The Guardian of the Night

The Royal Guard has intensified their training regimen after countless attacks on Canterlot. They’re tougher, better, faster, stronger – and, after months of hard training, they only accept the best of the best. The Night Guard, the elite soldiers trained to protect Princess Luna during the evening, are similar to the Royal Guard, only ten times tougher.
Undeterred by the challenges that await him, Pipsqueak (now a full grown stallion) signs up to join the most elite soldiers in all of Equestria... The Night Guard.
He isn’t doing it for the fame or glory. Pip is motivated by one goal and one goal only: to fulfill a promise he made as a foal. He will become the guardian of the night.
This story is technically a sequel to The Dream Stalker, but it is not necessary to read that story first in order to understand this one.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/201940/the-guardian-of-the-night

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13. Fealty

Scootaloo immediately grabbed the spear. Thunder Clash pointed to the far end of the training field. “Stand over there and get a feel for it. I’ll be around to run through drills with each of you, to see if you made a suitable choice.”

Scootaloo eagerly ran over to her designated area, never bothering to look back. Mist hesitantly turned to Equinox. The two of them shared a silent moment before Mist stepped forward and picked up the bow and arrow.

“I also want to train with the bow,” Specter stated.

Thunder Clash pointed to the other weapon racks. “Then get one, boy. The targets are already set up.” The south side of the field had hay bales with circular targets pinned over them. Specter immediately flew over, grabbed a bow and arrow, and left to practice. Mist hesitantly followed after him, glancing back at her sister as she went.

Equinox stepped forward and picked up the halberd.

“You ever held one of those, girlie?” Thunder Clash asked.

“Yes. My father trained me with one.”

“Oh? Who is your father? Is he in the Night Guard?”

“No, you wouldn’t know him,” Equinox quickly replied. She flew off with the halberd, not bothering to wait for Thunder Clash to inquire further.

Gloom trotted forward and took the axe. He hefted up onto his shoulder and waited for Thunder Clash to point him to a location. Gloom was given a near corner by the weapon racks. Rumble, on the other hoof, didn’t wait at all. He grabbed a spear from the rack and selected his own area to train.

Marble leaned over the war hammer and gently caressed it. Thunder Clash glared at her. “Take the weapon, girlie. No need to make out with it.” She nodded in acknowledgement and took the war hammer. He pointed her away, leaving Snips, Snails, and Pip without a weapon.

Snips and Snails gave each other wide smiles before using their magic to take the sword and knife. They floated the weapons together, their magic auras combining to move them through the air. Thunder Clash took a nervous step back.

           “Those are real weapons, not the training versions! You two stand way over there, you understand me?” The two unicorns ran off. “Keep going!” Thunder Clash yelled after them. “Stay there till I come to speak with you!”

Pip gleefully walked over to the weapons rack and selected a sword. He had always wanted to wield one! The handle, however, was too short to be used with hooves… Pip grabbed it with his mouth and trotted to his own corner of the field. While everypony else was busy getting a feel for the weight and handle of their own weapon, Pip attempted to swing the sword.

It was difficult, and after only a few swings, Pip was having trouble breathing. One swing, two swing… then Pip had to take a rest. The sword itself was light, he didn’t understand why he was having difficulty. Perhaps I need to train with it more!

“What are you doing, boy?”

Pip turned around and saw that Thunder Clash had come to see him first. He placed the sword on the ground and motioned to it. “Practicing with the weapon… like you instructed, sir.”

Thunder Clash flew close to him and angrily frowned. “No, boy! I meant, why are you using a sword?”

“Er, well… I've always wanted to fight with one. I use one all the time in my dreams.”

“Your dreams?” Thunder Clash grunted loud enough that some of the other recruits began laughing, even from their positions across the training field. “Anything is possible in your dreams, son! You could wield sponge and it would be just as effective! Practicing in your dreams and practicing while awake are definitely not interchangeable! You need to learn to face reality!”

Again, more laughing. Now everypony could hear. Pip began to slowly lower his head in an attempt to disappear from sight.

“Pick up your sword and hack at that post over there.”

Pip glanced at the wooden post on the very edge of the field. It had hack marks in it already, but it was still a large log. He grabbed his sword and ran to the post. Pip struck the log with the bladed end and added a hack mark of his own. Thunder Clash motioned for him to continue. Pip attacked again, trying to remember what he read about sword fighting. And then he attacked again. And then he needed to take a break to catch his breath.

Thunder Clash flew over to Pip and unceremoniously knocked the sword from Pip’s mouth. “Do you see your problem, son? Well? Can you even articulate why this will never work like you want it to?”

