• 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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49. Some Measure Of Peace

Tranquility and peace. That is what the Unicorn Temple represented. Few ponies ever walked the grounds or even realized they existed. I had found them to be a refuge from the outside world. The temple guards had no objections to my visits or my exploration. The priestesses and other ponies simply ignored me.

Most days, I would wander through the lush orchards. Other times, I’d lie in the sun or by the small stream that ran the length of the compound. Whenever I felt guilty about what had happened to the other ponies, I’d find some measure of harmony among the grass and trees.

I thought about those ponies and Alton a lot as I worked to get well. It was Lavender’s charming way or Risky’s daredevil behavior that I missed. Starry Spur was a particularly sore spot of guilt for me. We had never really gotten along. I’d never been kind enough to him and now I wouldn’t have the chance to fix that.

Alton also gave me a lot of pause. He had not just been my ‘gryphon friend’ but a true comrade in arms. We were alike and I would have never wished him ill. He gave his life protecting ponies.

I was going to be the one to fly up for recon but he had said he knew the surroundings better, and I let him go. That thought soured my stomach. It could have been me. It should have been me.

“Silent Knight?”

I jumped in surprise. Exemplar Ferrel was looking down at me. For the observant guard I claimed to be, an awful lot of ponies snuck up on me lately.

“Yes, Exemplar?” I replied.

“You are distressed,” she said before sitting down across from me.

Quietly, I tried to reflect on my expression. Had I given myself away? Was I losing my guard’s edge? More importantly, had she been watching me while I was in the temple grounds? I searched through all of the possibilities before I became aware of the fact that the exemplar was staring at me… waiting for an answer.

“Yes,” was all I said.


I brushed my hoof through the grass. It was tough to put into words. “I shouldn’t be here.”

The exemplar’s head tilted and she replied, “You are always welcome on the temple grounds.”

“That isn’t what I mean. All of those ponies… and Alton, and his gryphons. They were all killed and here I am, enjoying the beauty of this garden. It should have been me in one of those graves.”

Exemplar Ferrel shook her head. “It was not your time.”

Anger flared in my chest. My tone took an edge as I practically growled, “So you’ve assured me repeatedly. How can you be so certain? You’re not much older than me and you’re certain about everything. I’m not sure about anything at all.”

Without missing a beat, the exemplar inquired, “And how old do you think I am?”

“What? What does that matter?” I asked. She just stared at me. “I’m not sure. Midway through your third decade?”

“Flattering, but in truth I am that five times again,” she said plainly.

My focus changed completely, the anger vanishing in a haze of confusion. I shook my head. “Pardon? How? Ponies don’t live that long.”

“Are alicorns not ponies? Are the princesses not far older still? Unicorn priestesses study magic that heals and defends. It protects us from age and many of the things that would fail most ponies,” she explained.

That made sense in some ways, and it was hard to argue the alicorn point. Princess Celestia was over a thousand years old. Far over, actually. Princess Luna had been sort of frozen in time and obviously they both had lived before that incident. I mulled it over and finally replied, “I can accept that as fact.”

“Thank you. Now that we have established why I am so certain… why are you? How can you know better than I that you should be dead?”

“I… I’m… I’m not sure. I’m just feeling guilty and I miss them. I was supposed to protect them. I failed. I still see their faces in my dreams.”

Exemplar Ferrel stared through me. “You were supposed to protect the princess and did. They did the same and as a result they have departed. It is unlikely that you actually see them… They are probably not lingering.”

It was another callous explanation. Ponies seemed to have numerous logical ways of looking at what happened. Even I did, but it didn’t make me feel better. I frowned briefly and then asked, “What happens when a pony… departs? Are they happy? Are they frightened? If they’re not lingering, where are they?”

“Nopony could ever know for certain…” the exemplar started and then I guess she caught my expression. She lifted a hoof and set it on my shoulder. “We believe that when a pony departs, they go to the same realm as the ascended alicorns. It is a comfortable place where they are want for nothing and are cared for.”

“What do you mean, ascended alicorns?” I asked.

The exemplar blinked and seemed to be at a loss for words. She shifted uncomfortably. I had never seen her do that before. Finally, she replied, “Alicorns can ascend. When they decide their time is over, they simply pass on… Retire, if you will.”

“You mean they die? I thought they were ageless,” I said in fascination.

“It is not that simple. An alicorn can be killed, thus your job’s existence. They cannot, however, die of old age. They are ageless, as you say. When they have decided they have lived long enough, they move on to the next world.”

