• Published 11th May 2015
  • 8,725 Views, 3,252 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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20. Vacation Pending

My office felt hotter than usual. It was likely due to the fact that Steel Wings was all but literally fuming. We almost never met in my normal duty area, but when I’d left him a note about my leave, he’d stormed over.

“You’re going to run off to play hide the stallion?” Steel Wings groused.

“Yes, I am. I need a vacation and I’ve made a promise to my mare.”

He shook his head. “You need more training and practice. Yes, you’ve been doing better, but this… this feels superfluous.”

I shot him a look over the report I was reading. Our new dragon neighbors were causing a bit of a stir with their smoke. “I would call it having a healthy relationship. You know, I might want to get married one day.”

“After!” he replied, his voice full of gravel.

“Chief, we’ve got time,” I said with a sigh as I tossed the report down. “He hasn’t even figured out where he is going to try to hide yet. We’ve got ponies on it. Me being gone for a short vacation isn’t going to set me back. I’m as committed as you are, but I’ve had enough bloody noses and sprained muscles for now. When I return, we’ll pick it right back up.”

He snorted and glared at me. “And what am I supposed to do while you’re off playing Sir Chevalier?”

There was something ironic in being called by the name of a character that was loosely based on me. It really spoke volumes about the popularity of Crystal’s books to have references to her works enter the modern vocabulary. Especially by a pony like Steel Wings.

Swallowing a grin, I shrugged. “You’re going to fill in for me instructing Crimson and Tranquil. Guard techniques and physical fitness, though. No killing.”

His brow shot up. “What makes you think I’m going to do that?”

“You’re as noisy as a train when you move around, so they’re going to show you how to be slightly less so. A pony like you never had a need for stealth before. You were accustomed to being the most skilled warrior on the battlefield, but that won’t be enough for this operation. It will require a type of finesse that you lack.”

The older pegasus tilted his head, looking me over. “What do you mean? We’re just going to sneak in there and cut their throats?”

“I doubt we’d be that quiet, but yes, something like that. If you haven’t noticed, there are only two of us and, regardless of how much training you throw my way, we know that he’ll still probably have a group of soldiers with him. We’re not walking up to Alastair and challenging him to a fair fight. He ambushed me, so now I’m going to ambush him.”

Steel Wings opened his mouth, a hoof coming up to point at me. He blinked several times and the hoof came down. “You,” he started. Then nothing. “I,” he started again. He just shook his head. “I don’t like it. You’re thinking like a guard again: sneak in, subdue, and move on. But… we can discuss that later. Regardless of whose tactics we are going to use, we need more operators.”

I nodded at that. “I came to the same conclusion, so that is goal number two while I’m gone. You’ve got enough clout and clearance to peek into Guard and Army files. Grab a list of ponies that have the kind of skills we’re going to need and records that suggest they may be receptive to the idea. I’ll want to see them when I get back.”

The old stallion was silent for a while. He’d nodded, sure, but there was something else there. Finally, he spoke up. “This isn’t the kind of thing I normally do.”

“What is that? Avenge your nephews? I hope not.”

He rolled his eyes. “That isn’t what I mean. This business about bushwhacking him. In my day, you’d put on your armor, sharpen your blade, and march out to face the enemy. That is sort of how I imagined it. Him dying with my hooves around his throat.”

“I don’t think it’s going to work like that. Chances are we’re going to take care of him and nopony is ever going to hear about it. If they do, you and I will be stripped of our ranks and I’ll probably be thrown in prison. There isn’t any glory in this one, Chief. It is just something that has to be done.”

Steel Wings stared at me long and hard. For a moment I thought he was going to argue the point. After a while, he shook it off and snorted. “That doesn’t sound like subduing at all.”

No, it didn’t. I’d thought a lot about what he’d been saying. “We make the best effort to drop him off at the nearest Royal Guard outpost beaten and broken, but alive. I’ve not come around to your way of thinking, but I’m also not foolish enough to believe he won’t be fighting to the death. I have to accept that.”

