• Published 7th Apr 2013
  • 3,809 Views, 214 Comments

Old Wounds - Martian



They must not be forgotten.

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Interlude 1 - The Guard

Twilight would go to the Starswirl wing, but she would let a few days pass before venturing down into those ancient stacks. Luna’s revelation had left Twilight shaken, and the pony had opted just to go about the small duties she had to attend to with her new rank and just let her need to discover simmer on the backburner.

Her new life as a princess wasn’t quite so far removed from her old life as she had thought. There were certainly new customs to learn, and her authority meant she could be asked to see to small matters of state, but they weren’t anything near so harrowing as she had expected. Actually, the minor matters of state that Celestia delegated to her generally came in the form of envoys who used the excuse of discussing trade matters simply to meet with the new princess.

Celestia had confided in Twilight the day before she was given her duties that the envoys were wanting to gauge her ability, and so Twilight should do everything she could to impress them. No one would question her station, for the mere existence of her horn and wings was the indelible mark of a pony who had been crowned, but they had to see that she was not some one-trick pony. It was a matter of earning respect and love rather than contempt.

Well, Twilight had dressed herself in her elemental crown, had worn the elegant golden peytral around her neck, and the matching sollerets upon her hooves. She had combed her mane straight, as she preferred, and ventured forth to meet the dignitaries. Twilight had been perfectly pleasant, intelligent, and even managed to break through her nervousness when she saw the ledgers they had brought to the table: there was nothing like the dance of numbers and values to really make Twilight feel comfortable. By the end of the meeting, she had been playfully bantering with the Germaneigh envoy and learning a few words of Prancian from a rather elegant unicorn mare with the kind of presence and posture that would have quite probably caused Rarity to abandon reason and abduct her for use as a model.

This, while improving trade income and efficiency by 1.5%.

To say she left a good impression was a bit of an understatement, as Celestia had told her later. The young mare had spent the rest of the day in the kind of good mood you only really get a few times in your life.

Her new royal duties were actually a fair bit more fun than expected, though the selection of her personal guard was a different bushel of apples. A princess could call upon any of the guards in Canterlot for any particular duty, but each had half a dozen ponies assigned specifically to them to act as bodyguards, advisors, and servants.

It was a personal selection from any of the soldiers in Canterlot, each princess choosing for the traits they found necessary. Celestia had six ponies well known for their calm demeanor and compassionate nature, while Cadence had chosen particularly playful and friendly members for her staff. Luna’s guards were rarely seen, though given that each had been willingly changed through her magic to become night-ponies, it wasn’t quite so surprising. Bat-winged and strange-eyed, they were viewed with some suspicion and fear by many, but Twilight had found them to be perfectly polite and little different than anyone else, save for perhaps reflecting the usually somber mood of their mistress.

That isn’t to say they were joyless; Racing Star had been quite tickled about beating Twilight three games to two at chess, and spent more than a bit of time letting her comrades know about it. Being a princess meant Twilight did command a fair bit of respect now, but that apparently did not exempt her from some playful ribbing. ‘All was fair in love and war,’ Racing Star had said, and chess was just a different kind of war.

Not so long ago, the very idea of Twilight Sparkle going out of her way to meet new ponies and interact with them would have caused one’s brain to short out. It said much of her life in recent years that she not only did so, but genuinely enjoyed the activity of making new friends whenever she could.

And now was the matter of selecting her own guard. Twilight still had no idea just what she should have been looking for, and so far had only two wearing her crest on the circlet about their shoulders. They had been suggested to her by Princess Celestia, and they had proven to be capable ponies indeed, though Twilight was uncomfortable with the idea of giving orders. She had asked Glitter Shine to find her some fresh parchment and ink once, two nights ago, and had been so embarrassed by the unicorn’s genuine smile and willingness to do so that Twilight couldn’t bring herself to ask neither her nor Wingsong to do anything else.

It was the strangest feeling. She had no problem asking Spike to do all kinds of chores, and he was, more or less, just a friend. Glitter Shine and Wingsong were essentially employed to do exactly what Spike did for her, not to mention being potent soldiers dedicated to protecting her, and she felt like anything she asked of them was so petty that it insulted them somehow.

And she still had to pick four more from the hundreds of guards that protected the castle.

The young pony had confided all this to Celestia the morning after the last of the trade envoys had been seen to. The advice the Princess had given her in return was so unbelievably simple that it made Twilight feel worse.

“Did you take the time to meet them as ponies?”

She hadn’t. So embarrassed with the idea of having a personal guard, of having ponies at her beck and call at any time of the day or night, it caused her to distance herself from them even as Twilight went about meeting any number of other ponies. Twilight had actually spent an entire evening with Princess Luna’s personal guard, getting to know them and asking all kinds of questions about the changes they had gone through when they took on their mantles, all the while neglecting the ponies who wore her own crest.

She felt awful.

