• Published 11th May 2015
  • 8,450 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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40. Making Decisions

I was in the middle of planning the princess’s next Haven trip when Div leaned into my office. “Sir, you have a visitor in the lobby. A Miss Ley Lines?”

My ear flicked. “Oh? Good. Could you bring her up, please?”

He nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Not that I expected Ley Lines to ambush us, but vigilance was part of the job and the security details were still classified, so I set to the task of clearing my desk. It wasn’t long before Div brought her in, and I nodded my thanks and waved him off.

I barely got the door shut before Ley Lines practically bubbled with excitement, “I’ve done it! Exactly as you asked! That book is amazing. I had no idea ponies from that time were so thorough in the preparation of their warriors.”

She offered me two books, which I accepted. The original Knights of the Moon book was exactly how I’d left it, and the copy was very similar in appearance. It was properly bound and stamped, too.

“Most weren’t,” I said as I looked the two tomes over. “This is amazing. You’ve done an excellent job.”

“Thank you, sir!” She gave me a wide, eager grin. “There are more, right? The text makes it clear that this is just one of many.”

I nodded. “Yes. Several more, in fact.”

“Would you like them copied, too? I’d be thrilled to do it. I’ve learned so much about ancient society already.”

I pondered whether or not she understood everything in the book. She probably did; she was a scholar after all. Did she get out of it what I did, though? Was sharing them all with her a dangerous idea?

“Unfortunately, I don’t have the next books on hoof right now. I’ll have to return the original first. After that, I think we can discuss copying the whole set.”

“And the rest are in Haven?” Ley Lines asked, tilting her head.

“They are.”

That made her ears wiggle like an over-excited foal. “Did you know that there is no record of Haven anywhere? It doesn’t exist, other than rumors that we’re suddenly opening trade routes to it. And just to find that little bit took a lot of asking around.”

I nodded. “It was founded when Nightmare Moon was banished. The ponies that live there hid and maintained almost total isolation.”

“So why are they reaching out now?”

I paused to consider my words as carefully as possible. “Princess Luna’s return as their ruler.”

Ley Lines blinked. “‘Their’ ruler? She rules all ponies with Princess Celestia.”

“Now, yes. Things weren’t exactly like that in the old times despite what they teach us in history.” It wasn’t forbidden knowledge, but I still braced myself for her reaction. “Ponies were more aligned to either the day alicorns or the night alicorns.”

That, understandably, made her brow furrow. “Plural? As in more than just two?”

“Yes.”

“I mean…” She chewed on her lower lip. “We know there were some, but there aren’t a lot of records here.” She peered at me. “You seem to know an awful lot about things nopony else does.”

That was an understatement. “Comes with the job. Anyway, thank you for doing this. When I’m in Haven next, I’ll discuss whether or not they will allow scholars to visit them. Would that be fair compensation?”

She lit back up again. “Completely!”

“It’s a deal then,” I said before opening my office door and leaning out. I spotted Miley coming down the hall and motioned to her. “Sergeant Hooves will see you out.”

“Sounds good. I’ll be looking forwards to the other books,” she said before leaving.

I waited for her to go, then settling back at my desk and getting started on my work again. I barely got my eyes on the first page when there was a knock at my open door.

“Yes?” I said without looking up.

“Sir?” It was Crimson Dawn. My head snapped up and I saw him standing there, his foreleg still in a cast. There was little consolation in the fact that he looked good otherwise.

I stood. Guilt started working its way into my stomach. “Crimson? How’s your leg?”

“Doing much better. The doctors said I can have the cast removed relatively soon and the unicorns in the temple have been helping it heal. They’re very skilled.”

“You’ve been to the temple?” I asked, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice. “For Tranquil?”

He nodded. “Yes. She won’t leave the grounds, but she is doing well. The exemplar says she will recover.”

Sweat ran down the side of my face under my helmet. “Good. I’ve sent a few notes, but she has not responded so I’m glad to hear she is mending. I’m sorry I haven’t—” I bit the inside of my cheek. “I don’t have an excuse.”

He shook his head. “It’s okay. The exemplar said you had your own wounds to tend.”

Of course she did. I cleared my throat. “Yes… Can I do anything for you? We’re going back to Haven soon. Would you like to go?”

“No. I don’t think so. I don’t want to have to face my grandmother and tell her she was right. Not yet, anyway.” He squared his shoulders and met my eyes. “I came here to ask: would you write me a letter of recommendation for the Canterlot Royal Guard Academy?”

