• Published 11th May 2015
  • 8,465 Views, 3,247 Comments

Secrets of a Royal Guard - Anzel



Life has never been better for Silent Knight, but he finds himself shackled to the past by guilt, anger, and regret. Even though he tries to hide his true feelings from those he loves, he knows that the secrets he keeps will come at a cost.

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1. Day One

Walking through Canterlot Palace in my armor just felt right. I had been away for twelve weeks at the Royal Canterlot Officer’s Academy, and that was almost too long to be gone. It had felt like a lifetime away from my princess, my unit, and my duties. Mercifully, I was now home.

There would be no more wool uniforms in sweltering heat. I would not have to suffer through any more dry lectures. Now I had my commission and my command, both of which made up the new life I would lead. Today was the first of many where new challenges, responsibilities, and experiences awaited.

It was a lot to take in. Even though I knew most of the palace guards by name, they stood to attention when I went by. I was no longer their friend or peer. All they saw was an officer… a different pony. And that was how it had to be.

My name is Silent Knight, and I am the commander of Princess Luna’s House Guard. I come from a long line of pegasus warriors but, in the generations of service given to Equestria, I am the first officer. The only officer. This was all new territory that my father could not possibly have prepared me for. Of course, that didn’t mean I was any less ready for the challenge.

When I reached Princess Luna’s wing, I sought out our House Guard’s unit room. That was where my ponies would be, since Princess Luna was spending the day in conference with Princess Celestia. In reality, that was just a polite way of saying ‘resting after partying too hard the night before.’ As a favor to me, Princess Celestia and her House Guard were keeping an eye on her so I could have a whole-unit meeting.

When I crossed the threshold, everypony suddenly stood up as Sergeant Iridescence firmly commanded, “Attention!”

This was a new experience, especially coming from my oldest friend. Iridescence had been by my side almost since day one and—despite all we’d been through together—she still looked like as pristine, collected, and sharp as the day Shining Armor had introduced us.

Today, like that day, her silvery-white coat was perfectly groomed, her armor was polished, and her turquoise-and-pink mane was styled exactly to regulation. And though she looked the same, she had grown quite a bit. We all had.

“As you were,” I said before moving to the head of the room and setting my forehooves on the podium.

The unit relaxed and settled back onto their chairs. As they were getting situated, it allowed me a moment to survey all of the new faces. There were nine new ponies here: six guards and three guard-medics.

After the ambush in Nordanver, medically trained guards became a necessity. We’d lost three ponies in an ambush during what was supposed to be a peaceful visit of diplomacy.

The official account was that one of the gryphon officers had inspired his soldiers to go rogue. It had been an effort to abduct Princess Luna for personal gain. My ponies were casualties of greed, and it still haunted me.

Even though I’d been in the hospital to recover from my physical wounds, I still felt injured in a way I couldn’t explain. My new commission wasn’t the only change for me. The world around me simply seemed different.

I tried not to dwell on the memories of it; I still had nightmares, but the Guard doctors had seen me fit to return to duty.

At least there were other major changes of a more positive kind. For example, Miley Hooves and Mountain Stone were now sergeants… which was almost comical. Our smallest and largest ponies, respectively, served as equals in leadership positions. The humor of the juxtaposition of the petite brown mare and the sturdy grey stallion was not lost on me.

Their styles of dealing with their squads also couldn’t be any more different. Mountain set expectations and trusted his ponies to meet them. Should they fall short, he’d intervene. Miley Hooves invested more time in active mentoring and checking after her guards. The only thing they had in common was that they both needed some coaching from our new section sergeant.

New, of course, is a term I use lightly. Radiant Orchid was far from new when it came to the Guard. We’d met when she was still in Princess Celestia’s House Guard, and she’d looked after me. So much so that when it was time to grow the unit, I’d recommended her.

Orchid was the pony I trusted the most to get things done. A wise, mature mare that could teach me what I’d need to know as commander. She’d assumed my former role temporarily as a favor to me to give Iridescence time to be ready to ultimately assume those responsibilities.

