• Published 30th Jul 2016
  • 2,555 Views, 68 Comments

The Night Mare's Guard - Shadow Quill

The Changelings haven't been sitting idle the three years they haved been gone. Now they're back and better than ever, with their sights set squarely on the alicorns of Equestria. One dark mare, shrowded in mystery, sits right in the crosshairs.

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4 A Frosty Welcome

My peaceful rest was brought to an abrupt end when somepony yelled at the top of their lungs right next to my ear. I would have jumped in surprise, had I not been picked up and bodily thrown across the room. My wings flared on reflex, but couldn’t stop me from crashing upside down against the door. I grunted as the wind was knocked out of my lungs, and closed my eyes as the floor began a rapid approach to my face.

However, the impact never came, and I slowly opened my eyes to see I was hovering about an inch from the floorboards, my body held in a light green telekinetic grip. I looked up and saw two ponies in gold Day Guard armor standing next to my bed, the unicorn stallion’s horn aglow with the same light that held me aloft.

“Rise and shine trainee,” he said as he righted my body, “you get to sleep when Captain Shining Armor says you can. You better be ready to hustle, because I hear he has a special training program, made just for you.”

I growled under my breath, somehow managing to restrain the impulse to pound these two into the dirt. Earth pony and unicorn or not, a royal changeling would grind them to dust if I so chose. However, it wasn’t worth the effort, so I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, standing at my full height as I turned around. I opened the door and walked into the main hall, my wake-up call following me like shadows as we made our way out of the castle. The sun was barely above the horizon, and yet the training grounds were full of activity as we made our way around the barracks. Gold and deep purple armor moved about in rapid dances of battle as Night Guard members sparred with their daytime counterparts. Overseeing the training from a raised platform, was Prince Shining Armor, dressed from head to hoof in his purple and gold plating. Beside him were two ponies I did not expect to see, given I thought they would be busy with more important matters.

Princess Celestia and Princess Luna stood on either side of the captain, their impassive gazes roaming the sparing guard members with a critical light. It seemed that I had stumbled into not only a training session, but a royal inspection of the ranks. I swallowed despite my better judgment, knowing that if Luna didn’t approve of my skills, I might never prove myself worthy of being a Shadow Sword. Without the close proximity the position would allow, I would have to resort to my secondary plan, albeit the end result would not be all that different. The amulet was the means to which I could steal the Princess’s magic, Luna’s love and the power it would grant me was only a personal bonus that I would rather acquire before freeing my mother. After all, one could never have enough power when it came to ruling a nation.
My musings were cut short as Shining Armor waved me up onto the platform, the princesses turning their eyes on me as I flew up to join them. I bowed as soon as I landed, letting the noise from the ponies below fade from my attention in hopes of picking up any small talk between the others. It was an old trick mother had taught me, although this was the first time I had tried it. Shining Armor was silent, but in the pause following my arrival, I heard a soft muttering between the royal sisters.

“He is a striking one sister,” it was Celestia who had spoken in a hushed tone, “he would look good in the black armor of the Shadow Sword.”

“That remains to be seen sister.” Luna replied in the same tone, “He must first prove he has the conviction to stand equal to the other members of the Guard, and the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty whenever the situation calls for it. Only then will I deem him worthy of that title.”

I was pulled from my altered mindset when Celestia addressed me, the background noise folding back into my awareness like a deck of cards, “Rise Silver Shield. Today you begin your training as a guard, and in time, prove your worth as the first member of the new Shadow Sword.”

I straightened and nodded to Celestia, noting the perfectly straight look Luna was giving me. Given what I had just heard, she didn’t think much of me and my chances of proving myself. After all, I did kind of waltz into the castle and proclaim myself better than the entire royal guard. Only a fool would take such bold words at face value without proof to back them up. Perhaps I had misjudged the ponies, or at least this one in particular. She might have been the most viable option as a target, but that didn’t mean it would be easy to bend her heart and mind to my will. I suppressed a grin at the thought. I loved it when the prey made a sport out of the hunt. It was so much more thrilling when the dance finally came to an end.

Shining Armor stepped forward, his mouth a firm line and his back straight as an arrow, “Trainee Silver Shield, you are now under my command and will follow any order I or any other superior officer gives you. You will be given a copy of the guard regulations handbook and are required to know it cover to cover. Any breach in regulations or disorderly conduct will be reprimanded harshly. Any fraternizing with the female guards will result in a single warning. Any further incidents will be grounds for immediate termination as a member of the guard. Any questions so far concerning what I have told you?”

