• Published 11th May 2015
  • 8,318 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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10. Haven - Part 2

Princess Luna’s excitement had made it clear that our visit to Haven was not going to be a short one. The library alone could take years to go through, not that I anticipated being here that long.

I left the matriarch and the princess alone to go outside and address my guards. “Alright, everypony, listen up. Inside this library is something so important to Luna the Student that I can’t even appropriately quantify it.

“Suffice to say, it is magic in nature and she is going to be spending a lot of her time here. I’m not certain how long we’ll be staying yet, but we need to secure someplace for us all to stay.”

Orchid looked back towards the town. “I’m not sure they’re accustomed to visitors, sir.”

I chuckled and nodded. “You make a valid point. We can ask some of the locals if they’ll—”

“There is an inn,” came a soft voice from above, interrupting me and surprising us all.

I wheeled around and fell into my combat stance; my guards did the same.

Tranquil Dusk dropped down to land in front of me. The whole motion was fluid and she came to a rest without a sound. Had she followed me out?

“I’m sorry,” she said with sincerity. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. We have a single inn. It is typically used for when ponies are building new dwellings. It also has a suite for Luna the Student.”

The hairs of my mane settled and the adrenaline shifted to admiration, though I tried not to let it show. “You should be careful sneaking up on royal guards.” I rolled my shoulders to relieve the lingering tension. “Are there rooms for the rest of us, or do we share the one suite?”

Tranquil shook her head. “Perhaps I was unclear. The suite is specifically for Luna the Student. Only she and those she allows are permitted to stay there. It has been kept for her since Haven was established. There are other rooms, though. The inn is large since it is the only one.”

There was a pause as the others tried to parse the Early Modern Equestrian that Tranquil spoke in. Finally, Nova broke the silence by asking, “The innkeeper has kept a room for the pr—pretty Luna the Student for hundreds of years?”

“Yes, though not this specific one only,” Tranquil explained. “Each one over the generations has. It gave those that lived here hope.”

How interesting. It made sense to me, though. Especially with the trove of knowledge Moonlit Star kept for her, I wasn’t surprised to know how deep their dedication ran.

I cleared my throat. “Sergeant Orchid, I want two guards outside of this library every moment Luna is inside. If she moves, they will move with her. Everypony else can avail themselves of the town as long as they’re respectful and careful.”

Orchid nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“And me?” Ferrel asked.

I gave her a brief glance before finally just shrugging. “We can discuss that back at the inn. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.” My gaze returned to Tranquil. “This may be a stupid question, but do you take bits here?”

Tranquil’s lips twitched in a brief smile. “No, but worry not, for my grandmother has seen to that already. I would be glad to show them the way.”

Orchid motioned to Nova and Cloud Lance. “First watch. I’ll come back for you once everypony else is settled.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they replied before taking position.

The rest of my ponies headed off with Tranquil Dusk to what I hoped would be a pretty accommodating and discreet inn. I trusted my ponies, but mingling with the locals could go south quickly.

I looked over at Nova. “I never even heard her.”

She shook her head. “Me neither, sir. You don’t think they’re all like that, do you?”

Cloud Lance shifted uncomfortably.

“I hope not… Stick close to the door, you two. Nopony in or out without my or the matriarch’s permission,” I ordered before going back inside.

Princess Luna and Moonlit Star were already busy going through books and scrolls. It seemed they were taking stock of some of the high points.

Crimson Dawn was laying outside of the silver gate, keeping an eye on his grandmother. I took a position opposite of him, but I stood at attention. Royal guards did not lay down on the job.

He glanced between me and our charges. I could see his head move out of my peripheral vision. After a short period of time, he rose and shifted into a similar position, trying to match me. It was admirable, but there was little chance the stallion was going to out-attention me.

For the first hour, he looked cool and confident. His ears occasionally flicked back when the princess made some expression of joy or glee.

By the fourth hour, Crimson Dawn had started to slightly shift from hoof to hoof, likely to reduce cramping. You can’t just start standing for hours on end at attention without training and practice.

It was during the sixth hour that he slowly settled back onto the floor, displeasure clearly on his face.

I didn’t turn to look at him directly, but I spoke in his direction to say, “I have been trained to do this since I was a foal. The fact that you lasted as long as you did speaks volumes for your tenacity.”