My chest felt tight and I struggled to breathe. “Crimson… I don’t think—”

He held up his injured hoof. “I want to be a city guard. The kind that help ponies. The kind that protects them. The ones they smile at in the street. I want to make a difference—and I mean a good kind of difference.” His ears folded back. “What happened before wasn’t for me. I think this is, though.”

I went to my desk drawer and pulled out some of the fancy stationery that was for official communications between the office of Princess Luna’s House Guard and others. The sort of thing I used to announce a royal visit.

“Have a seat,” I told him before setting my pen to the task.


From Lt. Silent Knight, Princess Luna’s House Guard, commanding
To Admissions, Royal Guard Academy, Canterlot

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing on behalf of Crimson Dawn, a pony who heralds from a town known as Haven. It will not be found in your records but, on my honor, it is a real place and should be accepted on his paperwork. That, however, is not the sole purpose for penning this letter.

Crimson Dawn is a pony of a rare breed. He has served honorably in the Haven Watch for a few years and journeyed to Canterlot to learn more of the outside world. During that time, he trained with me on the fundamentals of being a royal guard, as this was an intense interest of his.

In addition to this training, I view Crimson as the sort of pony with the necessary attributes to excel in our profession. He is loyal, dedicated, and tenacious. He is of excellent character and would, in my opinion, make an exceptional guard.

Please consider this letter as my intent to sponsor him. Should you have any questions about his background, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.

My regards
Lt. Silent Knight
Princess Luna’s House Guard

I slipped the letter into an empty file folder and offered it to Crimson. “This should do the trick. If you need anything else, let me know.”

He accepted it and nodded. “Yes, sir, thank you, sir.”

With a nod, I replied, “My pleasure. Take care of yourself and your sister, too. I haven’t had the heart yet to try and visit her in person. Perhaps that’s a bit of cowardice on my part.”

Crimson shook his head. “You’re not a coward, sir. It seems clear to me that you’re just hurt. We’ll get by, but I do hope you go and see her. As angry or hurt as she may be, I think she’d be better off with your presence than without it. Hopefully you’ll come see me at the academy?”

It amazed me that he could be so forgiving of me for what I’d put him through. “I’ll be there. I’ll be the first pony in line to congratulate you when you graduate.”

He nodded. “Thank you, sir. Take care of yourself.”

“I will,” I replied before settling back and watching him go.

Therapy was exactly what I’d expected it to be: a little office with an easy chair, a couch, and ugly green carpet. There was a bookcase full of literature about the mind, a window with a thick shade over it, and a lamp. If it were any more cliché, it would have been painful.

I sat with my forehooves crossed. “I wanted to see Mindful Soul.”

“I understand,” the stallion who was definitely not Mindful Soul replied. “She is away on an emergency. I’m covering her patients for today, and maybe next week. If you’ll just talk to me, I’ll take notes and she’ll pick it up.”

“I can wait.”

The pony in the chair sighed. He was white like me and had a shock of lime green for a mane. He was also an earth pony, which to his credit was interesting. A lot of medical ponies were unicorns.

He tilted his head. “You can wait? As in, just sit there until she shows up?”

“No, as in I leave and come back when she does,” I replied.

He tapped my file. “See, the thing is, your caseworker says that isn’t going to fly. She says therapy, immediately, twice a week. So, at the very least, we’re just going to sit here together.”

“I’ve got all day, doctor,” I said.

“Crossroads. Just Crossroads. There isn’t any need to be so formal. Unless you prefer I call you lieutenant.”

My ears flicked. “I do not.”

“Alright, well if we’re just going to sit here, can we at least talk about something?”

“I’d prefer not.”

Crossroads shifted and set his pad down. “I mean just talk. Not therapy. I mean, the Royal Guard is paying for an hour of my time. I’m not going to let you leave. So, we could talk and not waste kingdom bits. For instance, did you know the Wonderbolts are going to be starting a new Equestrian tour soon? They’ve been getting ready to for it for a while now.”

My forelegs slowly uncrossed. “I hadn’t heard. I actually met Soarin recently. It was one of those random things, he was with this pony I work with, sort of. I guess they’re dating or something now.”

“Oh yeah? He’s a great flyer. I forget they have normal home lives, too.”

“Yeah.” I drummed my hooves against the chair. It was hard to think of Wonderbolts without thinking of… “Have you ever heard of Diamond Dash?”

Crossroads head tilted up a bit and then he nodded. “The old captain? She was something else. I remember her from when I was a colt.” He tilted his head. “She was a little before your time, wasn’t she?”

I nodded. “Yeah, but I used to read about her. She was a class act. An amazing flyer and did all that charity work.”

“They named an airship after her, I think,” he said.