I shook my head, keeping my face neutral as I matched his posture. Nopony would call me a slouch when under pressure.

“Very good.” He continued with his speech as he indicated the ponies below with a raised hoof, “You will be joining our cross shift training today, and I will be watching your progress while you face off against other members of the guard. While you are not required to beat any of them, you must still show what skills you have that would make you a viable addition to the ranks. If you have nothing to give that would better the general ranks, then you will be of no use to Princess Luna as her escort. You will face off with guards of different ranks and stations, so that we can get a true measure of your power, speed and magical abilities.”

He turned to the princesses, “With your leave Princesses, we are ready to begin.”

Celestia and Luna nodded, their gazes locked on me as Celestia replied, “You may begin at your leisure captain. We will observe from here while the training progresses.”

He nodded once, turning back to me, “Right, trainee Silver Shield, your first task is to select an opponent.” He swept a hoof over the ponies below us, “You may pick any of the guard you see before you, but remember that once you pick a sparring partner, you must continue your match until one of you submits.”

I nodded, “Understood captain.”

I turned to face the sparring ponies and tried to think. Picking a suitable target would be the best way to prove I was better than these run-of-the-mill ponies, but I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew. After all, I was unfamiliar with the Guard’s fighting styles, and so would be at a disadvantage if I was caught unprepared. My gaze roamed from one pair to another, my mind spinning as I tried to pick the best opponent possible. Then, like somepony had shined a beacon on her head, I found the perfect one.

The parts of her mane that I could see poking from under her helm were a bright gold in color, standing out against her near-black coat and dark purple armor. Her tail had been cut to the point that it barely hung past her rump, and her blazing blue eyes were alight with the same fire of determination as the captain’s, her horn aglow as she threw her sparring partner around like a ragdoll. I had inspected the members of both shifts, and of all the ponies present, this one was by far the most powerful and the most skilled in personal combat. If I could best her, or even hold my ground, I had a feeling it would more than prove my worth to both Shining Armor and Princess Luna.

I lifted a hoof and pointed her out, “She’s the one. I pick her as my opponent.”

Luna couldn’t keep the snort of laughter from escaping her mouth, although it was quickly covered by a cough when Celestia tossed a glare towards her sister. Shining Armor seemed all-too eager to agree with the dark alicorn, as he had to cover his mouth with a hoof to keep his snickers under control.

“Alright trainee,” he managed to force out between coughs of laughter, “but you might regret your decision after you get a taste of what she can do.” He placed his hoof down and raised his voice over the clamor of fighting ponies, “Sergeant Frost Fire, report to the command station on the double!”

The mare paused as she held her victim upside down in the air, “Aww, but I was just starting to have fun with this one. Can’t it wait a minute or five?”

Shining Armor narrowed his gaze at her, and she rolled her eyes as the poor earth pony stallion she had been tossing around dropped like a box of bricks, “Fine, but this had better be worth it.”

She made her way through the others, sidestepping ponies like they didn’t exist as mares and stallions shifted in ever-changing patterns of kicks and magic spells. Yet, they seemed to flow around her like water as she stepped through the masses, and I realized that I might have made a huge mistake. This mare, or rather, Frost Fire, knew her way around a battlefield, and had the raw power to back up whatever untapped skills she had up her proverbial sleeve. This was going to be a battle that would test my skills as a fighter to their limit, given I was limited to the abilities of my current form instead of my natural changeling physique.

She climbed the same steps I had used and tossed me a side glance before turning to Shining Armor, “So what did you call me here for captain? Somepony need their head bashed against a wall?”

Shining Armor turned towards me, “That is true, in a manner of speaking. Trainee Silver Shield was given the choice of picking his opponent for today. He knew that once he picked somepony to face, he would have to fight until either he or his opponent gave in.” He turned back to Frost Fire, “The pony he chose to face is you sergeant. Give him a warm welcome to the corps.”

She turned towards me and rolled her eyes, “Seriously, I had to get saddled with the new colt?” She turned back to Shining, her eyes pleading, “Come on captain, do I really have to lower myself to training recruits? Couldn’t somepony else do it, one who might actually be a match for a complete novice?”