That seemed to brighten his spirits, or at least I hoped it did. He crossed his forehooves and settled into a more comfortable position on the floor. We then fell back into companionable silence. The competition was over, but he’d earned my respect.

After the eighth hour, I briefly looked over my shoulder to see that both the princess and matriarch were still quite engaged with whatever they were doing.

I slipped my helmet off and settled down onto the floor. That rose Crimson’s brow.

“Is that the limit?” he asked.

“After a fashion,” I explained. “Guards are meant to be relieved every eight hours so that they can remain fresh. Pushing longer reduces efficiency. I’ll take a rest and then start over.”

His head tilted to the side. “You have many such rules?”

“We do. The Royal Guard has developed for over a thousand years. We’ve learned a thing or two in that time.” I settled my chin on my forelegs and closed my eyes. Nopony would get into the library, and even with my eyes closed nopony would get past me.

Crimson’s voice came softly, “I see. I wish we had learned as much.”

“Silent Knight?” The voice was distant and sudden. Hadn’t Crimson just been speaking to me?

“Mm?” I replied, my eyes opening and focusing on the blurry image of Princess Luna. It dawned on me that, perhaps, I drifted off to sleep. “Yes, ma’am?”

She chuckled softly. “We’re ready to take a break. I thought you might want to escort me to my quarters?”

My body was stiff. I’d fallen asleep in my armor while lying on the library’s stone floor. “Yes, of course. What time is it? What day is it?”

Moonlit Star softly laughed as she softly stroked Crimson’s mane, urging him to wake as well. “It’s morning. Lady Luna’s first session ran long due to our shared exuberance. It’s time for rest though.”

Morning already? Perhaps I slept a bit too long. “A rest sounds good. I wouldn’t want Lady Luna to overexert herself,” I replied before trotting to the library doors.

From the outside, it took two keys to open them. On the inside, there was a special lever. That way nopony would ever be trapped. It was clever technology.

As the heavy doors opened, Golden Touch and Lightning Flash turned towards me and stood at attention. Orchid had already orchestrated a shift change. It was good to know that order was still in place.

“We’re heading to our quarters,” I said, trying not to sound as stiff and groggy as I felt.

“Yes, sir!” Lighting Flash replied before motioning. “They’re this way.”

We made our way towards the center of town with my guards leading the way. The inn wasn’t quite on the main square but instead one street over. It was a large, three-story building that dwarfed all of the others around it.

“Welcome to the Haven Inn and Tavern,” Moonlit Star said when we arrived. “I’m sure you can handle it from here. I’ll see you in a few hours, Lady Luna.”

The princess nodded. “Verily. Have a good rest.”

The matriarch headed off in the direction of her home with Crimson Dawn to aid her, and we went inside the inn. There weren’t many ponies in the common room, but all that were there turned to stare. An older mare came around the counter to greet us.

“Luna the Student! Welcome to our humble establishment. Your suite is prepared and waiting. Your guards have also been given rooms on the same floor.”

The princess smiled. “Thank you very much, that is too kind. Would it be possible to have breakfast in my room? I’m exhausted and don’t want to cause too much of a disruption for your business.”

“Of course, madam, of course. I’ll bring it right up. If you need anything, just ask for Rose.”

“Your suite is on the third floor, Pr—” Golden Touch’s nose twitched as she fumbled. “Uh, Lun—Luna the Student. Sergeant Orchid has already made sure it’s safe.”

Princess Luna nodded. “Very good. Lead the way.”

Although the princess seemed to struggle to keep her eyes open as we walked up two flights of stairs, I was kept awake by the threat of new surroundings. Just because the nox ponies we’d met seemed to revere her, that didn’t mean I should trust all of them. Or the potential for loose floorboards.

We arrived at the suite, which turned out to be rather impressive in size. Not Canterlot large, but still large. The princess had her own bedroom, bathroom, and living space in addition to another small bedroom and a dining area. Everything was spotless, too. There wasn’t a speck of dust to be found, and all of the decorations were in pristine condition.

“I like the curtains,” I joked. They were made of a thin fabric that was the very same color as the princess’s coat and featured an approximation of her cutie mark.

The princess smiled and settled on the plush blue couch. “I think it is sweet.”