“One of those small, really fast ones. Seems appropriate.”

“It does. I’ll be honest, I’m a little jealous of pegasi. I’d really like to be able to fly. I’ve been on a few airships, but I doubt it’s the same.”

“I’d like to say it is, but I’m not a big fan of lying to ponies.”

He nodded and chuckled. “Thanks. Why Diamond Dash, though? Why not Solar Winds or Spitfire?”

“My dad liked her. He said she was the only navy flyer worth anything.”

“Ah, I see. You like the things your father liked?”

I shrugged. “He didn’t like much, so it sticks out to me.”

“No?”

I shook my head, tension starting to set in my jaw. “No. He liked the Guard. He liked the Army. He liked Diamond Dash.”

“Did he like you?” Crossroads asked.

“I honestly don’t know, and I never will. He died recently.”

“That’s too bad,” he said softly. “Who’s the mare in the waiting room?”

I smiled and replied, “That’s Crystal Wishes, my fiancée.”

Crossroads nodded. “Ah, that makes sense. She seems to like you a lot.”

My head turned towards the door. “Yeah… yeah, she does. There isn’t really a question about that, is there?” Was there?

“Well, I wouldn’t know for sure, but I feel pretty safe in saying there isn’t. Let’s talk about her.”

When I poked my head into Azurite’s office, she was buried in paperwork. Literally. I had no idea where her chair was, but she was behind her desk with files piled up around her. Somehow, they’d managed to get chest-high.

My brow furrowed. “Warrant Officer?”

“Can you please help me, sir?” she asked pitifully while wiggling her forelegs at me.

“Sure,” I replied before flapping my wings and taking off. Some of the papers scattered and she shot me a dirty look, but I didn’t want to fall into the paperwork quicksand. We linked hooves and I pulled her free. “How did you get like this?”

Once I’d set her down, she shook her head. “I’d rather not say. I’ll be right back, okay?”

“You’re leaving? You left me a note to come see you!”

Azurite squirmed. “Sir, if you had been two minutes later, my office would be the fillies’ room. So, if you could just give me two seconds…”

“Go.”

She hurried off, leaving me outside of her disaster zone of an office.

Lieutenant Brook came down the hall and nodded at me. “Good afternoon, Silent Knight. We don’t normally get you do—” His eyes flicked into the office. “What happened!”

“She wouldn’t say. I pulled her out and she ran off to the fillies’ room. Are all of your warrant officers like her?”

He cracked a small grin. “No, no other pony is remotely as fun as her. What brings you down?”

“I honestly don’t know. She left me a note. Could she have planned to be trapped and wanted me to be on-call to rescue her?”

He shook his head. “No… No, that would be ridiculous.” He looked at me. “Right?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?”

After a pause, he shook his head again. “No… Maybe.”

Azurite came galloping back down the hall and slid to a stop between us. “Oh! Sir! Uh, it isn’t what it looks like.”

“It looks like your office exploded into a sea of paperwork,” Brook said.

“Oh, well, then, it might be… but don’t worry about it. I’m on top of it.”

It took all my restraint to not point out she’d not been on top of it but trapped in it. I kept my mouth firmly shut and, thankfully, it complied.

“Far be it for me to question your process,” Brook said before shrugging and heading on his way.

I looked down at her and asked, “Azurite, other than to save you, why am I here?”

“I need you to sign some paperwork. Sergeant Iridescence picked out a new sergeant and wanted it rushed.”

She had? That was good to know, but she probably should have told me first. “Alright, so let me sign the paperwork.”

Azurite shifted. “Well… it’s in there.”

“Warrant Officer…”

“I’m sorry, sir! I’ll find it. Just give me a minute.” Carefully she waded into the office, dove under some files, and then returned with a single form. “Okay, it was right where I left it.”

“Seriously?” I asked before taking it from her and signing it. “Is this all?”

The little blue unicorn nodded and then looked at me with hope in her eyes. “Unless you’d like to stay and help me clean this up.”

My eye twitched. “I’ll send a couple of guards down.”

“To help?” she asked.

“Yeah, sure, to help,” I replied before heading back upstairs.

As I passed by Iridescence’s open door, I called, “First Sergeant, in my office. Now.”

I could hear the sound of her practically scrambling over herself in her hurry to comply. By the time she trotted into my office, I was already sitting behind my desk with my hooves folded and a stern look on my face.

We stared at each other for a long while until I nodded at the door behind her. “Close that, if you don’t mind.”

“Yes, sir,” she said with a little bit of nervousness in her voice.

Once we had the relative privacy of a shut door, I leaned back in my seat. “I just got back from Pony Resources.”

