty noisy on the whole since they were crammed full of ponies. The gryphons had built them three to four times longer than ours. This was likely to ensure they were the same size as the flat beds that hauled goods. We did the best we could to give the princess personal space but that proved to be a difficult task. To achieve some level of privacy, we hung a curtain and tried not to sit too close to it. It was the best we could do.

Our trip, on the whole, was uneventful. It took from sunrise to sunset for us to reach the station nearest the Duke’s manor. His lands were vastly different from the seaside venue of the capital. It was rougher territory, filled with lush trees and rolling, rocky hills. There were plenty of places for ambushes and the whole area filled me with dread. Honestly, it reminded me of Princess Luna’s gaming table.

A single cobblestone road wound through the hills towards the manor, which had been built on top of a plateau and offered visibility for miles. We tried to keep moving as fast as possible so that the princess would be exposed for the shortest amount of time.

Duke Cassius had sent a whole company of his soldiers to help secure the way. They were polite, friendly, and vastly different than the ones under Captain Alastair’s command. They were sensitive to our security concerns and were under strict orders from the Duke to handle us with care. To my pleasure, King Ranald had also sent along Alton as our guide.

We arrived just before dinner time. Duke Cassius’s manor was not as big as I had expected; it was certainly larger than the one Iridescence had lived in but for someone of his station it was quite humble. The walls were made of stone that seemed to come from the local landscape and each window was set with stained glass.

In contrast to the rough country surrounding the manor, the Duke had gone to great lengths to replicate his brother’s garden. Flowers of every sort were in bloom and the trees were laden with fruit. The whole area seemed like a paradise in an otherwise harsh land. It was an impressive feat of gardening even if it was far smaller by comparison.

The manor was situated in the center of a village that had clearly grown up to some planned design. The buildings were carefully placed so as not to disrupt the green spaces and all of the roads were laid out with care.

Upon our arrival, we were informed that due to the small size of the manor and the number of ponies we had brought, many of our guards would need to stay in the village.

I cleared my throat and announced to the assembly of ponies, “The lieutenant, Exemplar Ferrel, Sergeant Iridescence, Miley Hooves, Harvest Moon, Thunder Tumble, Lightning Flash, and I will be staying with the princess. Sergeant Orchid will settle the rest of you in town or with the ponies from the local consulate. Be on your best behavior and be ready to come if we call you. In the meantime, Sergeant Orchid will be setting up rotating leave so that you can explore a bit and relax. You’ve earned it.”

It was plain enough to see that the other guards were nervous, but there was not a lot that could be done about it. Duke Cassius was not the sort of gryphon that would allow any harm to come to a guest in his household. With any luck, we’d spend a week or so relaxing while the princess enjoyed a short vacation. Then we could finally go home.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was feeling homesick. Returning to Canterlot meant not being stressed and I could stop looking over my shoulder. It also meant I could see Winterspear and Runic again. Then there was Velvet as well as Crystal Wishes, with her always perfectly kept blonde and strawberry mane… and the captain. I missed the captain, too.

“Silent Knight?”

“Hmm?” I replied, still in thought before blinking. “Apologies. Yes, Princess?”

Princess Luna peered at me. “Do these sleeping arrangements work for thou?”

I hadn’t been paying attention while I was off thinking about home. I’m certain they were fine but I hedged, “If you are comfortable with them, Princess, then I am as well.”

She softly clapped her hooves together. “Huzzah! We shall have a slumber party!”

“Evidently we shall, Princess.” I wondered exactly what I just had agreed to.

For reasons unknown, Princess Luna had selected me as the pony she wanted to share a chamber with. It made far more sense for her to pick Iridescence or Exemplar Ferrel, but she decided I was the best pony for the job.

Each night before bed she would pick an activity from a seemingly random list we worked through because, to quote her: “That is what one does at a slumber party.”

I’m not positive but I think it may have been some form of punishment for acting out at the ceremony. Either that or she liked the idea of teasing me. No pony will ever know for certain and, least of all, me.

On the third night I was lying in bed waiting for the princess to brush my mane. It was, evidently, now part of our routine. Or so I was told.