“That’s the first smart thing you’ve said today,” he grumbled. “Fine. I’ll get the list and fill in for you.”

That was probably the best I’d get out of him. “Thank you, Chief. Now, we’d best get back to practice. There is still some time before I leave.”

We then went together down to the palace basement where there was a Royal Guard gym. It was one that I’d utilized a lot in my life and, to outsiders, it would just look like a House Guard commander receiving training from an armsmaster.

It was a bit suspicious, but it would be easy enough to explain. In my position, I had access to a lot more resources than most of my peers. What actually drew the most attention was Steel Wings’s general lack of safety procedures that royal guards followed.

That is why, when we were finished, I was hurt yet again. I limped my way back to my office, trying to make it look as if I wasn’t doing so. Steel had gotten a bit overzealous and I was pretty sure I’d sprained my right hind leg badly. Hopefully, it would heal in the couple of weeks I had left before heading off on my trip with Crystal.

When I reached the door, Nova was waiting outside. I unlocked my office and asked as I walked inside, “Aren’t you supposed to be at the hospital doing advanced training?”

“Yes, sir, but there was a paperwork mix up. I need you to sign—” Her eyes fell on my leg. It might be possible to hide a limp from regular ponies, but not from medics like her. “What happened, sir?”

“I was exercising and overdid it. It’s just a sprain. I’ll be fine.”

She shook her head and shut the door behind us. “I’m not so sure about that. Take your armor off.”

“Pardon?” I asked, looking at her with a stern glare.

“Take your armor off, sir.” Her tone was just as forceful.

“I don’t have time to—”

“It isn’t a request, sir. If you want to get all bent around protocol, let me remind you that you’re injured. That means that you’re now a patient and I’m still a medic. I can call a couple of palace guards to come take your armor off forcefully if that is what I have to do, but I’m not leaving until I look at that leg.”

I glared at her a moment and then asked, “Medics still have to keep this sort of thing confidential, right?”

“I have to report any injuries sustained on duty or that would inhibit your ability to perform your duty.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I wasn’t going to put her into a situation where she had to lie for me. Being an officer wasn’t going to get me out of this, either.

Slowly, as if biding time would help, I removed my armor. When I got my gambeson off, she inhaled sharply.

“Sir! What have you been doing?”

I was covered in bruises, cuts, and other minor injuries. I’d tended to them mostly myself. “As I said, I have been overdoing it a bit.”

Nova shook her head. “With all due respect, sir, I don’t think that is true. You’ve been fighting.”

“Sparring. I’ve been sparring, and that is a form of exercising,” I pointed out as she started pulling off my sloppy bandaging while making disapproving noises the whole time.

“Yeah, I remember the kind of sparring you do,” she said absently as she worked.

“Pardon?”

The mare shook her head. “This one needed stitches. It is probably going to scar. Don’t you remember our little sparring session? For a minute, I thought you were going to kill me.”

My head shook. “I wouldn’t ever do that. It was just muscle memory.”

“Of course. What is this all about? That looked like some Equestrian Army stuff. Stick out your leg.”

I settled back and did as she asked. Pain shot all the way up to my ears and I clenched my jaw. “I just want to be ready if I’m ever in a situation like the one before again,” I hissed between my teeth.

“Psychology isn’t my field,” she replied, looking over my leg and frowning. “I get you, though. But if you keep this up, you’re not going to make it to another situation. You’ve clearly been pushing it too hard and your partner is violating procedure. I won’t know without an x-ray, but this is more likely a stress fracture than a sprain. We’re going over to the hospital.”

“No,” I said.

“Yes,” she replied.

“No.”

Nova glared at me. “Lieutenant, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. We go together as buddies, or I knock your block off and carry you over there. Either way, I take my duty seriously and you’re not going to tromp around here injured. If you like, I can fail to mention the fighting part. You can get stress fractures from any athletic activity. The rest of this is just superficial.”

I carefully got up and sighed. “Alright, doctor. You’re the boss. Leave the part out about the sparring. I don’t want some nosy royal guard doctor yelling at my partner because he is a bit too excitable.”