All of these arrangements were carried out at my request while I was at officer's school. I knew that they were the ponies I wanted in these positions. This group would never let me down, and I would always have faith in them.

There were, of course, new faces that would have to earn that same level of trust. They were seasoned guards from other units that had finally won the right to be on a House Guard. However, this unit was different than all others. Directly serving a princess was much different from anything else a guard might encounter.

With a blank expression, I let the silence continue to hold. There was nothing wrong with making them wait. This was my opportunity to inspect the section I would be leading.

I’d given strict instructions to mix the new ponies with our veterans to ensure they would adjust to our culture. Joining the House Guard meant leaving behind your old unit not just physically but, more importantly, mentally.

Their attention was solely focused on me. It was almost hard to believe that this was my first official day of command. Change had come to me many times in my life, and this was just another page in the story of my career.

“Good morning, everypony,” I finally said. “Believe me when I say it is a pleasure to be back here with you. It is wonderful to see my unit, even though I realize a third of you barely know me as a pony. I’m sure your peers have told you stories. Hopefully they weren’t all bad.”

There was a polite chuckle from the room. Always laugh at the commander’s horrible jokes—even the greenest guard knew that. I just didn’t know they’d be treating me like a commander immediately, or that I’d be making jokes. That was a relatively new thing for me.

“Getting to know everypony is a priority for me. I take your careers as seriously as I do mine, and it will be good for me to learn what you want to achieve. More importantly, I’d like to get a sense of who you are. I’ll be setting up time to have one-on-one meetings with everypony. Until then, please know that my door is open to you.”

I motioned to Radiant Orchid with one hoof. “Sergeant, they’re all yours. Let’s be sure we have a good first day, alright?”

Short and sweet: that was all they needed today. I wasn’t one for long speeches, anyway. Orchid could handle the finer points. She was both a motivator and mother figure for me and soon would be for the rest of the unit.

She played the role well, too, with her soft pink coat and grey-streaked red mane. It also helped that she actually had foals and cared for us like she did them.

“Yes, sir!” she replied cheerfully.

“Very good. Carry on,” I called before heading out the door.

The first rule that every new lieutenant should know is that you never get in the way of your section sergeant. She knows her job better than you do, so let her do it. You have your own job to do.

As the commander of Princess Luna’s House Guard, the second rule was a little different than that of most units: ensuring the very important pony you’re protecting hadn’t done any permanent damage to herself the night before.

That was why my next stop was Princess Celestia’s wing. Princess Luna was likely still hiding in her sister’s private chambers. Hiding, sleeping, groaning, or a combination of the three. She really had overdone it.

As I drew near the house guards outside of Princess Celestia’s door, they both stood to attention.

I waved a hoof. “At ease. Is my princess still in there?”

“Yes, sir,” the one on the right said before knocking twice and then opening the door for me.

“Thank you.” I trotted inside to find Princess Celestia sitting at her desk and sipping from a gently levitated tea cup.

Princess Luna, by contrast, was flat on her back, unceremoniously strewn across a few pillows. A blanket had been laid across her middle, but it was clear she’d both kicked it off and pulled it back on. It all just depended on which portion of her body was hot, cold, or both.

“Good morning, Princess. How is our patient?” I whispered to Princess Celestia as I bowed.

The alicorn smiled brightly. “And good morning to you, Lieutenant. Welcome home and congratulations!” Her eyes shifted to her sister before she added, “She has a belly ache, a headache, and her hooves are sore. She kept me up most of the night, but finally fell asleep sometime before the dawn. I imagine it will all pass by this evening. Should I assume that you had a wonderful weekend?”

“Clearly not as much fun as my charge. I enjoyed myself in moderation instead.”

The princess laughed and winked at me. “Perhaps some of that will be impressed upon Luna?”

“A pony can only hope. I’ll have a few of her guards come over to keep an eye on her so that you may go about the business of ruling this kingdom. Thank you so much for allowing me time with my whole section this morning.”

"My pleasure, Silent Knight. May you have an uneventful first day.”