That didn’t completely make sense to me. “So… they end their own life?”

“No, it is not so. With their magic they ascend and move on without a death. Once they have done so, they may not return, or at least have not yet.”

Lightly, I pushed a rock around in front of me. “So my ponies are happy and safe, you think?”

“I do, and I believe they would not want you to be sad. Miss them, certainly. Feel to blame, no. Does this help you?”

“It does, a little. I’ll try to keep it in mind as I move forwards. Thank you, Exemplar.”

“You are most welcome. Come and visit as much as you like, Silent Knight. You are not meant to languish in self-pity and doubt.”

That was an odd thing for her to say, but my thoughts were shifting. One mystery at a time. Pieces of a different puzzle were starting to come together. I took a chance and pressed, “Did Nocturna ascend?”

The exemplar froze then briefly looked around. She leaned in close and whispered, “No. She was murdered, and that is far more than I should say. There are many things that happened in the times before the sisters’ rule, Silent Knight. Things that most ponies would not understand. We protect those secrets, as do your princesses. Some things are best left buried.”

“Do I need to know these secrets to protect Princess Luna?”

“That is not for me to say. Ask her about the House of the Night. She will decide what is best.”

Slowly, she rose and bowed her head. “Proceed carefully. The knowledge you seek is a large burden to bear. Good day, Silent Knight.”

“Thank you, Exemplar. Good day.”

There was a reason my armor took as long as it did to be ready. It was because I have kind friends, family, and a doting princess. To celebrate my return to duty, they all conspired to give me quite a surprise.

“Not that it is unusual for him, but I think he is speechless,” Winterspear told the assembled crowd of Princess Luna, Russet Rook, Iridescence, and Runic Phial.

To be honest, I was. Slowly, I circled the stand that held my new suit of armor. It was mostly recognizable as the original set I had worn. All of the damage from the battle had been repaired, but they had gone beyond that. The plates had been strengthened, the hoof guards had been built up, and there were wing guards. Most interesting of all ,my cutie mark had been painted beautifully on the flanks.

“It is amazing,” I finally said.

“We suggested a lot of tweaks based on our experiences with the gryphons,” Iridescence pointed out. “Chances are your suit will be the model for future combat guard armor. This particular set is made from Cloudsdale steel, too. Perfect for a pegasus warrior.”

Runic clapped me on the shoulder. “I did some of my alchemical work on it, too. The metal is now stronger and lighter, like your sword.”

Princess Luna chimed in, “I have enchanted it, as well. We can discuss how to take advantage of that later. The unicorn exemplar has also blessed it. She was most accommodating even though I had to speak to her through an intermediary.”

The lieutenant added, “I’ve already got the approval for using non-issue gear and technically, this is your issued armor. It incorporates some pieces of what little was left from the original suit in it.”

Winterspear nudged me lightly. “Now we just need to get you healthy enough to wear it.”

I grunted lightly. “To hay with that. I’m putting it on now. Enough of this out-of-uniform nonsense. Give me a hoof.”

There was general disagreement with that idea but I was not going to be denied. I started to don my armor. It was Cloudsdale steel and Runic had said he had made it lighter but it felt awfully heavy. Iridescence and Winterspear helped me get the rest of it on.

“It is a little loose,” I said.

Russet Rook politely cleared his throat. “You used to be heavier, Sergeant. We’ll have to fatten you up a bit.”

“Verily!” Princess Luna cheered. “Let us go and feed Silent Knight cake.”

“Cake?” I asked.

Iridescence smiled. “Time for your ‘welcome home’ reception. We’ve been putting it off as long as we could. Come along, Sergeant. Your unit is waiting.”

The group started making their way out and I followed quietly behind. It was good to be back in the armor. It also felt heavy and I stumbled a few times. Nopony said anything, but Iridescence and Winterspear walked really close to me just like I had once done for Shining Armor. It was kind of them.

“I think I’m going to need a lot of cake,” I said.

“There are worse problems,” my sister replied warmly.

I stiffened when we arrived to the ‘reception.’ The entire unit was in attendance and they were in their armor. There were also several senior Canterlot officers as well. What tipped me off that this wasn’t going to be a normal affair was the fact that Princess Celestia was in attendance and not already over by the cake.

“Iridescence?” I asked quietly before trying to back out of the room.

She blocked my retreat. “Sorry. This was the best compromise we could get. Smile, be gracious, and it will all be over soon. Then we can really party.”