“Your partner sounds like bad news. If you agree to stop patching yourself up, I’ll keep my trap shut. You’re terrible at it, and if you’re going to keep ‘sparring,’ you need to be monitored.”

“It isn’t that bad. I can handle this,” I muttered.

“Your leg is broken and you look like you just got back from a battle. It IS that bad. I don’t know what you’re into, but if I think it is impacting your duty, I’m going to report it. So either you do it the safe way with me monitoring you, or you do it your way and answer to Command.”

My nose wrinkled at that notion but then I chuckled. “Command is Sunny Day at the moment.”

“Don’t be glib. This is serious. What’s it going to be, sir?”

I relented with a sigh. “Fine, you can monitor my training. Now let’s get over to the hospital and back. I’ve got a lot of real work to do.”

Nova nodded. “Lean on me and keep the weight off that leg. You’re not going to be able to do much with it for a while.”

When I moved to lean on her, pain shot through my body and I groaned, “You know what, I’m actually okay with that right now.”

Several small rocks swung on twine to rattle against the door frame when I walked into the Phial and Filly Alchemist Supply. I paused to stare at them. Most shopkeepers used a bell, but Runic was not most ponies.

The store was busy, as usual, so I gingerly walked towards the back with a limp. Nova had been right. I had a stress fracture, which meant a cast and no more exercising for weeks. Steel Wings had been livid, but he was high strung on a good day.

Runic was leaning on the counter and talking to a customer. As I approached, he smiled. “Hi Silent Knight.”

The customer standing across from him turned and smiled at me before her expression changed to one of concern. “Hello, Silent Knight… oh, what happened?”

“Val? You shop here, too?” I asked, recognizing Miley’s friend. I waved a hoof dismissively and added, “Just a stress fracture. Too much exercise.”

“Who doesn’t shop here?” Val replied with a smile. “I should go, though. There is a lot to do! I hope you feel better soon. See you later, Runic.”

“See you, sis!” Runic replied cheerfully as the unicorn mare left.

I settled up against the counter. “Sis? I thought Val was Miley’s friend?”

Runic nodded. “She is.”

“But she’s your sister?”

“Yes.”

“Which came first?” I asked curiously. That should be obvious, but when it came to Runic, you never knew.

The pegasus chuckled. “The sister bit. I introduced them and they hit it off. Say, I have a potion for that broken bone.”

“Well, I do enjoy gambling with my life," I said with a smile. "What are the side effects?”

Et tu, Silent Knight?” Runic frowned playfully. “It’s actually very safe. I started working on it after you came back from Nordanver all banged up. It wasn’t ready before your recovery, though. I had to do a lot of testing. Let’s just say, some of the rocks I tried to un-fracture exploded. Twice.”

I held up a hoof. “Now, when you say very safe. Are you talking there is still a chance my bones will explode twice? Or now it is just that they’ll explode once?”

“No explosions. It’s safe, I promise! It will cut your recovery time down a lot. Come on, where's your sense of adventure?” he asked before motioning to the back room.

With a fake, exaggerated sigh, I replied, “Alright, doctor, light me up. That isn’t why I’m here, though.”

We went into the backroom and Runic started sorting through the plethora of potions. Thankfully, it looked like Miley had labeled everything… three times. There was even a section called don’t use on Miley.

While he rummaged, he asked, “Oh yeah? What’s the occasion?”

What, indeed. Perhaps the most important thing I’d ever do. And the best.

I smiled. “I miss doing things together, so I had an idea that I thought you’d like.”

“You brought your Airship Armada stuff?” he asked absently before finally holding out a white potion. “Drink this!”

Once I accepted it, he went back to rattling around. "Of course I did, but that wasn't what I had in mind." I held my nose and drank the liquid. “Say… this tastes like milk.”

“Probably because it is milk. That is just good for your bones. I altered it slightly so you don’t have to keep it cool. Now, let’s see… oh, here we go!” He picked up another potion and brought it to me. “S.K. Mender!”

This one was also white, mostly. The top and bottom had settled out into a blue liquid, and the thicker white color was suspended between the two.

