• Published 20th Mar 2015
  • 4,811 Views, 439 Comments

The Shield's Protector - Carapace

There is nothing he wouldn't do to protect her from harm, nothing he wouldn't do to show his love. But, whether he was Captain of the Guard or Prince of the Crystal Empire, Shining Armor was her stallion, first and foremost. Her beloved.

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1. Who Is This Coming Up From the Wilderness?

“Oh, where are you, Shiny!” Cadence stared out one of the Throne Room’s crystalline windows, biting her lip as she gazed at the setting sun. Her tail swished, a golden shoed hoof pawed at the sparkling floor.

He was late reporting in—several hours late, in fact.

“It’s just a border patrol, sweetie.” He’d insisted, that goofy grin spread across his muzzle as he slipped his helmet on. “I’ll be back at your side before you know it, ready to give you as much love as you can take!”

Just a border patrol, my cutie mark! Gritting her teeth, Cadence snorted and cursed that she always fell for that coltish grin and the soft confidence in his voice. Where did my shy, adorkable Shiny-winy go? That silly colt who couldn’t talk to me without stammering and blushing back in high school.

Of course, it was no mystery. Her “Shiny-winy” had grown into a strong stallion, one of the youngest to assume the mantle of Captain of the Royal Guard in Equestria’s history. The awkward colt she used to sneak kisses and little nuzzles to see how red she could make his cheeks go had become the stallion who could blanket Canterlot itself in his shields. Whenever he put on his gilded purple armor, Shining Armor was the protector of thousands of ponies.

But none of that mattered. Practical skill, magical ability, and strategic knowledge didn’t mean that Cadence didn’t fear for her husband’s safety.

“My Princess,” Prism Shine, Cadence’s trusted seneschal, called through her reverie, “if I might be so bold.”

Cadence sighed. “Just say it.” Here we go. Again.

She didn’t need to look over her shoulder to know that Prism had rolled her eyes. The coming conversation nothing more than a practiced routine. “Staring out the window won’t make Prince Armor return any sooner! Please, there is still much to be done!”

“I’m well aware of my duties, thank you.” Grimacing, Cadence shook her head. Too harsh. She took a deep breath, holding for a second before slowly letting it out. “I’m sorry, Prism. I just worry for him. I can’t…” I can’t stop.

There was a steady clip-clop of hooves against crystal as Prism approached. “No apology is necessary, Your Highness. But, worrying like this… it isn’t healthy.” A translucent teal hoof was placed on her shoulder, Cadence turned, meeting Prism’s gaze for the first time in an hour. “Prince Armor is, if I might say, a fully capable soldier. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s simply taken on an extra round just to ensure that our fair city is kept safe!”

“That… would be just like him.” A sigh slipped out. “He’s as obsessive over his duty as Twilight is with her studies.” Her lips turned up, a smile playing upon her muzzle. “He was like that back in school, too. Always running around, frantically trying to balance his grades, sports, playing games with his friends, and dating me. But now, it’s… I don’t know how to say it, really.”

“I can’t say I understand, but I have an idea of what you mean.” Prism gave her shoulder a light rub. “You worry because you love him.”

Cadence snorted and rolled her eyes. “I think that much is obvious! I married that dork of a stallion!”

“Yes, it’s obvious that you love him, Your Highness. But that’s just it—you can’t not worry. It’s in your nature, isn’t it?”

For a moment, silence reigned. Cadence looked away, her eyes returning to the setting sun. It only took seconds for Auntie Celestia to give way to Aunt Luna’s night, but the soft purple and fiery orange that tinged the sky always captivated her, even as a foal.

Like watching color change in real time. Focusing on the wide open sky, she did her best to quell her doubts. He’ll be fine. It’s just a routine patrol. Just a few hours marching outside the city walls with his fellow guards.

Or was it?

What if he met some wild beast outside the walls? There were only four gate points, only four places where the barrier spell was weak! Shining Armor wouldn’t be able to teleport in no matter how hard he tried! Or what if—oh, Harmony forbid—what if the changelings had returned to take him away!

Stop that! He’s going to come back and be just fine. Memories of the cave, of Shining Armor’s eyes glazed over under her spell, flashed before her eyes. Cadence shook her head. No! She’s gone! She can’t hurt us anymore!