The assembled ponies started stamping their hooves and cheering when they saw me. Princess Celestia looked up and said, “Our guest of honor has arrived.”

Princess Luna moved to stand beside her sister. Winterspear bumped me with her flank and I slowly walked to where the two princesses stood. I’m used to ponies staring at me, and they all were. I probably shouldn’t have worn the armor. It was tiring me out already but I made it to the pair.

Princess Celestia spoke softly but her voice carried across the room. “Silent Knight, in recognition for your faithful dedication and your willingness to sacrifice yourself to protect Princess Luna and your fellow guards, it is my distinct honor to present you with the Celestia Cross.”

“Attention!” I heard Russet Rook say behind me and every guard in the room stiffened.

Princess Luna levitated the medal from where it rested in its wooden box. I ducked my head and she slipped it over my helmet and around my neck. It felt very heavy. Too heavy. The weight was almost too much to bear but I thought about what the lieutenant had said and straightened up.

Princess Luna spoke next. “Thank you for your service to Equestria, your fellow guards, and your princesses.”

Princess Celestia lifted a hoof and said, “Silent Knight.”

I turned and all of the ponies in attendance started stomping and cheering again. My expression held as I stared blankly to the back of the room. Never let anypony shake your cool. All the faces in the room blurred together except the eleven in the back. I’ll never forget those eleven. They did not stare angrily at me, nor did they seem to have accusatory expressions. They simply looked on peacefully.

“Silent Knight,” Princess Celestia repeated softly.

Lightly, I shook my head and the vision disappeared from view. Public speaking without warning is not something I’m good at. In fact, it terrifies me. I’d given good pep talks to my guards before but this was different.

What in Equestria was I going to say to these ponies? Why would the princesses put this on me suddenly and without warning? It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. What could I say to this crowd?

In silence, I puzzled through every speech I’d read or listened to. In the back of my mind, an idea crystallized. Words started to line up. I knew what I had to say.

“I accept this honor not for myself but on behalf of those ponies that are here with us in spirit today. May we never forget them or become callous to the loss of others.

"As guards, we must always be willing to lay down our lives for our duty and our friends, but we should never seek to do so needlessly. When you look at this medal, do not think of what must be lost to earn it. Look to it as a reminder of all those ponies who have given their lives in the pursuit of the dream that someday there will be no need for soldiers at all. Thank you.”

The room erupted into cheers and hoof stomps. Princess Celestia leaned in and whispered, “Well said.” She then lifted her head. “Please join us in welcoming Silent Knight home. Eat, drink, and have a good time.”

Princess Luna went over to a few pillows and announced, “And Silent Knight shall sit with me.”

I didn’t need any other coaxing. It seemed the princess had noticed the strain the ceremony was putting on me. My legs practically gave out when I reached a pillow and I gracefully collapsed onto it. My descent was controlled but I highly doubted I’d be able to rise unaided. “Thank you, Princess.”

She smiled at me. “Of course. The party pony should have the privilege to sit. I imagine once the officers pay their respects you will be able to have a good time. Allow me to help.” Her horn illuminated and she lifted my helmet free of my head. That helped a bunch.

For the next hour, a parade of officers came by to shake my hoof and say a few words to me. I tried to rise on instinct for each one but Princess Luna kept putting her hoof on my shoulder and the officers kept insisting I stay seated. That was weird, but they were polite. Eventually, they cleared out and all of the off-duty members of the House Guard removed their helmets.

“Finally,” Iridescence said as she and Winterspear came over. “Okay, let’s get you out of that armor.”

It seemed foolish to fight as it was wearing me out and, to be honest, I didn’t have much say in it. I had crashed and one more day of being the patient was fine. “Yes, please,” I replied and Winterspear and Iridescence helped me remove it.

Even without all of the extra weight, it was tough to rise. Princess Luna helped me and I went to join my friends. She had invited them all, which was a nice touch. We settled in for a fun night of dancing, games, and cake.

Crystal Wishes was alone and stuck out a great deal in the sea of guard ponies. I made my way over to her and smiled. “Hi.”

She smiled back. “Hi, Silent Knight. You looked dashing in your new armor.”

“It was a wonderful gift. I only wish I could fill it… but then maybe it is best for today I don’t so that you and Runic aren’t the only odd ponies out. Thank you for coming, though. It is nice to see you.” Briefly, I looked around and then asked, “Where is Velvet?”