“Umm… I don’t understand the problem, sir. What problem?”

“The second most important rule of personal combat is that you need to breathe. Your muscles and mind need the air, boy! You can’t wield a weapon in your mouth if it’s going to restrict your airflow! You’ve only just begun, and already you're struggling to catch your breath!”

Pip glanced down to the sword. Now that he thought about it, he felt a lot better once he was breathing fine. He hadn’t even realized. “But… my cutie mark… I have a sword. You don’t think that means I should-”

Thunder Clash face-hoofed in frustration. “Your cutie mark is a metaphor, son! You think I wield lightning bolts while I’m in combat? No! Of course not! You think the Captain of the Crystal Guard uses a shield as his sole weapon in combat? Of course not!”

Again, Pip hung his head. “Er, r-right. Sorry sir.”

“Do you know the history behind your mark, boy? What it signifies?”

Pip shook his head. He had always thought cutie marks were a near direct representation of what a pony was good at. If there was a picture of ice cream, they were good at making ice cream. Then again… there were many ponies with very unusual cutie marks. Like a pony with bubbles, and another pony with a picture of a spoon. Maybe he hadn’t given cutie marks enough thought.

“During the time of war between ponies, there were marks and symbols among them that signified things,” Thunder Clash began. “A sword that pointed downward signified fealty.”

“Fealty, sir?” Pip asked.

“Fealty is the loyalty and allegiance a pony feels for another pony or cause. It means you’ve thrown your lot in with another and follow their lead. By contrast, a sword that was pointed upward signified an open challenge to rule. It meant the pony holding the sword would vie for total control.”

“I didn’t know that.” Pip looked back at his mark. Why did his cutie mark have to be so amorphous? “Shouldn’t my mark be more like a shield? I want to protect ponies. I even got it when I decided I would sign up for the Night Guard. I want to protect Luna.”

Princess Luna,” Thunder Clash corrected. “And there is a difference between a sword and a shield, boy. Not to bombard you with metaphor, but… a shield shares the fate of its wielder. A sword can be sacrificed for the battle. I'm no expert on cutie marks, but there is deep and ancient magic embedded in them, son. Don't think they're so simple to understand.”

Pip sighed. He glanced back down at the sword. He had always liked to imagine himself wielding one… like a classic knight or honor guard. “You don’t think I could eventually train to use one, sir?”

Thunder Clash snorted. “Look, if you had all the time in the world, I’m sure you could become skilled. I’ve known many a unicorn that has demonstrated deadly skill with the sword. However, you’re simply an earth pony.”

“What?” Pip asked in shock.

“Don’t get yourself in a tizzy, boy. I’m just telling you like it is. If you wield the sword in your mouth, you’re exposing your face and eyes to additional danger, especially if the opponent parries or ripostes an attack. What would you do if you were blinded via blade, boy? At best, you would lose the conflict. At worst, you would be killed.”

Pip slowly nodded.

“I know you have your heart set on some fantasy, but you need to get your head out of the clouds. I would be a terrible instructor if I didn’t advise you to get a different weapon.”

“Sir, yes sir.”

Thunder Clash motioned to the other recruits. “Why don’t you observe them with their weapons before deciding? Marble is also an earth pony. Why not speak with her?”

Pip picked up the sword and trotted back over to the weapon’s rack. Gloom, who had obviously been listening to the entire conversation with his enhanced hearing, smiled to him. “Them’s the breaks. It’s too bad… I’m sure Princess Luna would have loved a stallion who wielded a sword.”

Pip ignored him and trotted off to see Marble, but his mind still replayed the worlds in his mind. When he got close, Pip realized Marble wasn’t even practicing with her weapon. She was just sitting down and holding it in her lap.

“Marble?” Pip asked when he got close. “What’re you doing?”

She stroked the war hammer. “I’m trying to think up a suitable name.”

“N-name? For what? You aren’t talking about the maul, right?”

“Well, I’m not talking about the dirt. What else do you think I would be trying to name?”

Pip nervously laughed. “Um… It’s just a weapon. I don’t think you need to name it. Its feelings aren’t going to be hurt.”

“Look,” Marble snapped, “If my sister, Pinkie, can treat her pet alligator like a pony, and my other sister, Maud, can have a rock she named boulder, then I can name the weapon I bring with me into combat!”

“Okay, okay… You can name it whatever you want.”

Marble stroked the weapon again. “Maybe… Wendell… Or Francis…”

“Are you sure it’s a boy?” Pip sarcastically asked.

Marble shot him a glare and frowned. “Let me have this, and I won’t bother mentioning how weird your dreams and delusions are any further.”