So, when the noon-day bell rang, she peeked out the door of her chambers and asked Wingsong to find Glitter Shine, so they could both join Twilight in her study.

------------------------

It took only a few moments for Wingsong to find his comrade, as their personal quarters were just steps away from Twilight’s chambers. Apparently, Glitter Shine was just about to venture out for some exercise, as she came in wearing the light khaki jacket and matching cap that all the guards wore while training. It was a colour that went well with her sunny orange coat and artful mess of yellow and red curls, pierced through with a tall horn. Shine was tall and lean, of a stature that was somewhere between Twilight’s and Cadence’s, and carried herself with a breezy confidence. Opposite her in most every way was the stocky Wingsong, all pale blue with a white mane, strong wings nestled against his armoured sides. It was the same golden armour all Canterlot guards wore, though the plates along his breast and sides had been engraved with a subtle pattern of swirls and stars, and the crest just beneath his neck was the pointed star of Twilight’s crest, all in shining amethyst.

“Princess,” they greeted her in a formal tone, though not unfriendly. It had been a week now, and the title was still not getting any easier to wear.

“Please, you can just call me Twilight,” she insisted, but saw a look pass between the two.

“Begging your pardon, Princess, but that would be absolutely improper,” said Glitter Shine. She had a voice that matched her stature; strong, but no less pleasant for it. “And, well, it was drilled into us since enlisting. It’s not a habit you can break easily.”

“Mmn. I called Princess Celestia ‘Miss’ once, on accident,” said Wingsong. “I had been awake for two days straight and she had come out to see us training. I didn’t recognize her, if you can believe it. Just too tired; I thought she was any other mare. Spent my next week moving a mountain of sandbags from one side of a statue of her to the other, one bag at a time. By myself.” Here Wingsong chuckled ruefully, rubbing a hoof against his nose. “Every time I picked one up or put one down, I had to shout ‘Princess’.”

That was promising, at least. Not so much the difficulty with her appellation, but the two seemed to be remarkably candid and forthright with her. Twilight had been fearing that they’d be the iron-jawed and stoic sort that answered every question with single syllables or grunts or something. It was how most saw the Canterlot Guard; armed and armoured, standing tall and straight and silent in any weather. It was an accurate picture, but thinking on how Luna’s guard had been perfectly normal with her, and the way that one friendly old stallion in Celestia’s staff always had a peppermint for her since she was a filly. Perhaps that rigid discipline was relaxed when they wore a princess’ crest.

“Ah, so that’s where the rumours came from,” said Shine, grinning to her compatriot.

Wingsong coughed and rolled his eyes, “Not in front of the royalty, Sputters.”

Twilight couldn’t help but smile at the exchange. She gave the tall unicorn a curious look, “Sputters?”

“Ugh. Sputter Shine,” she answered, shaking her head. “I used to have a stutter. I would appreciate it if you didn’t use it, Princess,” Shine added, sheepishly.

“No problem!” There was a beat of silence before Twilight remembered just why she had asked the two to join her. “Oh! I was hoping you would both share a drink with me.”

“I would love to,” said Shine, starting to follow Twilight. Wingsong hesitated.

“Er, it depends on just what it might be, Princess.”

“Apple brandy?”

“I am technically on duty-”

“Apple Family Private Reserve~” said Twilight, giving her voice a come-hither curl.

“But I’m certain I can handle one glass,” finished Wingsong quickly, hurrying after the two.

It was remarkable just what kind of power the Apple family held for such a genial and humble bunch of ponies.

“I wanted to apologize to the two of you,” said Twilight as she drew a trio of small glasses from the cabinet in the corner of her study, along with a long-necked bottle in dark green, stoppered with a cork and bereft of any label. When you were lucky enough to have been giifted a bottle of A. F. P. R. Apple Brandy, you did not forget what container it was in. Ever.

“I’ve barely said three words to either of you in days.” Twilight unstoppered the bottle with a brief effort of will, then carefully poured a measure of honey-gold liquid into each glass. The entire world became scented with crisp autumn apples. “I just wasn’t comfortable having guards. I’m... still not entirely sure about it, to tell you the truth.” She dispersed the glasses to the two others, watching their expressions. They were grinning. Not at the near-priceless offering set on the table before them, but at one another, then to her.

“Princess Celestia warned us,” said Wingsong, cheerfully.

“I think she had a bet with Princess Cadence over how long it would take you to apologize to us,” added Glitter Shine.

Twilight stared at them for a long time. “What.”

“Mmn. I think one would have to personally polish the other’s sollerets every morning for a week.”

“What.”

“I think cake might have also been mentioned.”

Twilight planted her face in both her hooves with a groan. She scrubbed her cheeks for half a second, then leaned back with a laugh, a genuine one that came from the belly. Shine and Wingsong were both grinning.

“Aah, I should have expected that. It is very Cadence,” she thought for a moment, “And Celestia.”