Shining Armor smirked as he glanced my way, “He might surprise you Frost Fire. He managed to incapacitate me yesterday when I tested his skills. He might not look like all that much, but he has a fighting spirit and some rather unorthodox skills to back it up. I think you find him a worthy opponent, at least while he can avoid your signature move.”

Her eyes sparked with interest as she turned back towards me, “Is that so? Well then, I think we might as well get this started.” She glanced over her shoulder at the captain, “You might want to move sir, you know how I get when things get going hot.”

He needed no further persuasion as he stepped off of the platform, leaving us alone as Celestia and Luna took to the air. I fell into a fighting stance as I sized up Frost Fire, knowing that if I couldn’t counter her initial attack, I wouldn’t last half a minute.

She dusted off her chest piece with a bored look on her face, “Make this interesting trainee. I don’t get to go all out much, so you better make it worth my while.”

“I intend to Frost Fire.” I countered as I took to the air, “Just be prepared to eat my dust when I grind your face into the dirt.”

She laughed as her horn flared to life, “The captain was right, you do have spirit. Let’s see how far that gets you against somepony like me.”

I expected her to take me in her telekinetic grip as she had her previous opponent, but instead I was met with a beam of blue magic that shot from her horn like a sunbeam breaking through the clouds. I dodged to the side at the last moment, feeling the icy chill that permeated the air around her attack. Had I been hit directly I had no doubts that I would be sitting on the platform, covered from ears to tail in ice. I tucked my wings in tight against my flanks and dove straight for the ground, picking up speed until the air whistled in my ears. I channeled some of my magic into my wings and felt them crackle with energy, the beginnings of what would eventually become lightning.

Frost Fire shot at me as I plunged toward the ground, but it seemed that I was moving faster than she predicted, given the only thing I felt was a slight chill on the tip of my tail. Just as I was about to impact the platform headfirst, I extended my wings and turned my downward motion into a horizontal sprint, my wings now sparking and fizzling with contained electricity as I zeroed in on Frost Fire.

She had the presence of mind to dodge my attack, leaping to the side as I rocketed past her, the charge on my wings making her fur stand on end as I pulled up for another pass. She fired another freeze blast my direction, but the change in stance from dodging me threw off her aim. My primary feathers on my left wing frosted over as her attack went wide, but it was enough to break my concentration, causing the lightning I had been creating to short out. I cursed under my breath as I dove once more, intent on bringing this fight to a swift end before Frost Fire got lucky.

She also seemed to want to finish the fight, because instead of a single beam, her next attack was a series of short bursts, scattered through the air like a frost nova. One of her shots hit my right wing, freezing it solid as I leveled my flight path over the platform. I slid to a stop, somehow managing to stay upright even with all of my leftover speed from the dive. Frost Fire took aim and fired another blast, but this time I was expecting it. I charged my remaining wing with electricity and swung it into the path of the attack, her ice magic sizzling as it encountered my own. A plume of steam erupted around me, and I realized that I now had the advantage of surprise. Slipping to the side, I charged my wing with one last burst of electricity, hoping it would be enough to put Frost Fire down. While absorbing magic from Sunstreaker had given me more power than I would normally have at my disposal, I was rapidly burning through it trying to counter Frost Fire’s attacks. If this last attack didn’t work, I would be helpless against her icy magic.

With a burst of speed, I raced through the fog and came out on Frost Fire’s left. She saw me coming just a moment too late, and was unable to stop my charge as I slammed into her side. I wrapped my forelegs around her neck and pressed my charged wing against her side, pumping every ounce of remaining power into her. She cried out as her fur began to spark along her entire body, and I used my momentum to pin her to the ground.

For a moment it seemed like it was over. Frost Fire was breathing heavily, her fur smoking lightly and her horn dark. Yet, as I tried to move off of her, I realized that I couldn’t move. I looked around, trying to figure out what was holding me down, when I realized what Frost Fire had done. Encasing both of us from the neck down, was a solid block of ice. While I had managed to incapacitate Frost Fire, had this been a real battle her comrades would have taken me out by now, unable to defend myself or fly away.

Shining Armor climbed back up onto the platform, his eyes wide with a mixture of awe and surprise. Celestia and Luna landed next to him, their own shock blatant on their faces as they openly stared at me.

Frost Fire groaned as she forced her eyes open and looked up at me, “Sweet Celestia that lightning has a punch to it.” She smiled as she lifted her head up to meet my gaze, “Nicely done trainee. I haven’t had this much fun in years. I look forward to sparring with you again.”