But the more she denied it, the more Cadence let her mind wander. Visions of Shining Armor having blackened shards removed from his horn, or struggling to his hooves after regaining his magic came unbidden.

“It’s my duty to protect the princesses, to protect you, Cady.”

“I wish it wasn’t.” She whispered. “I wish…”

“Your Highness?” Prism’s call jolted her back into the real world. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite hear that. What were you saying?”

Cadence turned to face her again, pasted a smile on her face. “Oh, don’t mind me! Just thinking aloud.” Her smile faltered under Prism’s pointed stare, “Really, it’s nothing to worry about! Just letting my mind wander a bit, is all.”

Prism raised an eyebrow, but nodded all the same. “If you say so, Your Highness, then I won’t push. But, you know that I’m always willing to listen.”

“I know, and I do appreciate it. It’s just me being silly, is all. I’ll get over it as soon as my goofball of a husband comes trotting through those doors,” she said, waving a hoof in the direction of the ornate double door entrance, “with that grin on his muzzle, acting like a foal who stayed out past curfew. And when I check him over, he’ll roll his eyes and grumble about being a big colt.”

“That’s the spirit!” The mare at her side beamed. “Of course, you’ll smack him for complaining, as usual.”

“Prism! Hold your tongue! A princess does not smack her beloved!” Cadence held her nose up high, looking down out of the corner of her eye. “She bops the dummy over the head for making her worry and then confines him to the palace for as long as she can!”

The pair burst into a fit of giggles, an image of Shining Armor rubbing a bump on his head and grumbling under his breath fresh in their minds.

And then he’ll whine that he’s supposed to be guarding. Closing her eyes, Cadence watched the scene play out as it had before: Shining Armor, sitting back on his haunches with his hooves crossed and cheeks puffed up while she checked over every inch of him for injuries. My silly stallion.

That was the image she needed; Shining Armor would be fine, maybe a little scuff on his hooves, a scratch from where a branch had whipped and caught him in the muzzle, and a bit of dirt on his armor.

He probably had just taken some extra time to check the garrisons or inspect the new recruits at their posts. Goodness knows the Empire’s recruiting process has been in shambles since Sombra took power. Cadence grimaced, thinking on several nights of Shining Armor coming back to their suite, ready to tear his mane out at how hesitant the crystal ponies were to have a fully conscripted army so soon after their return from Sombra’s void spell.

“No matter what I say, they just won’t listen!” He’d grumbled, gritting his teeth. “They’re still afraid of Sombra’s Regime! It’s like trying to drill through solid stone!” And just as his sister was wrought to dive nose first her studies, Shining Armor had taken to actively recruiting and training with gusto, making it his personal mission to bring the new incarnation of the Imperial Guard up to speed.

Which, in turn, meant that he had to personally lead them on patrol, showing them all the ins and outs of where they needed to station themselves or how far out they needed to make their perimeter… Placing himself in even more danger.

At the very least, Cadence looked forward to the day that Shining Armor could finally go back to delegating from his office and making a few routine checkups instead of those patrols. After all, if he was in his office, it was just a short walk from the Throne Room to seeing her beloved Shining Armor.

“Shiny said the recruits would be ready soon, right?” Cadence asked without turning.

There was a rustling sound as Prism flipped through a clipboard, quickly skimming through her notes. “Er… Yes, Your Highness. Prince Armor said that he wanted to take them on two or three more patrols, and possibly a mock mission, before he deemed them ready. Why do you ask?”

“Just wanted to make sure.” A sigh escaped her lips. “Really, I know he’s doing right by all the ponies who live in the Crystal Empire, but… Things were just different when we lived in Canterlot. He was home more.”

“It won’t be long until things calm down, Your Highness,” again, a hoof was placed on her shoulder. Cadence let a slow breath out through her nose, but nodded, the small upward curve of Prism’s lips. “And then you can stop worrying about babying your husband whenever he comes home with a bit of dirt in his coat.”

“Yes, that will—wait! I do not worry about something as silly as that!” Turning to face Prism, a fresh retort on her tongue, Cadence found herself face to face with a smirking seneschal. “Oooh! You cheeky mare!” Doing her best to maintain her glare and not give way to her laughter, Cadence huffed at Prism’s broadening grin. “I ought to have you sorting mail for a week!”