“Of course,” I absently said as I checked the suite out for anything dangerous: hidden ponies, secret entrances, or hats. If I was going to stay here, then I had to look out for my wellbeing, too.

My search ended in the second bedroom. It was small, as if it were designed for a foal. The whole space was taken up by a narrow bed and a tiny dresser. “It’s going to be tight in here.”

The princess snorted. “Well, if it doesn’t suit your newfound officer sensibilities, you could always share the giant bed with me.”

That was how the princess was going to play it? The officer angle? It was time to show her that she wasn’t the only one who could be funny.

I smiled and started my way towards the bedroom. “Actually, yes, you’ve worn me down. It is time to accept that you want to snuggle me and that I’m willing to be snuggled. See you in bed.”

Princess Luna leapt off the couch and threw out a hoof. Her magic took me by tail and tugged. “Silent Knight! I was making a joke. What of your Crystal Wishes? What will she say?”

I kept my tone even as I replied, “She knew this would happen eventually and I suspect that is why she wrote the story about us. Don’t deny it, Luna, I’m all the stallion you’ll ever need.”

The princess’s eyes went wide and the grip on my tail loosened. She just stared at me before she lightly hoofed at the air in my direction and started laughing. “You’re pulling my leg.”

“I certainly am not. I’m wholly serious,” I deadpanned.

She continued to laugh. “Oh, I see. Alas, you’re too late, Silent Knight. I reject your advances. You shall sleep in the tiny room alone.”

We then laughed together before I turned around to go get out of my armor. It was finally time to relax. “Feels different when the shoe is on the other hoof, doesn’t it?”

“Verily.” There was a pause before she asked in a quiet voice, “Silent Knight?”

My ears stood up. That wasn’t a good tone. “Yes, Princess?”

She didn’t meet my eyes. “I suspect we might be here longer than I had anticipated. Will that be an issue?”

“How much longer is longer?”

After a moment of thought, she shook her head. “I’m not sure.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out,” I replied before going into my tiny bedroom. We didn’t have enough guards for a really long stay. Orchid and I would need to be creative, but we’d work it out. We always worked it out.

Today was a day I could never have imagined. Princess Luna was holding court in Haven the same way her sister did at Canterlot Palace. She wanted to meet and greet every nox pony personally.

I looked down the massive line of eager faces. With this many ponies, we might be done by Hearth’s Warming Eve. If we were lucky.

My guards were positioned in a circle around the princess. She was standing out in front of the empty pedestal in the town square. Crimson Dawn had also shown up with his watchponies and was busy making certain the line was orderly.

He was a pony I needed to speak to. It might make sense to pair one of my guards with one of his ponies for shifts at the library. That would allow me to rest mine more often and build a greater trust between both groups.

Princess Luna began to address the crowd, cutting into my thoughts and drawing a portion of my attention. “Ladies and gentleponies of Haven, I am pleased to address you all once again. Over the last three nights, I have spent time with your matriarch learning of your history and culture.”

Trust was not an issue for me and Crimson, however, as we’d already found our own level of understanding. It was the other ponies. The ones I didn’t know. On the other hoof, they trusted us extensively.

“It has been a delight to learn how much that you’ve achieved on your own,” the princess continued. “There will be many more nights spent in the pursuit of knowledge, but today was set aside to greet you individually and get to know you.”

Princess Luna was our entrance and guarantor to nox pony society. The fear and skepticism that had been leveled at me was now absent. I’m certain these ponies weren’t thrilled to have royal guards in their town, but the excitement over the princess far overwhelmed whatever misgivings they had.

Nothing proved that any clearer than the response to Luna the Student holding court. There was an excited energy in the air and the exuberance on their faces was all too clear. These ponies looked upon the princess with a magnitude of eagerness more than I did the first time I stood in the presence of Princess Celestia.

Ponies approached and shared a few words with the princess as I stood nearby at attention. On the outside, I would appear as an unmoving sentinel. On the inside, I had plenty of time to consider life. Standing guard was good thinking time.

“It is just such a blessing to meet you, Luna,” one of the nox ponies exclaimed. “To think, the Student would return in my lifetime. That is so exciting! How long will you be staying in Haven? I hope it is for a while. You’ve been gone so long.”