“If you’ll just sign these last two, Princess,” the unicorn from the local consulate said. I hadn’t caught her name. She was just one of the unicorns that were helping out on the diplomatic side. They had their own security. I was also too busy thinking about what tonight’s torture would be.

The night prior we had given each other hooficures, though I use that term loosely. She had to enlist professionals to undo what I had done to her hooves the next day. The evening before that disaster, however, had been truth or dare. I was not particularly thrilled by any of the activities but by that point I was sure that tormenting me made Princess Luna happy, so I went along with it.

“The duke is a very agreeable sort of fellow. You and he seem to be in sync on a lot of issues. Are you enjoying your time here?” I asked.

Princess Luna finished brushing and started to style my mane. It was not a style for a stallion. “I am. This hath been most relaxing and his family is very kind. He is far more practical than most nobles and knoweth when to just be a regular gryphon. It is refreshing to have someone who understandeth that one cannot be a princess every hour of every day.”

“Does it wear you out? Being a princess, that is, Princess.”

The princess poked her head over mine from behind and replied, “Thou really canst call me Luna, Silent Knight. There are no other guards around and I am doing thy mane… but yes. Being a princess every day weareth me out, much as I imagine thou strictly being a guard every day weareth on thou. Speaking of activities other than being a guard, has thy heart mended enough to look again?”

This was getting quite personal but in that moment as I looked into her eyes I saw Luna… not the princess. Alicorns are ponies, too. Just really powerful, scary, deity ponies.

With a weak smile, I said, “It has for the most part. I had never had a special somepony before. To be honest, I’d never looked past my ambition to be a royal guard.”

I shrugged and went on, “Iridescence showed me a whole side of life that my father had never prepared me for. All he wanted was a perfect guard for a son. I’m not certain how to find a special somepony, to be honest. Iridescence was just right within hoof’s reach… convenience, I guess… I know that isn’t typical.”

An additional set of combs floated by me as Princess Luna continued to work on my mane. For once I was thrilled to have a helmet. She was quiet for a while and then finally said, “Thou art correct. That is not typical, but when hast thou been afraid of a challenge? If thou findest a mare that thou likest, then why not try and woo her?”

“I’m not sure how,” I said, frowning. “Besides, what if she doesn’t feel the same way about me that I feel about her? What if she is already with another pony? Being crushed once was bad enough. Learning experience or otherwise. Why do ponies willfully go out looking for that?”

Princess Luna set all of the combs down on the bed and sat up. “No pony goes looking for that! Sometimes things just do not work out. Thou canst not be afraid to try due to a little pain. Now, I shall help thou buildest confidence! Woo me.”

Terror filled my body and I almost fell off the bed as I scooted back on my flank. I lifted my hooves and exclaimed, “I couldn’t do that, Princess!”

The princess rose and pressed closer. Her forehooves rested on either side of my shoulders and she peered down into my eyes. “And why not? Am I not worthy of wooing? Dost thou not think I am beautiful, Silent Knight?”

None of my military training had prepared me for this moment and I stared up at her in fear. “No, Princess. I mean yes, Princess! You’re beyond beautiful and worthy of wooing but it wouldn’t be appropriate. You’re the pony I protect!”

Princess Luna leaned in even closer and I turned my cheek to her. My eyes closed and she whispered, “Call me Luna.”

I peeked at her with one eye and said, “You’re beautiful, Luna, but it wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Then it happened. Princess Luna nosed my cheek before sitting back to laugh. “Silent Knight, I meant for thou to practice wooing with me. Not actually! Art thou that afraid of mares?”

My poor pony heart was racing and I realized I had my hooves in front of my face as a shield. Slowly, I shifted right-side up and said, “You’re a diabolical prankster… and yes. Mares terrify me.”

“Do I terrify thou?” she asked.

“Most certainly,” I said, in all honesty.

Princess Luna offered her forelegs spread wide. “Wouldst thou like a hug?”

I softly muttered under my breath, “Yes, please.”

We hugged and she said, “When we get home, we shall work on this fear of mares.”

“Okay, Luna.”