Her threat went unheeded. Prism simply stuck her tongue out, a move far more bold than most might dare in the presence of royalty. “But then you would have to find somepony else to organize your daily schedule! Not to mention, one who would allot time for you to break said schedule to worry about your husband!”

“Bah! Away with you!” Snorting, Cadence swiped a wing at her teasing seneschal, who simply giggled as she ducked out of the way. Her glare broke, leaving a small, tired smile on the face of the beautiful princess. “Thank you,” her feathers brushed against Prism’s side, “for putting up with me—it must get rather tiring, doing this every time Shiny goes out.”

“I’m happy to help in any way, Your Highness. Though, it might be best if you tried looking over some of these proposals from the Council of Shards. Maybe they’ll help take your mind off of this until his return.”

Cadence hummed, nodding to herself. “Maybe. Oh, why not?” Stepping away from the window, she trotted over to her crystal throne. Cadence winced at the cold against her as she sat. I really need a cushion for this. “What’s left on the docket today, Prism? Is the Council still on about setting the tax rates?”

“No, they actually agreed with your assessment and are willing to hold off for now.” Prism scanned through her papers. “They would, however, like to reconvene in six months time to examine the economy and continue talks. If that’s agreeable to you, of course.”

“I don’t see why not. That’s at least reasonable for us to project where we’re headed, maybe get a few ideas as to where our strengths lay. What else?”

Another rustling of papers as Prism flipped through. “Oh! Lady Starburst motions that the Empire look into the possibility of opening trade negotiations with the United Griffon Territories; she’s pointed out that the UGT provides a significant portion of Equestria’s coal and possesses the resources to supply the Empire’s needs in that area. She also requests that we might build an agreement similar to the one Princess Celestia has with them.”

Cadence drew a breath in through her nose, tapping a hoof against her throne. Her mind wandered back to Shining Armor’s notes on past meetings with griffon ambassadors, as well as those from his time escorting Auntie Celestia to meet with the Lord of the griffon Territories.

“The griffons take pride in the strength and loyalty of their kind, and expect the same from allies. Strength in military might or in devotion to bettering one’s nation are seen as honorable in the eyes of their Lord. From what I’ve seen, Princess Celestia has earned their utmost respect in the latter, though the griffons do press her to focus more on the former—they don’t want to be tied to a defenseless ally and be forced into a protector’s position.”

That would be something they would have to address if it came down to a meeting with the Lord of the griffons himself. Cadence made a note to speak with Shining Armor on the matter, and perhaps send a letter to Celestia. Her own experience in diplomacy was mostly in Saddle Arabia, a longstanding ally that shared cultural ties. The griffons, on the other hoof, could be rather stubborn, if Shiny’s tales were true.

“I’m not opposed to the idea,” Cadence spoke, choosing her words carefully, “but, I would like some time to speak with my husband. He’s a bit more familiar with griffon culture, as well as some of their ambassadors.”

Prism nodded and took out a quill, making a small note off to the side. “That seems wise, the Council will definitely appreciate that Your Highness is willing to look at this from all angles. Now, let’s see, the last bit is… oh.” Her ear flicked, Prism grimaced as she skimmed the letter. With a flick of her hoof, the papers were flipped back into place, leaving the last form at the bottom of the pile. “Never mind that one, Your Highness. It’s an old proposal that I neglected to remove from the stack.“

Cadence raised a brow. “It’s not like you to forget something like that, Prism. Which one was it?”

“Oh, something you took care of weeks ago, Your Highness. It’s nothing too important.” Prism Shine waved her off with a hoof and held her clipboard against her chest. “Now, that should take care of—“ A shimmering blue aura engulfed her clipboard, jerking it out of her grasp. “Hey!

Rolling her eyes, Cadence levitated it in front of her. “Honestly, Prism! Just let me see what it is! I’m a big mare!” She glanced over it, her frown deepening with each word. Cadence sighed heavily and set the memo down at her hooves.

Prism ducked her head, pinning back her ears as she gazed up at her crestfallen princess. “I tried to tell you to ignore it…”

“It’s… It’s fine, Prism.” Her mouth formed a thin line. “The Council has a right to voice its concerns on matters of state, and this is no exception.” Even if Shiny won’t be happy about it when he hears what they want. Levitating the clipboard again, Cadence returned it to her flustered seneschal. “Let them know that I’ll discuss this with them at the next joint meeting. I still need to speak with Shiny about this.”

