• 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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44. Into The Gryphon's Roost - Part 4

From the desk of Sergeant Iridescence
Acting Unit Sergeant
Princess Luna’s House Guard

On the morning of our last day in the Northern Kingdom, we bid warm goodbyes to our hosts. Duke Cassius had acted so wonderfully toward Luna it was clear to us all that he was sad to see her go. Both he and his wife had opened their home and treated us like family. It had been a wonderful trip.

“I am so sad that you are leaving already, Luna,” Duke Cassius’s wife had said, holding the Princess’s hoof in her claws. “I promise to write every week so that we can discuss gardening.”

Luna was all smiles. “Please do and I shall do the same!”

Duke Cassius arrived shortly after with several gift-wrapped boxes. “Princess, I have a few things for you and your sister. Please enjoy them when you’re home safely.” He set them aside for one of our ponies to carry before taking Luna’s other hoof.

“We shall count down the days before we can return to Equestria to visit and see all the good our agreement has done. You are always welcome in my household.”

I stood there quietly listening. The negotiations had gone really well and it was nice to see the Princess making friends. They did seem to be laying it on a little thick, but I knew the Duke and his wife were genuine and it was just their way.

Silent Knight was up early to arrange the march to the train station. He had been in a good mood since the evening before and looked to be enjoying the coordination with the gryphon soldiers. It was pretty odd to see given his general dislike of their kind. He had merely said to me, “Soldiers are soldiers.” I guess the Duke’s good mood was infectious and that certainly wasn’t a bad thing! Celestia knows he needed to lighten up a little bit.

Miley, Harvest, Thunder, Lightning, and the others were easy enough to get moving. They were clearly ready to go home. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but to my surprise I was missing Winterspear more than I thought I would. We’d not been together very long but it had just clicked. She had been on my mind the whole trip and, to be honest, I was a little distracted by thinking about getting back to her.

“All right, ponies, let’s do this by the numbers,” Lieutenant Rook called as he took the lead of the column. Duke Cassius had assigned a gryphon unit to us again and I noticed Silent Knight fell into step with the one named Alton. They actually seemed like pals.

We moved out with a great deal of fanfare. The Duke and his wife looked sincerely sad. They walked halfway down the hill with us and had even sent a band to play us off. It was actually pretty sweet.

I could also tell that Luna wasn’t quite ready to go home. She had confided in me that the time off had done her spirits a lot of good and she was hoping to stay a little longer before returning to the normal routine back at the palace.

“Keep together,” Silent Knight called. “We may be going home but let’s not be sloppy about it.”

My squad wasn’t quite in formation so I gently pushed my ponies back into line. It was a bit nitpicky, but Silent Knight was the boss and disobeying him in front of everypony would be foolish and rude. We were having enough trouble in our private life. I didn’t want to get on the wrong side of him at work, too.

He’d been frightening when he caught me with Winterspear. There was violence in his eyes and he’d actually threatened me. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t blame him for that. What frightened me was the conviction. His threat was more of a fact. Thankfully, we seemed to be on the mend, but I certainly wasn’t going to push it.

Just in front of me, the weird unicorn temple guard looked up and said, “I think the rain will begin soon…” but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. What in Equestria did that mean?

The tip of her horn illuminated and I could feel her drawing in a great deal of energy.

She had gotten to Silent Knight a few times during the trip and I wasn’t going to let her get into my head, too. I was just ready to have her out of my mane so I turned my attention away from her. Silent Knight seemed to react, however.

A chill went down my spine shortly after. I saw Silent Knight and the gryphon Alton discussing something quietly and the lieutenant dropping back to listen in. They were looking on either side of the road where we were passing between two rises. The discussion ended and Alton nodded. He leaped into the sky and as soon as he was airborne he screeched a warning and pointed to the north.

“Ambush!” Silent Knight yelled right before the shooting started.

From both sides of the road, crossbow bolts rained down on us. There were sudden cries of pain from ponies and gryphons alike. I watched in horror as Alton dropped from the sky like a rock, clearly hit. Lieutenant Rook gasped loudly, stumbled forward, and then fell.

And I just stood there.

“Shields, now!” Silent Knight commanded.