“Thank you, Princess.” As much as I enjoyed the sight of Princess Luna sprawled out like a cat, I had a schedule to keep. It was time for me to report in with the Unified House Guard Commander.

Despite the fact that both House Guards were housed within the palace proper, our unified command was in the adjacent Royal Guard Central Command headquarters. It was built into the large outer wall to be accessible to guards from both sides. In a sense, that meant the Royal Guard had one hoof inside the palace and another out in the city.

I crossed the courtyard at a leisurely pace. It wouldn't look appropriate for a new lieutenant to gallop out in a hurry. There was also the added expectation from a pony like me; combat experience was pretty much unheard of for my generation.

To be honest, however, I'd have preferred not to have that particular badge of honor. It certainly didn't feel like one to me.

That was something I could focus on later, though. It was time to turn my attention to my duties. As I reached the command building, it struck me how indistinguishable it was from the rest of the palace complex. If a pony didn’t know any better, they’d assume it was just an extra-large gatehouse.

It was built that way so as not to call attention to itself. After all, just because Equestria had never been invaded, that didn’t mean you wanted to advertise important commands.

I passed through the large wooden doors and made my way upstairs. The commander’s office was on the second floor near one of the corners. When I arrived, I knocked.

“In!” she called.

I pushed open the door and trotted inside to find Major Ruby Measure behind her desk, going over some paperwork. She had her helmet off, her red mane tucked up in a tight bun. I didn’t know her very well, as she was new to the House Guards.

Thankfully, she’d been backed up by Russet Rook. He was my predecessor and the first officer I’d mentored when I was the first sergeant. Russet was a dependable pony and would be a positive influence on the major.

“Good morning,” I said, going to attention.

Major Measure waved a hoof. “Good morning. At ease.”

Major Measure was the first Unified House Guard Commander. In the past, both units had reported directly to the Captain of the Canterlot Guard. That title had not been bestowed upon a new pony since Shining Armor had been transferred to the Crystal Empire.

Royal Guard Command felt that the title was antiquated and was too large of a scope for a single pony, so the duties had been separated out in a more traditional way. Now we had two House Guard sections that made up an undersized company. That company reported to Major Measure with Lieutenant Rook as her executive officer.

“Welcome back, Lieutenant. I assume you had no trouble finding your new command this morning?” the major asked.

“None at all, ma’am. Everything is as it should be.”

“Excellent. Thank you for checking in; dismissed.”

Dismissed? What about a briefing? A list of duties? Something? “Ma’am?”

She leveled an even stare in my direction. “Dismissed, Lieutenant. I have no order for you that differs from how things were prior to your commission. You’ve been in command of this section before. You’ll forgive me if I focus my attention on the responsibilities I have that actually need it. You don’t really want me to help supervise your guards, do you?”

With a shake of my head, I replied, “No, ma’am!”

“Then dismissed,” she repeated. She wouldn’t have to tell me again.

I bailed out of her office and took the compliment for what it was. This was turning out to be a pretty great first day, all things considered.

A short trot later and I was at my office in Princess Luna’s wing. It seemed like it had been vacant during my entire time away. After a quick dusting, I was in the middle of arranging what few personal effects I owned when the door behind me opened without warning.

Radiant Orchid trotted in with her sergeants in tow. When I turned to stare at them, they all froze. At least, they did until Mountain Stone crashed into the back of Miley, who crashed into Iridescence, who then crashed into Orchid. It was just a matter of physics from that point as they went down like dominos.

After doing her best to scramble back into some semblance of decorum, Orchid’s cheeks burned bright red. “My apologies, Sil—sir!” She reached backed past the others and knocked on my door.

It was amusing. Very amusing, actually. Still, my face was fixed with a stern officer’s glare. “Come in.”

Once they’d managed to collect themselves, my sergeants all stood to attention.

“At ease,” I said. “What can I do for you?”

“While you were away, I instituted a morning leadership meeting so that we could coordinate better. I thought you’d want to be included...” Somewhat awkwardly, she tacked on, “Sir.” It would take some getting used to for everypony.