I smirked, “Next time don’t be a sore loser. Besides, you’ll have to get in line behind the prince. He’s already called dibs on my next rematch.”
She pouted and turned to look at Shining Armor, “Aww, no fare captain. Why do you get to kick his flank first?”

“Because I outrank you,” he replied as he walked up, his horn alight as the ice around us began to melt, “and because I faced him first, therefore my rematch takes priority.”

She huffed as we stood up, “You’re no fun.” She bumped me in the shoulder with her hoof, “Don’t forget featherhead. You owe me once you get stronger.”

I nodded, “I look forward to it Frost Fire. I’ll be ready anytime you want to get you plot kicked.”

She laughed as she turned to walk away, “He’s alright captain. I think we got ourselves a winner here. Try not to scare this one off like you did the last one.”

He rolled his eyes as Frost Fire walked down the steps and joined the other guard members, “I can’t promise anything, but I’ll do my best.”
He turned towards the princesses, one eyebrow raised in question, “So, what did you think of our newest recruit?”

Celestia nodded once, as if confirming her own thoughts, “Silver Shield does show great skills. He would do well if given the proper guidance and training. What do you think sister?”

Luna glanced up at her sibling before turning back to me, “I believe that there is potential that can be molded into a powerful tool, but only if Silver Shield is willing to do whatever it takes to be the best. After all, your ultimate goal is to become a Shadow Sword, is it not?”

I nodded, bowing my head at her words, “That is correct Your Highness. While I would be happy working as a member of the Guard, I feel that my skills would be better suited if given a more concentrated focus.” I glanced up at them through my fetlock, “If it pleases you my Lady, I would like to train under Prince Shining Armor specifically, as he is already familiar with my fighting style. He also possesses the raw magical skill to push my own abilities to their limits, forcing me to reach my greatest potential as fast as possible.”

Luna glanced up at Celestia, but when the sun Diarch made no effort to answer, she turned back to address me herself, “If you believe that is the most prudent course of action, I will allow it. However,” she glanced at Shining Armor, “I must also have your consent and approval before moving forward. Do you believe from your observations and personal experiences that training privately with Silver Shield would be the best option?”

He nodded, “I do Princess Luna. While his technique is rough and wild, his skills are sharp and he has a strong magical gift. I think that with enough time and the right training, Silver Shield will be more than ready to become a Shadow Sword.”

She nodded, “Very well then. If you’ll excuse me,” she stifled a yawn behind one hoof, “it is long past my bedtime and I do not wish to keep my mattress waiting any longer.”

With that she flew off towards the greater castle, leaving us behind as Celestia chuckled, “Ah Luna, your mind never seems to work properly unless it is the middle of the night.” She cleared her throat and turned to address us, “Carry on as you were Prince Shining Armor. I expect regular reports on Silver Shield’s progress.”

She flew off after her sister, and I glanced towards the prince with a knowing smirk. He saw my action and rolled his eyes, “Don’t get cocky just yet trainee. If you think that fight was hard, then you’re going to hate me by the time I’m finished with you. Your skills are obviously too sharp for the regular corps members, but that only means I’m going to have to push you twice as hard to get results. We will meet here at sunrise every day, and we won’t stop until either I say you can, or you pass out, whichever comes first.” He glanced at my disheveled looks and cleared his throat, “Well, we can leave that until tomorrow. Get yourself cleaned up and head to the mess hall to get some food. After that fight I’m sure you’re starving.”

I nodded, throwing a quick salute before turning away. I knew that I needed to feed after using up so much magic, but I wasn’t interested in food. Oh no, my desires were centered on a peach-colored pegasus that just so happened to be waiting at the Iron Tap for me. Her attraction alone would fill me up more than a thousand plates of food could, so with a bounce in my step I made my way around the back of the barracks, my gaze leveled on the tavern beyond, and the crimson-haired mare that stood next to the door. Today had been a good day, and from the looks of things, I was one step closer to reaching my ultimate goal.

Author's Note:

Holy Mother of Celestia! Two chapters in one day?! I must be going out of my mind to get this much done in so little time! Anyway, enjoy my faithful readers, and stay tuned for the next phase of Prince Silver Jacket's plans.
See you next chapter,
Shadow Quill, Messenger of the Moon.