The temple guard’s horns were already erupting into light and domes appeared over us. They sent the bolts skittering but a lot of damage had already been done. Ponies were down and bleeding.

What was I doing?

Instincts finally kicked in. “Gather the wounded!” I shouted.

Miley Hooves was already helping Thunder Tumble up. He had been hit in the side and was, unfortunately, not the only one. Risky Storm had so many bolts sticking out of him… he wasn’t moving, either.

It was best to focus on the ponies nearest to me.

Exemplar Ferrel was walking about calmly in the chaos. Her horn was haloed in bright silver, holding up a dome wider than all of the others. Her expression was blank as if she were wandering about on a sunny day, but she was carefully helping ponies up and hoisted them off on other unwounded guards.

My attention was quickly drawn to Silent Knight as he worked the Lieutenant onto his back. I hurried over and gave him a hoof. Russet Rook groaned out the words, “Leave me. Get Princess Luna out of here.”

“No heroes today, Sir,” Silent Knight replied as he stopped to check Alton where he laid on the ground. A frown crossed his face and he gently set a hoof on the gryphon’s shoulder before looking up and yelling, “Focus, everypony! This is the real thing but we’ve trained for it. We need to get to the station. Iridescence, stay next to Princess Luna and shield her. Come on, ponies, help the wounded, we’re moving out now!”

The winds of magic brushed by my horn and I focused on them. Slowly, the shield expanded out and grew. I wrapped Luna in it and moved close to her side. That was my task, and I had to focus on it.

A scowl had darkened the Princess’s expression and it quickly turned to anger as she took stock of what was happening. I was worried about shock. Ponies, especially princesses that were locked alone in a moon for a thousand years, simply aren’t used to being dropped into a battle. The Princess quickly found herself, however, and moved with us. Her horn lit and readied what I could only assume would be lethal magic.

We started advancing again while the shields were doing their job of keeping the bolts away. Then the shooting suddenly stopped, I presume because the gryphons had figured it out. Five score or more leaped from their hiding places to land within our midsts and attack at close quarters.

The shields had not kept them out. It was most likely because the spell was designed to deflect fast moving objects, not present a wall.

Silent Knight hurried over and pushed the Lieutenant off onto my back. “Don’t drop him and don’t stop no matter what,” he commanded as he turned toward the gryphons and defended my rear.

Lieutenant Rook was barely conscious. He had been hit three times: the leg, the rear flank, and the side. I noticed Silent Knight had been hit, too, but it looked like his armor had spared him.

“Keep moving,” he ordered loudly over his shoulder.

I heard Lavender scream in pain but looking back wouldn’t help. Silent Knight said move so we moved forward. To be honest, I didn’t want to look back. I’d been in my share of fights. I’d even managed to make it through the changelings. This was nothing like that, though. This was different.

Luna actually growled and took aim with her horn. The gryphons that had landed in front us were struck by a devastating blue beam and sent reeling like rag dolls. Our escape route was clear.

Captain Alastair landed off to the right and sneered, “The Princess will fetch a hefty ransom from the Duke. He is so enthralled by you ponies. Unfortunately, the rest of you won’t be necessary. If you surrender, though, I might let you live.”

Silent Knight didn’t hesitate for an instant. He charged and reared up on his hindlegs. I think the gryphon had grossly underestimated what it would feel like to be hit by a stallion wearing hoofguards. He barely tried to block in a sign of foolish bravado. Silent Knight hit him twice and knocked him down.

“Keep moving forward!” he yelled. “Fighting retreat!”

Our ponies and the remaining gryphon guards engaged the would-be raiders while we kept moving the Princess forward. I could see the train station and knew if we could get to the train we might get away.

“Hurry, everypony! We’re almost there,” I called as the melee behind me continued.

Captain Alastair was back up and moving much more carefully as he circled Silent Knight. The two leaped at each other viciously. He and Silent Knight fought at a brutal tempo. There was no love lost between them.

Alastair got a few good licks in but it was a somewhat one-sided fight. Silent Knight, for all his social awkwardness, was a professional warrior. He devoted too much of his life to it and it showed. His hooves found the gryphon numerous times before the pair locked up and went to the ground.