I nodded. “That seems like a wise idea with the additional squad and all of the changes I’d instituted. Please, continue as you normally would.” I settled behind my desk and made myself look official.

Orchid cleared her throat. “During your absence, we’ve stood up that new squad and…” She hesitated a moment before cringing. “…and integrated the replacements.”

Replacements—the word stung. It literally ruffled my wing feathers and sent the taste of bile into the back of my throat.

The office went silent, the air thick with tension as the memories loomed over us all unspoken.

Orchid took a deep breath and pushed on. “As you might imagine, we aren’t exactly sure what to do with all of these ponies since we did just fine with the unit we had before. That has basically meant I’ve had to occupy their time. The first thing I did was relieve all of the palace guards from the Princess’s wing. We now cover every post.”

“Smart thinking. That will occupy some of them. What about the rest?” It was good to shift back to our business of running the section. That would keep my mind occupied.

“Cross-training opportunities. I’ve been sending them out to some of the specialist schools for training. Usually it is just a two-week refresher course, but I figure once they get back, they can train the others. Beyond that, I took a lesson from you and sat them down with their respective sergeants to start going over promotion packets.”

“Enlisted education,” I mused.

“Yes, sir.” Orchid replied. “You used to do it for your squad and then moved on to doing it for the section. Why stop a good thing?”

I almost smiled. “It’s a good tradition. Thank you for keeping it. Anything else?”

Orchid shook her head. “Nothing here. Iridescence, Miley, Mountain?”

My attention turned to my sergeants. They were three of the most reliable ponies I’d ever known. There was little doubt we’d be successful together, and it was good to have them at my side.

Iridescence had held her leadership position the longest. When everything fell apart in Nordanver, she’d taken command and made sure Princess Luna escaped safely.

“Nothing for me.” She blinked and hurriedly added, “Sir.”

Miley Hooves bounced in place while she waited her turn. She was notoriously accident-prone, but the dark brown earth pony was a humble, excitable, and tenacious bundle of energy. We had a close relationship, as I’d mentored her the entire time she’d been with the House Guard.

“Nope!” She beamed at me. “Just welcome back, boss. I’m so happy to see you!”

Then there was Mountain Stone, my only stallion sergeant. He was tall, built like a fortress, and all muscle. His grey coat and tan mane made his name seem all the more appropriate. He didn’t talk much, and I’d always appreciated that about him. The two of us had the ability to stand guard together in silence and just enjoy it.

“Smooth sailing, sir,” he said in his usual gruff tone.

I nodded and stared at them all for just a moment. A good officer never issued orders if she didn’t have to. It was better to just describe the task that needed to be done and let the non-commissioned officers work out the best method to achieve it.

Fortunately for me, I had excellent NCOs. I’d groomed three of the four, and the fourth had groomed me.

Unfortunately for me, it left little for me to do as their commander.

“Alright then, it seems you have everything well in hoof. Orchid, stay a moment. The rest of you are dismissed.”

Iridescence, Miley, and Mountain stiffened to attention and then left my office after I gave them an acknowledging salute.

Once the door closed behind them, I smiled at Orchid. “First day back and it is already obvious how little you need me.”

She laughed and gave a light shrug. “Like you ever needed an officer when you were wearing my hoofguards, sir. Somepony has to be here to sign the forms and take the blame. Now you have that privilege!”

I couldn't help a light chuckle. “Celestia knows that is right. At any rate, I want you to push your responsibilities down to your sergeants and load Iridescence up with everything extra you can put together. From now on, they do your job while you provide mentorship, understood?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

Orchid nodded, stood at attention, and then left my office. It was only a second or so before she poked her head back in. “It’s so good to have you back, Silent Knight. We missed you.”

“It's good to be back,” I replied before leaning into my chair. Good to be back indeed. If only I had some idea of what I’d be doing, exactly. At least that absence of work afforded me a lot of time to figure out how to stay busy.

A light brown hoof hovered inches from my nose, wiggling around. “I’ve heard all about you, Lieutenant.”