I eyed it suspiciously. “That looks odd.”

“Oh, well I made it for you, so it’s blue and white like you,” he explained. “Just shake it up really well and then drink it.”

“If this kills me, I just want to say that I think it is really nice that you made this with me in mind.” I shook the potion up and poured the whole thing down my throat as fast as possible. It tasted like milk with a hint of blueberries. “Milk again?”

Runic shook his head. “Purely coincidental. It isn’t for use on cows, trust me on that. I’m still paying off that lawsuit. So, what did you want to do?”

I stood there waiting for my bones to explode. Fortunately, I didn’t really feel anything, so I took that as a victory. “Do you remember back when you helped me make that bracelet for Iridescence?”

“I do!” He smiled. “That was pretty fun. I hadn’t done anything like that before.”

“Yeah, me, neither. I thought I’d do something like that for Crystal. You know, a special surprise for the trip.” I fixed him with a serious stare. “You can’t tell her or Miley, though.”

Runic nodded. “No sweat! I’m not one to ruin a surprise. I’d love to make something with you… but, uh…”

“Yes, we can still play Airship Armada,” I said.

“Great! Let’s get to it, then!”

Over a week had slipped by and, much to my surprise, I had not yet burst into flames or exploded. In fact, my leg was already starting to feel better. When Runic got it right, he got right. Although I felt bad for that cow.

I turned the corner towards Sunny Day’s office and was met with a surprised squeal followed by an undignified thump. Azurite had been turning from the opposite direction and I guess she hadn’t heard me coming. She’d gone face first into my breastplate and then fell over.

“Are you alright?” I asked, offering a hoof.

The unicorn’s small hooves found mine as she pulled herself up. “You move like a cat!”

“I’m wearing full armor and my leg is in a cast. Are you sure you weren’t day dreaming?” I asked, hiding a smile.

Her eyes got big. “What? No! Who daydreams in the palace? No! I was thinking about… about…” Azurite’s gaze darted about. “Warrant officer stuff! You wouldn’t understand.”

“I imagine not. Can I assume you came from Sunny’s office? Is she still there?”

“Yes, and yes. Are you going to be okay? Why is your leg in a cast?” Azurite asked, peering around me to look.

“I’ll be fine, it was just a training accident. Shouldn’t be too much longer before it is all mended.”

Her ears wiggled and she offered, “You have plenty of sick leave.”

“Thanks. I’ll be fine, though.” I slowly side stepped to get around her. “I need to…”

“Oh, right! Sorry, have a good day!”

As Azurite hurried off down the hall, I finally turned the corner. From behind me, there was another surprised squeal, the sound of armor meeting armor, and an emphatic, “I’m so sorry!” Poor Azurite.

“Knock, knock,” I said as I walked into Sunny’s office. “You were looking for me, boss?”

She looked up and glared. “I hate when you call me that.”

“I’m just respecting your authority as Palace Supreme Commander.”

“Please quit that. It’s bad enough I have every palace lieutenant kowtowing to me. I don’t need you doing it, too. We’re peers. I just happen to be running the place for a while.”

I held up a hoof. “Okay, okay. You did summon me, though.”

“I don’t summon!” Sunny squawked before settling back behind her desk. “Have you picked a new sergeant for your unit yet?”

“No, I was going to have Iridescence do that. Why?”

“As a favor, could you accept putting some of my ponies on the list? You don’t have to pick one. I just want them to at least be considered.”

Promoting outsiders into my House Guard wasn’t high on the list of things I wanted to do. Of course, Sunny’s guards would be some of the best. They’d probably also been waiting a long time. That was the nature of our units. They were high profile career endpoints.

Finally, I asked, “You’d owe me a favor?”

She nodded. “I would.”

“Alright, give me the list. I can’t promise she’ll pick one of them, though.”

“I know. I’m just asking that they be considered. You know how rare it is for a sergeant position to open up, and seeing as you’re letting a PCHG alumni go, why not consider taking on a new one?”

I waved my hoof. “Give me the list.”