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to come and meet you,” Princess Luna replied. “I cannot thank you enough for the joyful reception I received. As to the length of my stay, I am not yet certain, but I can promise you that when I do leave, it will not be for nearly as long. Months instead of centuries.”

The pony smiled brightly. “That is wonderful! Thank you!”

That pony moved on and a mare and a stallion stepped up.

With a nervous smile, the mare asked, “Lady Luna, would it be possible for you to acknowledge our marriage? My mother always told me as a filly that in the ancient times, an alicorn or a pony representing her had to assent to all marriages. It may be old fashioned, but it would mean a lot to us. Could you do that?”

Without missing a beat, Princess Luna declared, “Certainly. In the absence of Azuleka the Ruler, I hereby acknowledge and assent to your marriage. May it be long lived and harmonious.”

The two ponies hugged one another tightly. “Thank you so much! Thank you!” When their turn had passed, we moved on to the next one.

Hours later, there was no end in sight. When the current ponies finished, I held up a hoof before the next ones could move forwards. “A moment, please,” I said before turning to the princess.

“Lady Luna, your ponies come in great numbers. As such, we’re not going to finish seeing them all today. May I suggest that we go another hour and call an end to court? Neither you nor your guardians have had a break.”

The princess sat a moment in silence before nodding. “Very well. Make it known.”

I turned and spoke loudly, “Court shall end in one hour. The Student, regrettably, must attend other matters. You will have another opportunity before she leaves.”

Crimson sent one of his ponies down the line to estimate the end and let the ones past it know. There was some noise from further back but the nox ponies, in general, seemed to accept the news. Once the matter was settled, I motioned the next group up and moved off to the side. It would be a miracle if any of my guards were still standing after this trip.

When the hour passed, Crimson Dawn and I quietly dispersed the crowd. There was disappointment, but they understood. That was a blessing.

My final duty of the day was to ensure the princess returned safely to her suite. Once we were there, I put her in the care of Radiant Orchid and headed downstairs.

Exemplar Ferrel was sitting alone at one of the tables in the inn’s common room. She’d remained shrouded in her cloak the whole trip thus far. I settled on the stool across from her and removed my helmet. “Good evening.”

“Good evening, Silent Knight,” she replied. “You look tired.”

“Court was quite long. Far longer than it is in Canterlot. I’m afraid if we’re to keep this up with so few guards, we’ll all start to make mistakes,” I mused.

“I could stand guard if you like. I am trained in such a way.”

“I might accept your offer.” I was curious, though. Was it rude to ask? Ferrel was a friend. I could ask. “For curiosity’s sake, however, when was the last time you actually stood guard?”

The unicorn’s head tilted under the hood. “When did mares wear their manes like beehives?”

Beehives? My nose scrunched up in thought. “When my mother was a filly, I’d guess from the pictures I’ve seen.”

“Before then.”

It was the casual nature of the statement that tripped up my thought process. “You realize it is odd talking to you, right?”

She blinked slowly. “Odd in a bad way?”

I shook my head. “No, just odd in general. Perhaps you’d connect with ponies more if you caught up on modern society.”

She hesitated a moment. “Leaving the temple grounds can be problematic with my gift.”

“I understand, but perhaps you could find time to discuss life with the younger guards. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt if I came by a bit more often. Not that I really know what ponies my age actually do.”

Ferrel’s eyes shifted to mine and she nodded. “Perhaps. I would welcome your visits.”

“I’m glad to hear that. We could walk in the garden together, but I think I’d like to avoid talking about problems. That was one of our few activities before. What do you do for fun?”

“For fun? I like to read mostly. Books do not have destinies. I am also an accomplished gardener. My roses are quite impressive.”

Solitary activities. Given the mare’s talent, it made sense. It also seemed sad and another question popped into my mind. “Forgive me, but given your age… in all that time, have you never found a companion?”

The unicorn’s blue eyes settled onto me, this time fully focused. It was probably the most ‘here’ I’d ever seen her. “I have not looked,” she replied. “We are allowed to do so, but I have not. Although I was loved once.”

“Loved? What do you mean?”

“In times past, temple guards as powerful as I were assigned bodyguards,” she slowly explained. “A guard for a guard. These guards were not like us, however. They were far more martial. Not unlike you. Mine fell for me deeply. She would never leave my side even when it was allowable and appropriate.”