Silently, I followed behind Princess Luna and Duke Cassius as they wandered through his village. In the time that I had spent in his company, the duke almost never went anywhere with a full guard. I largely suspected that the one guard he did have with him was out of courtesy to the princess so it did not look like we were untrusted. For that task he had selected Alton, possibly because he was familiar to us.

Over the visit, I had become even more accustomed to walking next to Alton. We did not converse on duty but there was a mutual respect and understanding. We walked in step, kept perfectly in line, and made it look natural.

In some respects, we had become partners like Iridescence and I had once been. Princess Luna and Duke Cassius were setting a good example and we wanted our respective units to see that same common understanding in us.

On the eve before the end of our trip, we were just finishing up our last shared shift. I was certainly going to miss Alton but I was also ready to get back to Canterlot.

“Oy, Sahgeant. It has been a real pleasah workin’ with ew,” Alton said.

I smiled and nodded. “Indeed, Alton. You’re a proper soldier. We certainly work well together.”

“That we do. Since we’ll be leavin’ tomorrah, would ew care to join me for a goodbye drink?”

Inside, I grimaced a bit. Gryphon cider was horrible but Alton was a good sort of fellow and we had worked together almost the whole trip. “Of course, lead the way,” I replied and he did so.

There was one small inn right near the manor. It reminded me a lot of the Spearhead Tavern back home and once we were inside, I knew why. It was where all the soldiers hung out.

Alton walked in with me in tow. All of the gryphons paused for a moment and looked our way.

“Evenin’ chaps! We’re ‘ere for ah drink,” he called and the gryphons raised their mugs in our direction before going about their business. As I had said, these were very different gryphons from the ones Captain Alastair associated with.

We sat at the bar and I ordered a cider. To my surprise, it was not awful. Alton seemed to notice the look on my face and said, “Oy, that is made from the Duke’s fruit trees. Far better than the swill back west, eh?”

I lifted the mug and said, “Here’s to that, to a successful visit, and to good soldiering.”

Alton lifted his as well and we bumped mugs. “Ain’t that right. Politics aside, at the end of the day, soldiers are soldiers, aren’t we?”

We certainly were. Maybe all gryphons weren’t so bad. “You’re right about that. You and I would make good partners. Perhaps you can travel with the Duke on his next visit. At this point I’m sure there will be one.”

“Ah’d like that,” he said. “I’ve always wanted tew visit Equestriah. It seems like ah nice, quiet place.”

I chuckled. “We try to keep it that way, when we can, at least. If you ever decide to move there I’m sure I could find you a job.”

Alton nodded and raised his mug once more. “I’ll keep that in mind. Now tew peace, and keepin’ it that way.”

My mug went up again. “To peace.”

I finished packing the last of the few belongings I had brought with me to Nordanver. Princess Luna was still working through her luggage but she seemed to have a good handle on it. Levitation magic certainly makes that easy.

She seemed distracted enough for me to sneak one more letter in. Resting against the wall, I took my pencil up again and started another letter.

Dear Crystal Wishes

The time is finally here for us to say goodbye to our gracious hosts and return home. I imagine that we’ll be hot on the tail of this letter. Fortunately for it, mail moves faster than royal entourages.

I’ve made a fool of myself here. I let my distrust of gryphons blind me and I acted rashly. I realize now that I need to reevaluate irrational judgements. Thankfully that did not jeopardize the lasting good that has been done by ponies with cooler heads.

Our mission has been a great success and I think much has been done to bring pony and gryphon together. Please know that I look forward to seeing you and the crowd at your earliest convenience.

If I’ve done my math right this letter should arrive precisely on your birthday. Velvet Step told me the date before I left and urged me to hurry home for what she had planned. Please accept my deepest apologies for not being there myself but know that you’ll be in my thoughts.

Happy Birthday, Crystal Wishes. I know you’ll have a wonderful party.

Your friend

Silent Knight

I left Princess Luna alone and did the usual letter process. There would be one more carrier going out either late tonight or early in the morning. When I reached the mailbox outside of the consulate, I dropped my envelope in. It had been a good trip. Even I was a little sad to leave. Only a little, though.

Author's Note:

Slumber party... of doom!

Note: Three of Hearts officially starts during this chapter and, more or less, runs concurrently from here until its conclusion.

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

PreviousChapters Next