“I’m just saying,” she said, offering me the paper with her orange magic. “Also, what’s with the leg?”

After accepting the sheet and looking it over, I shook my head. “Hurt myself training.”

“You shouldn’t do that,” she replied, deadpan but with a grin.

“You’re brilliant, Sunny, why didn’t I think of that! Training, but not hurting myself? What a concept.”

She pointed a hoof at me. “Don’t be snippy. I meant don’t train so hard. You can run and fly circles around almost every one of us. Ever since you got well, you’ve been one of those gym ponies. More weight! More weight! One more rep, bro! LEG DAY!”

I glared at her. “I don’t sound like that.”

“Nah, you don’t, but you do act like it. I’ve seen you down there pushing more weight than you should by yourself. Honestly, I’m amazed you haven’t been hurt sooner.”

“Fair enough. I’m just trying to be as fit as I can for the next time,” I said without really thinking about it.

Sunny’s ears stood up. “Next time? Silent Knight, there isn’t going to be a next time. They had one shot and they failed. We’ll never be caught flathoofed like that again.”

Never? How could she guarantee that? Alastair was still out there.

Through the rush of anger, I tried to pick my next words very carefully. “Sunny, we hope there isn’t, but we can’t know that. We thought there couldn’t even be a first time and yet here we are. I’ve got to be stronger and faster. Some of us can’t zap giant cockatrices with lances of heat.”

“Okay, good point, but… you know, moderation. Consider it an order.”

“What happened to being peers?”

Sunny winked. “I’m a mare and I can change my mind. Take it easy, Lieutenant. I can’t have my executive officer dying on me. Especially before he goes off on a big bring-your-mare sleepover vacation. You need to be fit for the evenings.”

I took a step towards the door. I still felt hot under the breastplate and needed to leave. “I do not have any way to respond to that, but I’m pretty sure the pony resources officers wouldn’t approve.”

“No? Nothing? No stallion bravado? If I’m going to approve your vacation form, I need something,” she pressed, oblivious to my threat. She knew I was bluffing. Azurite would take her side, anyway.

My brow arched. “Approve my form? Are you serious?”

She leaned over her desk and grinned at me. “Why yes, Azurite just brought it to me. You see, I can sign it… or I can just dump it in the trash here. You know, with you being the executive officer of the palace in a time of great strife, I might need all hooves here, so—yipe!”

The pillow I’d picked up from her couch narrowly missed her head as she ducked.

“That is assaulting a superior officer!” she barked.

I picked up another pillow, which took on an orange glow as she tried to pull it away from me. “And that is blackmailing a fellow officer!”

Both me and the pillow started to float towards the desk as I held onto it.

“It wouldn’t be if you’d just lighten up and share something!” Sunny retorted, grappling with me over the pillow.

“Tyrant!” I put a hoof against her forehead and trying to wrest the pillow free so that I could pummel her with it.

“Mutiny!”

Behind us, there was the subtle clearing of a throat. We both stopped and turned to the doorway. Iridescence and Storm Rider were standing there watching, amused looks on their faces.

“Are you two going to kiss or something and make us standing here worthwhile?” Iridescence asked.

I cleared my throat and let go of the pillow and took my hoof off Sunny’s head.

“Silent Knight was just helping me with my…”

“Helmet,” I said.

“My helmet, yes. What can I do for you two?” Sunny asked.

“Afternoon senior NCO meeting, ma’am. The one you scheduled?” Storm Rider put in.

Sunny shooed me off her desk. “When did it become afternoon?”

I got down and stood off to the side, wondering the same thing.

“We can come back if this is a bad time,” Iridescence said, obviously struggling to hold back laughter.

Sunny quickly signed my vacation form and taped it to my breastplate. “Take that down to Azurite, Lieutenant.”

“Aye, ma’am,” I replied before hurrying out the door.

Author's Note:

We're drawing ever closer to the launch of the Three of Diamonds side story. That is where Azurite will have a point of view on what is happening in Secrets while also dealing with things in her own life.

Thank you all for reading and being great fans!

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