“Sounds like a reasonable deal.”

“Good.” Marble hugged the weapon close. The handle of the war hammer was just as long as the halberd, but the head of it was a heavy piece of forged metal, nearly the size of a pony's head. One end was flat and the other a wedge.

“So, uh, Marble… Why don’t you show me that war hammer in action? Thunder Clash thinks I need to find a different weapon and-”

“All right,” she said, cutting him off. Marble stood up on her hind legs and held the war hammer close. Since the handle was so long, unlike the swords, there was enough room to grip it with the hooves. Marble motioned for Pip to move back and then walked over to one of the training dummies. She hefted the war hammer over her shoulder and then swung it around, the head of weapon colliding with the training dummy.

SMASH!

The training dummy exploded, much like when Marble kicked one before. After swinging, however, she was left off-balance, and nearly tumbled to the ground. The weapon was heavy. Pip was surprised Marble could hold it at all. But then again, she had always been extremely strong for a pony her size.

Marble’s mane was slightly fritz when she regained her composure. She hefted the war hammer over her shoulder again and smiled wide. “I think Sebastian is my soulmate.”

“Er, Sebastian? And did you just say soulmate?”

“Yes. His name is Sebastian. A proper name for a proper weapon.”

“Umm… Okay, but… Don’t you think a war hammer should have a name like, Bone Smasher, or Destructor? Isn’t Sebastian a little… um, not intimidating?”

Marble glared. “We had a deal.”

“All right, all right. Sebastian it is.”

Now done with her demonstration, Marble took a seat on the ground and began gently clearing away the small pieces of training dummy that were left over on the maul. Pip longingly glanced over at Snips and Snails. They were using their unicorn magic to wield the sword and knife. They were terrible, but there was a small piece of him that wished he could join in.

“Well?” Marble asked, pulling his attention back to the situation before him. “Don’t you want one of Sebastian’s brothers for your own?”

“No, thanks,” Pip stated. He didn’t want a weapon he wouldn’t be able to control. He knew Marble was physically stronger than he was, and she was having problems handling it. “I’m going to go see how Mist and Specter are doing with the bow and arrow.”

Marble nodded to him as he left. Pip glanced at Gloom as he walked by. The axe was nearly as heavy as the maul. Pip already knew he didn’t want it.

The archer lane on the training field was short, which only added to the ridiculousness of the current situation. There were arrows everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except for the actual targets themselves. Mist and Specter were standing at the firing line, both with the bows in their hooves. They took aim and released, but the arrows went flying, landing far beyond where they should.

Pip trotted up behind them, careful not to get anywhere near the path of the arrows. He watched Specter curiously. He thought the bat pony would be better than this. Mist took aim again and released. The arrow hit the very far edge of the target.

“Ffff- YES!” Mist excitedly called out. In her joy, she dropped the bow to the ground and began to prance in place. “I got it! I got it!” she sang.

Specter groaned in irritation. “Keep it to yourself. We all know you wouldn’t be dancing like that if you actually hit a target.” Specter mocked as though he were frightened. “Oh no!” he cried, imitating Mist’s voice. “B-b-b-b-blood!”

Pip was ready to jump in and tell the bat pony off, but Mist just smiled. “I think somepony is jealous,” she said in her sing-song tone, holding her head high. “Wouldn’t you agree, Squeaks?”

Specter turned his head and suddenly noticed Pip. “Heh. What’re you doing here, earth pony? Come to use the bow after you failed with the sword?”

“I was thinking about it,” Pip stated.

“Really?” Mist asked. “You want to be a super-amazing-archer, just like me?”

Specter groaned again.

“Do you mind if I try?”

Mist picked up the bow and gave it to Pip. “Sure!”

Pip took his place at the firing line and stood up into position. It was a composite bow, made of high quality materials. Unlike simple bows, the composite bow had more power behind it, but they were difficult to properly make. Pip had never wielded one, but he had read about them in his books.

He notched an arrow and drew back the string. When he released, the arrow went flying.

Whiff!

Right passed the target.

Specter laughed. Mist began to hum. Frustrated, Pip took another arrow. He notched it and fired again.

Whiff!

This time it was closer, but the arrow still missed.

Pip could feel his blood pressure raising. He knew being calm was important for combat. A frustrated, angry, or depressed fighter only endangered himself. Pip angled the bow down. He knew he would miss constantly if he attempted to use it in battle. His lack of night vision made it next to impossible for him. What if he were aiming for a target twice the distance of these targets? They were already close, and he still missed…

“No?” Mist asked. “You aren’t going to be an archer like me?”