Her brow furrowed but she kept an otherwise straight face. “Oh?”

“I met with Warrant Officer Azurite. She had paperwork for me to sign.” I tapped a hoof against my desk. “Your paperwork.”

“My—” She stopped and her eyes widened just slightly with realization. “Right. My new sergeant.”

“Yes, your new sergeant.”

I lapsed into silence. I wasn’t trying to make her nervous for the fun of it. I wanted to see how confident she was in her choice. “Dream Dancer?” My brow arched. “Hmm.”

“What? ‘Hmm,’ what?” She swallowed. “Is Dream Dancer not good?”

I leveled a serious stare at her. “Do you think she is?”

After a small pause where I thought she would cave, she straightened up. “Yes, sir. That’s why I picked her. She’s very good.”

I nodded. “You’re right. Exemplary pony skills and a perfect record.”

Her confidence wavered. “Then why the ‘hmm’?”

“I’m just a little surprised you took one of Sunny’s names.”

That put her right back on track, and she smiled. “You said find the best pony, sir. I didn’t look at who recommended them. After all, the first sergeant has to look out for what is best for the unit as a whole, and not something petty like that, right?”

Finally, I smiled. “Correct. For what it’s worth, I think you made the right choice.”

Of course, all the names were good. Any of them would have been the right choice, but that wasn’t what mattered. What mattered was that she’d picked one herself.

“Azurite already started pushing the paperwork,” Iridescence explained. “Dancer will be available to us almost immediately.”

“Very good.” I waved a hoof. “On that topic, I want you to send two guards down to help Azurite. She’s had some kind of breakdown with her paperwork.”

Iridescence’s head tilted. “You want us to help her? With paperwork?”

“She’s helped us on numerous occasions. Now, we’ll help her. I’m sure we can spare two guards for the task.”

“Yes, sir,” she said with a little confusion. “Anything else, sir?”

I paused at that. Then, slowly, I took off my helmet and set it aside. She did the same and raised her brow at me in question.

“I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be in command here,” I said in a low voice. “Princess Luna is, evidently, trying to protect me. You and I both know I can’t protect a pony that might do something foolish like hesitate in an evacuation to look for me.”

The unicorn blinked and came closer. “What? What are you talking about?”

I sighed. “Princess Luna put me in for the academy so I would be one step removed from danger. She then had me assigned here to keep an eye on me. That isn’t going to do. Sooner or later I’m going to have to resign. I just wanted to make certain everything was alright before I did.”

“Silent Knight… don’t be silly. She wouldn’t risk herself for you. She knows she has to get away.”

My brow arched. “Does she? In the heat of the moment, is she going to go with you or try to save me? We can’t take that risk, Iridescence; she’s too important.”

She took a long breath and seemed to mull it over before giving me a frown. “What are you going to do, then?”

I waved a hoof at her. “I’ll find something. Perhaps the palace guard could use an officer that actually knows what he’s doing… there are plenty of positions for a pony like me. Anyway, I just thought you should know. Please don’t tell anypony. Especially not the princess.”

“I won’t… but don’t go making some hasty decision. Maybe you should go talk to Shining Armor first. I respect what you’re saying, but this is more than just your job. This is you. You’re Silent Knight, Princess Luna’s House Guard Commander.”

“I know, but the rules are the rules and I can’t risk her. I’ll think it over, though. Dismissed.”

Iridescence nodded at me and put her helmet back on. As she went to the door, she paused a moment as if to say something, but then just went on.

For the first time in my life, I had a buddy with me at the Hay Cafe. I wasn’t the lone royal guard sitting there muttering to himself.

Val looked at me across the table and smirked. “You prefer this, don’t you?”

“Yes. How can you not?”

“I’m not used to trusting ponies. I decided to trust you and that has worked out decently well thus far. In my experience, however, this is an oddity.”

I just nodded and then munched on my salad. It was pretty basic on the whole. Generally, I preferred cooked vegetables, but the cafe didn’t really do them very well. “So…”

Val looked around and lowered her voice. As she did, her horn illuminated. “So, our friend had some interesting documents. The real winner, of course, was the journal you managed to scoop up.”

I didn’t even remember a journal, but I’d grabbed everything made of paper. “Any clear link?”

“Yes and no. Without a doubt, he was Garrard, not that that should surprise you. There was way too much evidence for anything else to be true. Unfortunately, there were no written orders from a higher-up to execute the attack.”

That wasn’t wholly surprising. You don’t normally create a paper trail when you commit an act of war. That allows you to have some deniability if the operation blows up in your face.