“Yes, Your Highness.” The seneschal bowed, her crystal hooves clacking against the floor as she shifted her weight. “I’ll dispatch your wishes to them at once. Is there anything else I can help with?”

“No thank you, Prism. I just need a bit of time to myself.” Cadence’s let her gaze fall with her mood, her mind flitting back to the very stallion patrolling outside the safety of their walls once again. She flicked her tail. So much for taking my mind off things. Stars above, this wasn’t supposed to be so hard!

Again, her eyes flitted to the window, just as the moon began to slowly rise in the sky above the Empire.

He didn’t pack for a night patrol, her ears lay flat against her scalp. Shiny will catch cold if he stays out for too long.

Just one thing after another, whenever he went on these patrols. Cadence tapped a hoof idly against her throne, biting her lip. Her heart fell as the moon arced through the sky, another reminder that her husband was supposed to be back long before dark.

Already, Cadence found herself deafened by the silence. The pair of guards by her door—a pair of Equestrian Royal Guards on loan from Canterlot—stayed stoic. No matter where they were stationed, the Royal Guards were hardly conversationalists when on duty.

Still, their presence provided some level of comfort. At the very least, she could always prod them with a few questions about their personal lives, even if shortened answers would be the only reply.

Anything to break the silence.

Cadence stood and trotted over, pasting a smile on her muzzle. Predictably, both guards snapped to attention, raising their spears as she approached.

“At ease. Corporal Valiance, Private Stout Heart, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you two.”

As the ranking officer, Valiance spoke up. “Yes, Your Highness. Not since you left Canterlot to take your place on the Crystal Throne.”

“Oh, my! How time flies! You came with the second wave, then?”

“Yes, Your Highness. Arrived two days ago and assigned to our posts by Captain Shining Armor.”

Cadence swished her tail. Like pulling teeth, as usual. “Of course he’d pick two of his own to guard the Throne Room.”

Valiance coughed, raising his hoof. “Actually, Your Highness, we’ve been assigned to guard you personally. Not the Throne Room.”

And he tells me that I’m a worrywart. She snorted. “That sounds about like him. He didn’t happen to mention any additional parts of his patrol today, did he? Nothing he might have wanted to keep quiet?”

Their slight hesitation betrayed them. Stout Heart shifted, his armor clacking together. “Not that we were told, Your Highness.”

Stout never met her gaze, instead opting to stare over her shoulder at the wall. Cadence honed in on the hapless Private. “Look me in the eye, Private Stout Heart!” His head snapped up, the metal plated helmet clacking against that of his breastplate. “What did my husband plan for today’s exercises?”

“He, uh, well,” Stout mumbled, his ears lay flat as he quelled under the harsh gaze of those brilliant purple eyes, “Captain Armor wanted to take the new recruits on a light run through the Forest of Aurora. He wanted to keep it quiet so they’d have to adapt to the unexpected and—“

“Stop.” Cadence held up a hoof. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. Calm down. Stout Heart is just the messenger, not the one who gave the order. “Just stop, Private. I know what he said in front of you, but I’ve known Shining Armor a lot longer than any of you. I’m sure that was part of the reason, but the other is that he kept it quiet so I wouldn’t say anything against the idea.”

Neither guard offered any reply, a wise move. Cadence might not have been known for her temper, but few stallions were willing to stand in the way of any mare when her husband had done something so foolhardy. Least of all, the very Princess of Love, herself.

In and out, Cady. Deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth, just like Auntie taught. Easier said than done, but Cadence brought her hoof to her chest, at least trying to bring her blood pressure under control. Keep a lid on it until your idiot of a husband gets back, and then deal with him. “And just how long did he say that he’d be gone?”

Stout Heart and Valiance shared a look before taking a step back. “Er… well, they were due back an hour or so ago, Your Highness.” Valiance winced as she redirected her hawkish gaze on him. “Perhaps he just stayed behind to make sure a couple stragglers made it back safely?”

A snort greeted his reply. “Don’t try to cover his flank, Corporal. That stallion’s in enough hot water with me as is!” Stomping a hoof, Cadence didn’t even wince at the sharp ringing of horseshoe on crystal. “It’s bad enough I have to sit worrying whenever he goes out those walls to ‘survey the land’,” Cadence reared back to put air quotes around the phrase with her hooves, “but now he goes out to the Forest of Aurora with a bunch of recruits? Please, tell me he at least took a few of your squad.”