With a wink, Crystal replied, “Oh, I don’t mind being around ponies in armor, but thank you. She is in Manehatten with her troupe but does send her best wishes. She wanted to be here, but we just didn’t know when the ceremony would be...” She trailed a little, then continued, “Winterspear wasn’t sure you’d be ready.”

“Oh,” I started before looking my sister’s way. Then I shook my head and added, “So this is a party. Why don’t you take a wounded pony over to the punch bowl? I’d love to hear how your newest story is coming along.”

Crystal smiled and said, “Of course. You see, it has been quite a struggle for me. I can’t get the characters just right…”

Every morning and evening, Winterspear and I worked on my physical training. We’d alternate various exercises so as to not overstrain any one part of my body. It was slow going at first but I was starting to regain my strength and weight. I could even fly as long as I didn’t carry anything.

In addition to our workout sessions, my sister was also cramming me full of food. The doctor had given her specific instructions and she was following them to the letter. That meant me being stuffed with alfalfa and legumes. I’m not a fan of either but Winterspear wasn’t taking no for an answer. Either way, I was glad to have a sibling that cared so much.

All in all, I was starting to feel like myself again and was glad to be back to work. I stood behind my desk going through all of the guard applications and medic files. After our experiences with the gryphons, we were suddenly a very popular unit. There were far more ponies available than positions and I was still narrowing it down.

My door opened and the lieutenant walked in with an unfamiliar mare in tow. I stood to attention. “Good morning, sir.”

“Good morning, Sergeant. I would like to introduce you to Major Measure, the new Unified House Guard commander,” he replied.

Major Measure was an interesting looking unicorn mare. Her coat was a very subdued green color that darkened toward her hooves. In stark contrast, her mane and tail were both ruby red in color, although there were also twinges of grey in both. She wasn’t wearing her helmet and her mane was styled exactly by the book.

The major approached my desk and looked me over. She seemed to be paying attention to my new armor. “It is nice to meet you, Sergeant. I’ve heard a lot of good things about you from the lieutenant.”

“A pleasure, ma’am,” I replied.

She continued to stare for a minute more and then nodded. “Princess Luna’s armor style is quite interesting. I haven’t seen anything like it. I suppose I should stick with the standard for now, however. I understand you’ll be going to officer candidate school soon?”

“Yes, ma’am. Once the new class starts and I’m certain everything will run smoothly in my absence.”

“It is quite rare for an officer to return to the same unit they were enlisted with. Are you not concerned with discipline and familiarity?”

I shook my head. “No, ma’am. That won’t be an issue with this unit. The ponies here are accustomed to me being their commander. I’ve been acting commander on more than a few occasions.”

“And there is no issue with your previous romantic relationship? Aren’t you recommending that same pony for unit sergeant in the long term?”

The major had clearly done her homework. I liked that even if she was grilling me. That was something I could appreciate. Again, I shook my head. “No, ma’am. That is over. I won’t lose sight of my duty and neither will she. We’ve moved on.”

Major Measure didn’t give any indication one way or the other of how she felt about my answer. She finally nodded. “I see. Well, your dedication to your duty is certainly not in question. You seem to have proven that more than most ponies and, given that I don’t really have a say in it, I’ll wish you the best of luck. If you have any issues, you’ll let me know, of course?”

“Of course, ma’am. Thank you.” I meant it. The major was obviously tough but I liked that. I was pretty sure we could work together.

“Very good, then.” She looked to Russet Rook and added, “I want to meet the other sergeants and then head over to meet Princess Celestia’s guards.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said and the pair went on their way.

Iridescence, Winterspear, and I sat at a table in the Spearhead Tavern.

“I’ll have a cider, please,” I told the server.

Winterspear shook her head. “He’ll have milk. He can have cider when he is all well again.”

The pony serving us looked from me to Winterspear and decided she was more scary. “Milk it is,” he replied before trotting off.

I scowled. My sister didn’t budge. “You’ll be well enough soon. Quit complaining.”

I shrugged. “Okay. Now, we have two items on the agenda.” I called our little meeting to order with a light clap of my hoof on the table. “We need to discuss the unit sergeant's position and Runic’s birthday.”

“Why don’t we discuss Runic’s birthday first?” Iridescence suggested.

Winterspear shook her head. “Try again.” My sister was turning into a tyrant.

I cleared my throat. “I think, in time, it should be you, Iridescence. You may not have liked having to make the tough decisions but you did it and did it well.”