My brow arched as I looked down at the pegasus mare standing on the other side of my desk. She had plastered on a passable glare, even if most of it was hidden behind her green mane.

“Is that so?” I replied.

Willowy Tempest hadn’t made an appointment to see me. We’d never even been officially introduced and yet she was Princess Luna’s new assistant. New to me, anyway. She’d been in training under Princess Celestia's personal aide, Raven, while I was overseas and officially started the job when we’d returned.

‘We’ was sort of subjective, though, due to my post-Nordanver coma and then the trip through officer’s candidate school.

This was our first, formal introduction, if you could call it that. She was still wagging her hoof in my face and we hadn’t exchanged any pleasantries.

“Yes!” Willowy slammed a hoof on my desk. At least she had started to, seemed to think better of it, and then slowed her momentum to just land it delicately on the wood. “I’m not going to let you take things away from me now that you’re back!”

What was she on about? “Huh? I’m not interested in taking your job away from you, Willow. I’m a Guard commander.”

“What? Not that! I mean my schedule. I’ve heard you liked to keep Princess Luna’s schedule and make it all about security and safety.”

“I see. That is true. I just—”

“You just nothing!” she squeaked as her ears flicked back. “If somepony is going to plan what she does during the day, it’s going to be somepony that can balance the fun and the boring.” She tossed her appropriately willowy green mane. “You keep your hooves in your unit’s business and out of my way. Are we clear, Mr. Knight?”

I stood up from behind my desk, towering over her. “That is Lieutenant Knight, and yes, we are clear. You keep the schedule, but just remember that I’m in charge of her security.”

“Oh, I’ll remember!” Willowy narrowed her eyes up at me.

“Yes, you will,” I replied.

“I will!”

“Yes, you will!” Then I stomped my right hind hoof.

Willowy yelped in surprise and galloped out of my office. I settled back onto my chair and shook my head as I went back to my paperwork. “What a weird mare.”

“What was that all about?” The voice was accompanied by a light knock. I looked up to find a familiar pony in my doorway. He was a tall one—taller than most pegasi, actually—and had the stature to match it. It was the kind of frame that had made an excellent linepony for hoofball back at Canterlot Academy.

The uniform he wore these days was gold and bore the insignia of the Canterlot City Guard. It looked good over his coppery brown coat. All at once, I felt a wave of nostalgia that brought a smile to my face.

“That? I don’t know what it was. Misunderstanding or turf war. Something. More importantly, come in, please!” I stood again and came around my desk. “Defender Bronzewing. How long has it been?”

He paused a moment and then just shrugged. “Most ponies call me Daffy, but I guess you never did.” He smiled. “Nice to know some things don’t change when you run off to officer's school.”

Change. That seemed to be the theme of the day. I gave an idle nod and asked, “What brings you by?”

“A couple of things, I suppose. You know, I applied for Princess Luna’s House Guard when I saw the openings. I guess it didn’t work out this time.”

That was a fact. I’d seen his application for the medic positions and had a hoof in him not being selected. “Yes. To be perfectly frank, it was a tight race, and I didn’t want anypony to think that I’d selected you because we used to play hoofball together. You know how it is… the new lieutenant bringing in old teammates. That looks suspicious.”

Defender chuckled. “I figured it was something like that. You’ve always been a stickler for the rules. I’ll never forget that time you argued with the referee about the difference between flying straight up and straight over a player during an extra point buck.”

I snorted. “It isn’t my fault he was wrong. If you go over a player, that’s a foul.”

“Silent, we were up by three scores! It wasn’t like we needed the point.” Defender shook his head. “Never mind, we got off track. I don’t blame you for sticking to the rules.”

That was good. I’d felt kind of bad about it even though the ponies we’d selected were equally qualified. “You know, on a related topic, I believe Princess Celestia’s House Guard is going to be looking for medics, too. A letter of recommendation in your file would go a long way. If you like.”

He blinked in surprise. “Really?” A grin spread across his face. “That’d be great, actually, if you don't mind. But honestly that isn’t why I dropped in. This is more of a social call from one old teammate to another.”