“Anything of use, then?”

Val nodded. “Oh, definitely. He was supposed to be keeping an eye on the Nordanver king and reporting his activities back. Nothing overly critical, just court gossip and such. To be honest, it sounded like a dull job. Still, I found a lot of evidence of drops and he mentions the things he collected in his journal. It didn’t amount to much.”

“How does he go from a low-level spy to would-be assassin? How did he get so many gryphon soldiers on his side?”

“That part seems somewhat convoluted. From what I can tell, Garrard is the black sheep of the family. I’m not sure the Sudramoar royals cared all that much for him. My educated guess is that is why he was chosen for this ‘important’ mission. Get him out from under hoof. His journal is not very complimentary of his own grandfather.”

I set my fork down and looked up. “Alright. I’m with you so far.”

“Well, Alastair, on the other hoof, was a pretty popular soldier. Just because his own family didn’t really like him didn’t mean others felt the same. He drew in a lot of younger gryphons from less influential walks of life and treated them well. Plus, he had money, and lots of it. Ultimately, I’d guess he wanted to do something worthy of his grandfather’s notice, and an attack on Princess Luna was what he came up with.”

That brought a frown to my face. “So it wasn’t ordered?”

Her ear twitched. “I didn’t say that.”

“Help me out, then?”

“He was receiving missives. Vague letters that encouraged him to continue with the grand design. Not necessarily an order, per se, but a nudge. The writer talked about how it would result in a stronger homeland. No names are ever mentioned. No places, either. I don’t think they really trusted him enough to let him see the whole picture.”

I felt both smug at that… and guilty. Alastair was just a pawn, and I’d killed him. For what?

Anger boiled up that I kept from showing on my face. No, he was a murderer. Pawn or not, he deserved exactly what he got.

If Val noticed, she didn’t show it. She just kept talking. “That led Alastair to start planning. He scripted out a lot of it, including his delivery line. Several different versions were scratched out, leaving one in underline.”

She cleared her throat and recited: “The Princess will fetch a hefty ransom from the Duke. He is so enthralled by you ponies. Unfortunately, the rest of you won’t be necessary. If you surrender, though, I might let you live.

The too-familiar words sent a chill up and down my spine. I grabbed my fork again just so I had something to hold onto, then quickly set it back on the table. Having a weapon in hoof was probably a terrible idea when I was breaking out in a light sweat.

“In my opinion,” Val continued, “I think he planned for it to lower your guard or get the other gryphons to run off. Perhaps he thought no one would fight as hard if they thought the princess wasn’t in mortal danger. Either that, or his own men would have thought an assassination attempt would be insane and not go along with it.”

“So in their mind, it was an ambush for ransom, but in his it was not?”

Val nodded. “Exactly. There was no mention of a plan to hold her. I suspect it was indeed an assassination attempt. Even if it wasn’t a direct order, it was clear he was being pushed to do something.”

I didn’t like this. Everything was too perfectly orchestrated: for all intents and purposes, he acted entirely alone. Even his followers hadn’t known what was going on. It was very likely he didn’t, either.

Whoever was pulling the strings was very, very good.

I slumped back in my seat. “So we’re back to square one.”

She gave an emphatic shake of her head. “No. We got him, and we know someone is up to something. I have contacts in Sudramoar that are keeping tabs on the likely suspects.”

“Sounds good.” I tried to eat more of my salad, but my appetite was long gone. “Oh. I wanted to let you know that my boss and her sister are looking at this closer.”

Val waved a hoof without any nervous hesitation. “Won’t be a problem.”

My ear flicked. “Oh?”

“There isn’t anything to find anymore. There is no record of him getting on a ship, no record of a ship coming here. I’d thrown guard intelligence off the trail long before we got him that far. No pony outside of your unit knows he came here and there is no evidence he and his soldiers ever were. Frankly, at this point, the only evidence is personal confessions.”

“I see.” I stared down at the table, then up at her. “There were good ponies involved. Guilt might motivate them to talk.”

Val shrugged. “It’s a risk we had to take.”

It was. It was a necessary risk for a necessary mission. Wasn’t it?

I wasn’t sure anymore.

Author's Note:

Welcome to the big 40! This chapter is packed full of importance. There is a lot of of data there, possibly too much ;)

Plus Azurite! Azurite is always fun.

If you are enjoying this story, please consider taking a look at Crystal and my's website QuillnBlade.com for extra content such as mini stories, Q&B AU wiki, and special rewards for the awesome folks who support our Patreon. We have monthly art give aways, a Q&B Discord RPG, a several other fun gifts for patrons.

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