“Of course!” Cadence quirked an eyebrow at Valiance’s tone; a bit stronger in his objection than she’d expected, almost as if he felt insulted that his princess could ever suggest that her own husband would be so foolish. Something that Valiance himself took note of. The flustered Corporal coughed awkwardly before addressing her question once more. “Er, my apologies, Your Highness. What I mean to say is that, yes, Captain Shining Armor did take a small group with him—on the, ah, off chance that something might go awry.”

Well, at least you planned ahead. Her husband might have that going for him, but that didn’t mean Shining Armor was completely out of the woods just yet. “All right,” nothing could be done, not until he returned. “When he does come back, assuming he doesn’t try to linger at the barracks, leave us.” Cadence turned away, making to return to her throne. Her ear flicked as she managed to catch an audible gulp from one of the pair, likely Stout Heart. Always looking out for a fellow guard, I guess.

Without warning, the doors burst open, crashing hard against the crystal walls.

Cadence spun on her hooves, nearly losing her tiara as she turned in hopes that it was just her husband being silly and making an entrance.

Her hopes fell just as quickly as she caught sight of the bleached coat and feathers and blue dyed mane. “Your Highness!” He bowed low. “Lieutenant Wind Runner, reporting in with urgent news from the recruit training session!”

Before anypony could blink, Cadence was muzzle to muzzle with Wind Runner. “What happened?”

“It’s, uh,” The Lieutenant took a step back, glancing anywhere but at the wide, crazed eyes of the Princess of Love. “Captain Shining Armor, Your Highness. He’s suffered a few injuries, mostly minor, but he was admitted to the Imperial Hospital for further examination.”

Cadence’s blood ran cold in her veins. Between the Council calling for meeting after meeting concerning her husband and the constant danger he placed himself in, and topping it off with the pressures of bringing an age old Empire back from the Sombranian Age…

She shot forward, nearly sending Wind Runner spinning as she galloped past him at full speed. Hooves thundered against the crystalline floor, servants leapt out of the way in fear of being bowled over by the alicorn shaped missile.

The world around her was a blur, her eyes set dead ahead as she bolted out of the castle and off to the hospital. Usual pleasantries, kind smiles and nods, idle chat with the odd passerby, everything Cadence typically went out of her way to do was discarded. Everything was secondary to one constant thought:

Find Shining Armor.

Shining Armor hissed, biting his cheek in order not to curse at the poor nurse. “You know,” he ground through gritted teeth, “there’s something wrong with a salve that hurts worse than the cut it’s supposed to heal!”

“That’s because this is antiseptic, not a salve,” she retorted as she rubbed the cold, gooey substance over the gash on his flank, just above his cutie mark. “Honestly, Captain, if you whined anymore about this, I’d think I was treating a foal for a scraped knee.”

He snorted and crossed his hooves one on top of the other, and waited for her to finish. Shining Armor had to resist the urge to rub at the bandages wrapped around his barrel; any shift in his weight sent pain shooting up his left side. “Horseapples!” He slapped a hoof against the mattress. “Of all the rotten luck! Those blockheads just had to stumble upon that bear cub!” Throwing a hoof over his eyes, Shining groaned. “I’m gonna have to send out a veterinarian to make sure the mother’s okay—I tried holding back as long as I could, but—“

Without warning, the nurse bopped him on the head. “Oh, hush! You defended yourself! Frankly, I ought to send you to have your head examined! ‘Holding back’ against a fully grown bear trying to maul you!”

“Well, I didn’t want to hurt her! She was just protecting her cub! And I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to hit me!”

“You’re in the hospital, Captain, I hold rank here.” She replied in a clipped tone. “As for your mother bear, I’m sure your intentions were noble, but not when they come at the cost of your own health! At the very least, one of your barriers would have sufficed!”

Shining Armor raised a hoof, giving a crooked smile. “Actually, I have to be careful with my barriers. The force that hits them has to go somewhere, so usually it’s either funneling it off to the side, angling it away, or bouncing it back. The, ah, first two don’t work too well against a straight on maul and the third would’ve sent her for quite the tumble. Actually,” he paused, his ears swiveled back to lay against his scalp, “it did.”