They wrestled and the advantage quickly shifted to the gryphon given his claws and size. I heard a crack and Silent Knight grunted in pain. His right wing hung limp and I turned to go to him but Sergeant Orchid shoved me from behind.

“No,” she commanded firmly enough to keep me moving forward.

“Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving,” I repeated over and over again.

Luna’s horn burst into light and she shot gryphons out of the air that were foolish enough to get in front of us as we neared the station. I was struggling to keep my shield up and around her, but thankfully the temple guards had layered us in protection. The ponies we had advanced ahead of were not as lucky. Crossbow bolts started to fly toward anypony that wasn’t under the cover of a spell.

I stole a quick glance over my shoulder just long enough to see Silent Knight up and moving again. He was shaky and his wing was bent at an angle I knew was unnatural. I didn’t see Alastair anywhere.

The shield had left several more ponies unprotected and there were numerous small combats occurring behind us. Silent Knight was milling around trying to help ponies disengage. He trampled a downed gryphon attacker as he charged forward to knock two others off of Harvest Moon. They got up together and galloped after us with a few ponies in tow. Too few.

The gryphons moved to pursue, including a wobbling, beaten Captain Alastair, who dropped out of the sky.

As we reached the station, I yelled, “Miley, get to the engine and get us moving, now!”

She went without responding and I sent the Princess in with the temple ponies. Sergeant Orchid was helping the wounded on as I went back toward the rest of our unit. I barely felt the weight of the Lieutenant on my back or Exemplar Ferrel step up to my side.

The train started pulling out from the station, car by car. From where I was, it looked like the gryphons would catch the stragglers for sure, at least until Ferrel got to work. Her horn lit once more into brilliant silver and, just like that, every gryphon suddenly fell from the sky as if they were too heavy to keep themselves aloft.

Our ponies also seemed to struggle to move but Silent Knight shouted, “Gravity spell. Don’t give up. Keep going!”

They didn’t need much more encouragement than his words and a few shoves. As the last car was starting to pull out they arrived at the platform. Exemplar Ferrel stepped on, maintaining her spell, and so did the others. Silent Knight was pulling up the rear.

“Come on, Sergeant!” Miley Hooves called from over my shoulder. “I got us going!”

I waited a step longer and got onto the last car with her. Huffing and puffing, Silent Knight leaped off the end of the platform and landed on the back of the train. He was the last pony on. I didn’t care to think about how many others were back on the road. They had fought valiantly, as had our gryphon escorts.

“We made it,” I breathed but he shook his head and pointed. The range of the gravity spell was finite and it seemed the further you were from the caster, the easier it was to move. Some were flying again. Others were loping on all fours and looked determined to get their prize.

“Gravity or not, they’re coming. Move the Princess as far forward as we can! We’ll get rid of some of the weight and speed the train by dropping the extra cars. We don’t need to ride in style. Go!” Silent Knight ordered and we all moved into the door just as the first gryphons started catching onto the rails and pulling themselves up.

Miley, to our surprise, pulled some potions out of her pack and threw them at the back of the car. Where they landed, flame immediately sprung to life. That certainly slowed the gryphons down but they kept piling in. We charged through the overly long rows of seats while the back was fully engulfed. When we reached the doorway between the last and next car, I felt two hooves hit and then shove my rump forward. The force plus the weight of the Lieutenant on my back carried me into the next car. Rook landed past me with a thud and a groan.

As I looked back, I saw Captain Alastair with his claw around Silent Knight’s hindhoof, holding him as he struggled and kicked. Silent had landed between the cars, right by the coupler.

Our eyes met and I shouted, “Don’t!”

He pulled the pin holding the two cars together without hesitation and our half immediately leaped forward as his began to slow. The whole rear of the car was on fire and I saw him kick Alastair right in the beak, knocking him back. The only way out was the door Silent Knight occupied. He stood in it, drew his sword, and spread his unbroken wing to trap the gryphons inside the burning car while we raced down the track, leaving him to face them alone.

My heart sunk and I laid wearily onto the floor, watching Silent Knight drift further and further away.

Author's Note:

A difficult chapter to write and probably a difficult one to read. Stick with me folks!

Exemplar Ferrel courtesy of the talented Painted Wave.

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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