“To the princesses?” said Glitter Shine, lofting her glass gently with a nimbus of golden magic.

Twilight lifted hers likewise, and Wingsong deftly held his in a hoof. “To the princesses!” they said together.

“Present royalty included,” said Glitter Shine with a grin. The three took a nip from their respective glasses, and Twilight amused herself by watching their expressions.

The Apple family were one and all robust ponies, and they distilled their brandy to reflect this. It may have smelled like the finest, fresh-cut apples you could ever find, and it did indeed taste as good at it smelled, but that crisp sweetness was backed with some rather intense alcoholic heat. Applejack had shared a fair bit of it with the girls over the past two years, and while Twilight would never be a hard drinker, she had developed a tolerance, and even a love, for the burn.

Apparently, neither Glitter Shine nor Wingsong had a problem with the heat because they didn’t sputter, or shiver, or do any number of other reactions many ponies had when first presented with an Apple family specialty. What they did do was sit very still for half a moment before their eyes went wide. Then, in perfect unison, the two looked down to their glasses and very carefully tried a second, longer sip.

“Wow,” breathed Shine after a few quiet seconds.

“This knocks the teeth out of scumble,” added Wingsong.

“Scumble?” Twilight stoppered the bottle again. Sharing a drink was grand, but getting drunk would probably be improper.

“Mmn, a back-alley liquor, Princess,” said Shine over the rim of her glass, testing the aroma with a heady grin across her face.

“It is made from apples,” Wingsong explained, doing likewise before finishing the last of the brandy in his glass. “Well, mainly apples.”

“And bleach. And floor polish. And rat.”

“Only for the colour.”

Twilight giggled at the two bantering back and forth. “Sound delightful.”

“I’ll make a gift of a bootful to you, Princess.”

“Attempted regicide, right there.”

“I’d make sure it’s a clean boot.”

It went on like that for awhile. Glitter Shine and Wingsong constantly fenced words with one another like practiced professionals as they answered the questions Twilight ventured their way. It was just small talk really, but it was some of the best fun Twilight had had in awhile. She did still feel bad about practically shunning the two for a full week, but there looked to be no hard feelings.

Wingsong had enlisted with the Canterlot Guard some fifteen years ago, which made him a fair bit older than Twilight had expected. Glitter Shine had been much more recent, having just finished officer’s training a few months before being tapped by Celestia for Twilight’s guard. Technically she was a Lieutenant of the Guard, outranking Wingsong as he was a sergeant when he was selected, but the playing field had been levelled when they were graced to wear Twilight’s crest.

“There are only two ranks for us now, Princess,” explained Shine. Their glasses were set in the center of the table, drained of their delicious liquor. The air still carried with it the lingering scent of the brandy though, and it made for a pleasant atmosphere. “Guard Cohorts-”

“Which is us.”

“- and a Captain, whom you select from the Cohorts when you have a full complement.”

“‘Cohorts’ doesn’t sound like a special kind of rank,” said Twilight, rubbing her chin thoughtfully, “Actually sounds kind of like something you’d expect some group of thieves to adopt.”

“Well,” said Wingsong, spreading his hooves with a grin, “I was a sergeant.”

“Uh huh. That explains a lot,” said Shine dryly to her partner, then turned back to Twilight. “The word is actually an evolved form for Cohors, which was the old word for ‘soldier’. Stretches way back to when we still used legionnaires and centurions.”

“I did not know that,” said Twilight, then a thought struck her and she beamed, “Do you study a lot of military history?”

Glitter Shine nodded, “I was actually lining up to be an archivist for the Guard before I was graced with the opportunity to be here, Princess. I spend a fair amount of time in their records when I was able to.”

Twilight was practically vibrating with excitement. “I think we shall get along splendidly, Glitter Shine.”

“Oh? And what about me?” complained Wingsong, sounding hurt.

Twilight leaned on the little table, one hoof on her cheek, giving the pegasus a slow thoughtful look. “What was that rumour about you, that Glitter Shine mentioned?”

The unicorn burst out laughing, very nearly falling over backwards from the force of it. Her cap ended up on the ground, letting her long tangle of a red-and-gold mane tumble free. “Spill it, Wing! Spill it or I will!”

Wingsong let out a long groan, planting his face firmly in his hoof. Twilight just kept grinning.

“Uuuugh...”

“Guard Cohort...” Twilight warned, though it was hard put to an authoritarian edge on a title when you were grinning as wide as she was.

Wingsong gave Glitter Shine a dirty look, then let out a defeated breath and hung his head.

“Word is... I’ll bend over for a princess...”

The laughter started with the two mares, filling the room with unbound mirth. It was just a second before Wingsong’s shoulders started to shake, and a moment more for his basso laugh to join theirs.







---

Author's Note:

A little bit of comedy, perhaps?

BTW: sollerets are the things on the princess' hooves, and the peytral is that thing around Celestia's neck.