“Yes, I read the report. Now, stop squirming! The more you move, the more you’ll open this cut!”

“Oh, come on, Gentle! I just raised a hoof!”

The nurse stopped, leveling a frosty glare at her patient. “That’s Gentle Touch, Captain. Now, hold still, or I’ll send for a unicorn and have you held down.”

Grimacing, Shining Armor nodded. “Fine, if you insist.” With snort of derision, he lowered his hoof and turned to face forward. A jolt of pain bit into his left side. “Balefire, this hurts!”

“All the more reason you should’ve taken your own well-being into consideration!” No sympathy in her tone, Gentle Touch dipped her hoof into a jar of healing salve and set about rubbing it over the cut on Shining Armor’s flank. She sighed and shook her head. “You realize that Princess Cadence will be furious when she finds out.”

A chill ran down his spine, Shining Armor’s ears lay flat. Oooh, that’s the understatement of a lifetime! Unconsciously, his hoof inched toward the back of his head, rubbing his two-toned blue mane. Wonder how long I’ll be relegated to couch duty this time.

Another bop to the top of his head disrupted that line of thinking. “Stop moving around!”

“Darn it, Gentle! Are you trying to concuss me?”

“If it makes you sit still so I can apply this without you opening this cut wider, I just might!”

“Oh, fine!” Shining grumped and dropped his hoof to the mattress with a thud. Bloody nurses. Always something to complain about, always treating me like a little foal whenever I come in with a few— A yelp tore from his throat as he felt her hoof press down upon part of the cut. “Balefire and brimstone!

Gentle recoiled as if burned. “Sorry!” All traces of coldness left her voice, a small frown marred her face. “Describe the pain, Captain; what does it feel like?”

“Like somepony just stuck a spear in my leg,” he bit down on his lip, smacking the mattress a couple times to try to relieve some of the tension, “and moved it.”

“A little deeper than I thought, then.” She hummed. “It’s too wide for me to stitch, you’re going to need a wrap for that as well. So, you’ll have to take it slow for a few days. Considering that, along with the ribs you’ve fractured, I’d recommend at least two or three weeks off of field work. I’ll reevaluate you after that and see where you stand.”

Shining let his head fall to rest on his shin. “Fantastic. Just what I needed.” Just add another week to training them. As if this entire thing wasn’t enough of a train wreck! He chanced a glance over his shoulder, perking his ears up. “I can at least run drills as long as I don’t take part, right? Just calling out orders?”

Gentle stood with a sigh. “You’re bound and determined to keep going, aren’t you?” Without waiting for an answer, she trotted over to the counter and opened a drawer. As she rummaged about for a roll of gauze, she spoke over her shoulder. “I suppose you could if you stayed on the side and directed a subordinate officer.”

Sharp, as usual. I can’t argue that one. Shining hummed, nodding to himself. “I guess that’s as good as I’ll get. Thanks, Gentle, I’ll—“ he trailed off, his ears perked up at the sound of somepony galloping from far off, slowly getting closer… and louder. Who the hay is galloping like that through a hospital? A nurse? “Say, do you hear that?”

The rummaging stopped, there was a beat of silence, broken only by the nearing sound of hooves clopping against crystal. “Yes… Funny, I don’t hear any gurney wheels, though.” Gentle trotted past Shining, making for the door. “Honestly, making so much noise in a hospital! Why, I have half a mind to—“

She never had a chance to expand upon her threat, let alone reach for the door.

A cerulean aura flickered around it and flung it open with a crash. Sounds of ponies crying out in panic, doctors and nurses shouting protests, all seemed like white noise to Shining Armor as he gazed into the newcomer’s eyes.

Those magnificent purple eyes he’d lost himself in the day he met Cadence all those years ago were wide and filled with worry. They flitted to the gash on his flank, tracing over the skin that had been ripped apart by a mother bear’s claws, before traveling up to the bandages wrapped around his barrel.

Shining ducked his head, his ears pinned back as those eyes narrowed and locked with his again. Even as Captain of the Guard, she still manage to pierce him with but a look. I am so done! Sighing heavily, he resigned himself to his fate. “Hi, honey…”

Judging by the way her magic sparked the moment the words left his mouth, that wasn’t quite what she wanted to hear.