“I don’t think I have the patience for it,” Pip earnestly replied.

“Oh. That’s all right. Maybe, when we’re both in the Night Guard, we’ll be assigned as partners! Then I’ll be able to back you up with my arrows!” She smiled as Pip returned the bow.

Specter notched an arrow and fired. It hit the outside ring of the target. “I wonder what would happen if you didn’t show any aptitude for any of these weapons,” he wondered aloud. “It would be surprising, considering what you said your special talent was.”

Pip was starting to think he knew his special talent less and less. He had always been good at learning and retaining things about the Night Guard… Why was he having so much trouble now? Disheartened, Pip wandered over to Equinox.

Unlike all the other ponies, who were trying their weapons out for the first time, Equinox was wielding hers like a professional. Her stance was impressive and her focus tight. When Pip neared she stopped.

“Can I help you with something?”

“I’m trying to find a weapon I would be suitable at.” Pip wandered over and took a seat. “I’m just going to watch for a few minutes, if you don’t mind.”

She nodded to him and returned to her drills. The halberd was a long weapon, like the spear and war hammer. Equinox wielded it while standing on her hind legs. Her wings flapped when she needed to move around quickly, making her agile, despite the extra weight of the weapon. Unlike the axe and war hammer, it was made to be lighter, and Equinox thrust and turned it with ease.

“You tried using the sword?” Equinox asked between drills.

“Yes,” Pip responded in a low voice. “But Thunder Clash thinks that would be a bad idea.”

“I can see why.”

“You think so too?”

“You’re an earth pony. I don’t see many earth ponies with swords.”

“What weapons do you see earth ponies with?”

“Spears, mostly,” Equinox answered in between another drill. When Pip didn’t respond, she stopped all together. “What’s wrong? You seem off tonight.”

“It’s nothing,” Pip replied, trying to conceal his odd emotional state.

“Hm. You’re a terrible liar. Why don’t you stand around my sister for a few minutes? She has exuberance to spare.”

“I already tried that. Thanks though. I guess I’ll go see how well I do with the spear.”

Pip left with a heavy sigh. Scootaloo and Rumble were using the spears, but when he approached he saw that Rumble was clearly suited for it. He threw the spear with ease, and was a natural at dive-bombing to retrieve it. Scootaloo, on the other hoof, was struggling just to do basic movements. Standing on her hind legs and using it was difficult; she was obviously used to running on all fours.

As Pip approached, he saw Thunder Clash nearing as well. The drill instructor nodded to Rumble. “Keep up the work, boy. You’re doing excellent.”

Rumble puffed out his chest and nodded. “Thank you, sir!”

Thunder Clash landed next to Scootaloo with irritated expression on his face. “Don’t force it, girlie. You’re clearly having a difficult time. Why not try something else?”

“No!” she quickly snapped. “I got this! You’ll see! If all the other pegasi can do it, I can do it!”

Thunder Clash, barely suppressing his anger, flew over to Scootaloo and ripped the spear from her hooves. She was taken aback and mildly hurt.

“Apparently, tonight is the night of hard knocks,” he said, tossing the spear to Rumble. “I hate to be the one to break this to you, Scootaloo, but you aren’t like all the other pegasi! That’s just a fact you’re going to have to own!” Thunder Clash turned to Pip and glared. “The two of you really need to face reality. Come with me.”

Scootaloo glanced at the spear and then back to Thunder Clash. “Me?”

“Yes! The both of you!”

Pip and Scootaloo followed Thunder Clash all the way back to the weapon racks. He landed next to the rack with the claws and pointed to them. “Put these on.”

“But-” Scootaloo began.

“Put these on!” Thunder Clash shouted, cutting her off.

“Sir, yes sir!” Pip and Scootaloo replied together. They quickly did as they were told, and secured the claws to their hooves. They were heavy, but Pip could still trot around in them. He glanced back to Thunder Clash.

“Why these? I thought you said they can be tricky…”

“I know what I said,” Thunder Clash barked. “But listen up for a few seconds and maybe you’ll learn something!” He got close before continuing. “The claws are weapons for close combat. Pip, you’ve displayed a natural flare for personal engagements. That’s what you’re good at, son. Don’t try and overthink a good thing.”

He turned to Scootaloo. “The claws are difficult because sometimes it’s hard to get in close to your enemy. They can try and attack you while you’re still at range. However, if you’re fast enough, you can close the distance in no time. Do the two of your understand what I’m trying to tell you?”

Pip and Scootaloo exchanged nervous glances. Pip had never considered a weapon like the claws. He hadn’t read many books about training with claws either.