“That didn’t make it any easier. Just because I got them right that time doesn’t mean I will next time,” Iridescence said as our drinks arrived.

I shrugged. “No, it doesn’t, but when the chips were down you took over and led. That is what is important. If it isn’t you, I’m going to have to find somepony outside and I honestly don’t want to do that. Everypony trusts you and Radiant Orchid isn’t going to be around forever. You have the unique opportunity to have her mentor you.”

Winterspear nodded in agreement. “I know it was tough but I really think this is right for you. Before all of this, if the opportunity had come up, you’d have taken it. Right?”

Iridescence nodded begrudgingly. “Yes… but that was before all of the combat and such was real. It was just something that may happen but probably wouldn’t. Up until that point, we just kept Princess Luna safe from fans and stampeding ponies. Now we've been in two different battles. Things are different.”

I swirled my milk before drinking it. “Are they? If that is the case, why not quit all together? We fought the changelings before and you came back. If you stay in your current position, you still run the risk of the same thing happening. Where you fit in the hierarchy doesn’t change that. What happens if next time they manage to kill me and Orchid?”

That garnered a dirty look from my sister but it was true. Sometimes we have to hear things we don’t want to hear. Iridescence shrugged. “Nopony got killed during the changeling incident.”

“My second point still stands,” I replied and then lightly nudged her. “Are you worried about that or something else?”

“You’re a tough act to follow. The bolts started raining on us and there you stood, cool and collected even after being hit. I was just stunned and watching at first. That hesitation could have killed more ponies.”

“The first time is always the hardest. The next time you’ll move quicker,” I said.

Iridescence looked at me in confusion. “You’ve never been in an ambush before. How can you say that?”

Winterspear shifted uncomfortably and said, “Let’s just say he has been in situations close enough. Dangerous situations where injury was a real risk. Leave it at that.”

I thought about my father and his unorthodox training methods, but didn’t say an extra word on the subject. Iridescence looked at both of us. She finally said, “I guess it is me then, isn’t it?”

“It should be,” I said. “You’ll have a fine mentor and you’ve been through the worst already. Thankfully, we have some flexibility here. You will have to decide, though. You have to want it. I don’t want you there if you’re doing it halfheartedly or are afraid of what will happen if things go sideways again. I don’t want you wasting Orchid’s time, either. I had to beg her to stay and she also has two new sergeants to train.”

“I’ll work on the wanting it part. I won’t do anything halfheartedly, though,” she replied.

Winterspear drained her mug and set it roughly on the table. “Good. That is settled. Now, Runic’s birthday.”

“We need to get Miley Hooves involved. Honestly, at this point she may know Runic better than the rest of us,” I said.

Winterspear made an exaggerated wink. “I bet she does.”

“You’re terrible.” My cheeks flushed and I lightly pushed her. She went to push me back but I lifted my hooves. “Wounded pony!”

Winterspear just glared while Iridescence laughed.

“Seriously, though, Miley is essential,” I said.

Iridescence nodded. “I agree. Runic throws the best parties so it will be tough to top that. We need to do something big and surprising.”

“And rock themed,” I quickly added in.

Winterspear nodded. “Yes, rock themed, but something everypony can enjoy.”

“Perhaps Princess Luna would allow us to use the palace gardens?” Iridescence put in.

“Great idea,” I said. “Plus rocks lend themselves to outside. Well, rocks and explosions anyway. You know what? I’ll go over and see Velvet’s parents. I bet they can make some kind of rock candy.”

Winterspear tapped her hooves on the floor. “What about entertainment? Should we go find those Ponyville dancers? We can certainly get DJ Pon3, or do we want to go more classy?”

Iridescence pondered that and said, “Well, the palace garden seems like more of a classy place. I want Runic to be comfortable, though. I’ll see what I can dig up. Maybe classical musicians playing contemporary music?”

“I like that idea.” I replied and then nodded with satisfaction. “We’ve got an excellent start. I’ll run it by Miley and then we’ll have to come up with a reason for Runic to come to the gardens.”

“I’d suggest leaving that to her,” Winterspear said.

“Fair enough,” I replied and then asked, “Can I have a cider now?”

“No!” both mares shouted.

Author's Note:

The lead up to Chapter 50! It has been fun to finally start to draw the curtain back a bit. There is a lot more in store as we all cross the milestone together.

Crystal's Wishes Companion Chapter: Cautious Conversation

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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