My ears twitched. “Yeah?”

“Yeah… so, I’ve made a lot of friends while I’ve been in the Guard and even more so as a medic. I’ve heard your name going around a lot lately, especially after your… experiences in Nordanver. It started in the medical circles, but now it’s moved into different ones. That’s why I came by.”

The mere mention of Nordanver set the hairs of my coat on edge, but I tried to stay calm and figure out where he was going with this. “Alright?”

Defender shrugged. “Look, I know you’ve never been the talking type. With that said, if you need a pony now and then to talk with about what happened over there, I’m actually assigned nearby. Now, and I really shouldn’t be doing this, I have a name for you.” He reached into his satchel, fished out a piece of paper, and offered it to me.

I accepted it and looked it over. “Just a name?” I asked.

“Yes. In my work, I’ve spent some time with the ponies in intelligence. They come back injured now and then without any explanations. We don’t ask; we just patch them up. Anyway, that pony there can help you with the… side project I’ve heard you’ve got going on. Which, by the way, I think is a bad idea, but I understand where you’re coming from.”

Our eyes briefly met before I looked back down at the paper. “I can’t thank you enough.”

He shook his head. “I really wouldn’t. You’re probably playing with fire. Anyway, it was great to see you, Silent Knight. It’s been too long. We should meet up sometime and hit the turf. I imagine we could get into the Guard’s league.”

I smiled. “You know, that isn’t a bad idea. I might just take you up on it. Don’t be a stranger, Defender.”

The stallion nodded and waved a hoof. “See you around.”

“Take care,” I replied before going back behind my desk. I had two new tasks to handle immediately: a letter of recommendation for an old teammate and a note of introduction to a new friend.

The rest of the day blew by in a fairly mundane fashion. Other than the visit from Defender Bronzewing, nothing really happened. Princess Luna had eventually become ambulatory and Nova, one of my new medics, promised me she’d make a full recovery.

Now my door was shut, locked, and I was off shift. At least as much as a commander can be. On my way down the hall, Iridescence popped out of her office and fell in step with me.

“And how was your first day as commander extraordinaire, sir?”

With a shrug, I replied, “Not quite as different as I would have imagined. Still, it all went well. It looks like you all kept everything together. Nice work on that.”

She smiled. “We try and usually succeed. I’d still rather have you here to look out for us, though. So… celebratory drinks at the Spearhead?”

That was a lovely offer. Iridescence and I had been partners when I was an enlisted guard. That partnership had blossomed into a friendship and, for a short time, even more. Despite that, it never crossed my mind that she’d invite me out to celebrate.

My focus had been off since getting back. Recovery, trying to adjust to the role of an officer, and, of course, there was my marefriend, Crystal Wishes. At least, she was the mare that wanted to be my marefriend, and that was what I wanted, too. Did that make her my marefriend-to-be? I wasn’t quite sure what to call her yet.

She had me thinking about her almost as much as I thought about my duties. Almost.

Sheepishly, I cleared my throat. “Well… I’d like that. I’d like that a lot actually. Unfortunately, I can’t. At least not tonight. I’ve made other plans.”

Iridescence’s head tilted. “Oh? For another celebration? Is it some ‘officers only’ thing or something?”

Yes! An officers only thing. That would be an easy, simple, white lie. Instead, I shook my head. “No… I have a date.”

Iridescence came to a stop. “A date?” She sounded surprised and then quickly tried to hide it with a more even tone. “I mean… a date?”

“Yeah. I, uh… asked Crystal Wishes out and she said yes.”

“Oh, good.” Iridescence cleared her throat. “She’s nice.”

“Yeah…” Then we just stood there in awkward silence looking at anything but each other. Finally, I took a step forwards. “I should go. How about drinks tomorrow, alright?”

The mare quickly nodded in agreement. “Yes! Yes, tomorrow is better. Have a good evening, sir.”

“You, too,” I responded hurriedly before rushing out and away from the cringe-fest that was that conversation.

Author's Note:

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