“Won’t these get in my way, sir?” Scootaloo asked.

“That’s the whole reason we train, recruit. To get you used to the feel of the weapon on your body. By the time you’re done, you should be adept at using them.”

Scootaloo nodded. “I’ll try my best, sir!”

“As will I,” Pip added.

“Good,” Thunder Clash said in a happier tone. “Then I’ll also have to order you two special armor. You see, close combat allows for you to take advantage of not just your hooves. Those that specialize in the claws are also equipped with spiked shoulder guards for slamming and bashing their opponent. Your body is your weapon. It will be extra important for you two to maintain yourselves and your health.”

“Sir, yes sir!” they replied.

“Good. Now, let’s gather everypony up so we can hand out the training versions of these weapons.”

Pip began to remove his claws but Thunder Clash shook his head.

“Not you, boy. You and the other advanced recruits will train with the real things. Keep them on and practice on one of the dummies.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Pip replied.

Tonight was going to be a long night, but now he was looking forward to it.

---

With the wind at his back and the stars in the sky, Pip slowly sailed across the moonlit waters of the calm sea.

It was a dream. He hadn’t had one in a long time, but here it was. Finally, a lucid dream he could control. No sun falling, no dreamless sleep… he had been waiting for this night.

Pip wandered out onto the deck of the ship and smiled. In his dreams he was a pegasus, one white wing, one brown wing. Not because he secretly wished he were a pegasus, but because he liked to fly alongside Luna in his dreams. She wasn’t here, however, and so the wings were pointless.

The ship creaked as it sailed across the water. Pip could smell the sea salt and, in that moment, he was happy. He glanced at his belt and saw a treasure map, compass, and sword. The sword… Pip immediately removed it from his dream. Doing so caused the depression to return. He couldn’t wield a sword like in all his dreams… He was an unskilled earth pony.

Pip had experienced this dream hundreds of times. Here, when he had been younger, he had pretended to be Pipsqueak the Pirate, the swashbuckler with a heart of gold! He had been a master with the sword and an expert treasure hunter! Pip laughed to himself and leaned against the mast of the ship. Those were the best of times.

But now… he realized why that was ridiculous. A pirate with a heart of gold? Pirates were nothing but thugs on the water, out to take the property of others… not secret heroes in disguise. And he would most likely never be able to properly wield a sword.

Luna hadn’t thought it was ridiculous.

She had pretended to be a pirate as well. She had been Luna the Scallywag, the first mate with an eye for treasure!

Pip sighed and turned his attention to the moon. It was so bright and beautiful…

“Luna,” he said aloud, even though he knew she wasn’t really listening. “I need to talk to you, Luna. I hope you don’t mind… Tonight I have fears of my own to tell you. I know I promised I wouldn’t ever be the one to cause you to fret, but… I don’t know who else to talk to.”

The moon was silent, and hung in the sky like a perfect luminous backdrop in a masterpiece painting.

“When I first joined the guard a few months ago, I had been so certain this was the path to take to see you again. Our time together… I don’t think I could have ever been happier. I know this might be selfish of me but… but I want to experience that again. I want to see you like I used to see you. I want everything we had before, and more.”

The ship creaked with the gentle waves.

“But the others… the others think I’m foolish for clinging to these past experiences. Foolish for wanting to replicate them in real life… Now I feel uncertain, like maybe I didn't understand what I was here to do. Each day my confidence seems to be worn down. I thought I would be the best, and it hurts to realize I'm struggling.”

“The closer I get to you, the further away you seem, Luna. I haven’t seen you once since training. Not in the waking world… not in my dreams. I feel like it all might have been a dream. A dream I can’t ever obtain again. A dream lost with my childhood.”

Pip pushed away from the mast and walked up to the side of the boat. He looked out across the vast waters. The moon was reflected on the surface.

This had always been his favorite dream, but now he felt nothing but loneliness and shame. Loneliness, because Luna wasn’t by his side. Shame, because this was a fantasy that all the others looked down on him for having.

What did non-naïve ponies dream of? Did they dream of taxes? Of death? Or sorrow? He didn’t know. All he knew was that he still enjoyed this, and that, somehow, was wrong.

But…

Pip took a deep breath and turned his attention back toward the sky. The others couldn’t see what he dreamed about! Perhaps they thought he was foolish, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still enjoy this guilty pleasure. He would ride the waves as a swashbuckler with a heart of gold whether they liked it or not! In his dreams he would be happy.

Luna…

I hope I haven’t seen you here for the last time, Luna…

And… thank you for listening.

 
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