Even under the hood of the cloak, I could see a slight frown darken the exemplar’s face. She fell silent a moment before pressing on. “A relationship in such an arrangement, as I’m sure you may surmise, is forbidden. That would not dissuade her as I hoped. So instead, she chose to love me from afar.”

That diligence and affection sounded an awful lot like Princess Luna and me, although my feelings towards her were far more familial. “What happened?”

“Time fails all ponies, Silent Knight. One way or another. Fiona was an earth pony and even my magic has its limits. She passed comfortably after a lifetime of service and unrequited love.”

I looked over at the mare, mouth agape. “That… sounds tragic.”

“Indeed,” she replied, her eyes going back to their usual glossy state. “We all make our mistakes and learn to live with them. May you learn a lesson I did not until it was too late.”

“I’ll try,” was all I could say. Silence fell on us as we sat together, regret filling me for having asked such a foolish question of a seemingly ageless pony.

I roamed the rows within the library, patrolling and browsing at the same time. Alicorn magic may not have been my area of interest, but there was other knowledge to be found. Ancient, interesting, and potentially useful.

Keeping up with the princess and matriarch had been hard. They were burning the candle at both ends by spending their nights in the library and the days in the town. Sleep was an afterthought and I was shocked that an elderly mare like Moonlit Star could outpace me.

A right turn brought me back out to the main thoroughfare through the center of the library. Moonlit Star was standing on the carpet looking back towards the alicorn section.

“Where is Lady Luna?” I asked in confusion. These two were never separate during study time.

“Napping,” Moonlit Star replied. “She was learning a new spell. It took a lot out of her so I thought a break was in order.”

Napping? Where? “Back at the inn? I doubt you could have gotten her past me. This place is so silent every hoof fall is obvious, and the door makes that awful sound.”

Moonlit Star smiled and shook her head. “No, Silent Knight. You need not be concerned. She is safely asleep in the study area. Your guards are outside. Do not worry.”

With a chuckle, I replied, “Worrying is my duty. If I didn’t, I’m not sure what purpose I’d serve.”

“I am certain you’d find other pursuits,” she replied.

“Perhaps, but I’m not sure what else I’d be good at.” It made me feel a little empty to think about. I was a guard. My father trained me to be a soldier. My cutie mark was a sword.

There was nothing in front of me but one pursuit. Like my father. Like his father. Like—

I blinked as I looked around, a thought occurring to me. “Luna explained to me about my ancestors, the Knights of the Moon. Are there any tomes here about them?”

The matriarch nodded. “That is so, but they are forbidden to my ponies. While the Knights of the Moon did a great deal of good, their training was inherently violent and not necessarily only for defense. The time from which they were born was a far nastier one than what my ponies enjoy today. My predecessors and I do not see a need for keepers of the peace to have that knowledge.”

“And how about me?” I asked bluntly.

Moonlit Star’s brow arched and she fell silent a moment. Her eyes briefly scanned back and forth as if she was weighing the options. Finally, she replied, “You are not beholden to our rules and it seems inappropriate to deny a descendant his birthright. You may seek the knowledge if you must. I only ask that you do not share it with those to whom it is forbidden.”

“Agreed.”

“Come along, then. I will show you the tomes. Again, I must caution you: their knowledge was not for the defense of a princess. It was codified to teach ponies to go out and destroy the things that we were made to fear.”

I snorted. “You may be surprised to learn that there are a few of those things still out there in the world. Thankfully, most ponies will never see them. I consider myself warned.”

Together, we made our way to the third floor and the back corner of the library where the skillfully cut walls melded into the mountain’s surface.

Moonlit Star gestured to a single row of books. “Remember, these are for your eyes only. I’ll return to the Student.”

I waited until she’d left before moving to the row. The books were all bound in black silk with images of the moon in various stages on the spines. The first book bore a new moon. The last, a full.

Carefully, I pulled the first book free and moved over to a balcony that overlooked the library. I kept a casual eye on the door as I flipped the cover open. The text on the title page was in the old dialect that Princess Luna and the nox ponies spoke.

A single sentence was there, awaiting anypony who looked. It read, more or less:

Prepare thyself, initiate, for within this tome thou wilt find the way, the strength, and the courage necessary to start thy journey out of the darkness and into the moon’s light.

Author's Note:

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