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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17. Investigation

“Captain Phantom Shade!” Pip yelled out.

The bat pony stopped and turned. Pip trotted over to him. Thunder Clash, obviously interested in what was happening, moved closer.

“What is it, recruit?”

“I wanted to talk you and Thunder Clash for a moment,” Pip replied. “First, I was wondering what it would take to get a night off so that I can travel to Canterlot.”

Thunder Clash sighed, “You can get time off. Just make it one of the combat training nights.”

Pip nodded. “And I wanted to talk to you both about something that’s been bothering me… Me and the other recruits were having strange nightmares and-”

“The princesses are aware,” Phantom Shade cut him off and turned to glare at Thunder Clash. “Have you been discussing this with them?”

Thunder Clash narrowed his eyes in irritation “If I had, why is he coming here to ask about it? Don’t worry about it, son. Just know that steps are being taken to handle the situation.”

“What situation?” Pip asked. “Is something wrong with Luna?”

Phantom Shade sneered, “If she were, she has competent ponies to turn to, not recruits. You needn’t worry about her.”

“But the nightmares-”

Listen,” Phantom Shade growled. “I appreciate recruits who want to go above and beyond when it comes to their duty. That bandit, for example. Equinox told me it was upon your insistence that he was brought in. An attitude like that showcases you hardworking, earth pony ethic. However, that does not mean you are some sleuth, sniffing out a mystery. Let the guards handle this.”

“But, er, Luna and the dreams,” Pip tried to explain.

Princess Luna,” Thunder Clash corrected.

“R-right, Princess Luna… She can control dreams! Don’t you think that means she’s in trouble? Or, at the very least, warning us about something?”

Phantom Shade glared. “There can be other explanations, recruit. Or are you trying to imply she has reestablished her connection with dark forces?”

“Well, she was Nightmare Moon for a thousand years! That’s more time spent as Nightmare Moon than not, and-”

“And she won’t become Nightmare Moon again,” Phantom Shade practically shouted, drawing the attention of the other recruits. He cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “You don’t know me, recruit, so I will tell you something personal. I want the bat ponies to be successfully integrated into all of Equestria. I want to get rid of these negative stigmas, especially the ones linking us to Nightmare Moon. Nothing frightens me more than Luna being banished, and our first useful role in modern Equestria society being taken from us.”

Thunder Clash snorted back a laugh. “And I’m the pony who is fervently devoted to the point of being blinded, eh? Phantom Shade, you never cease to amuse me. You almost sound as if you would parade her corpse around and say it was still alive, if that’s what it took.”

Phantom Shade was not amused. In a harsh tone he muttered, “Even after the sister’s called their meeting… You still deny. At least I had the common sense to listen. Your stubbornness and short sightedness will be your undoing, mark my words.”

The two older ponies glared at each other and Pip wasn’t entirely sure what was going on between them. In an attempt to bring the conversation back to what he wanted, Pip said, “But, maybe something else should be done to-”

“What did I tell you about being too eager?” Thunder Clash suddenly said, turning to him. “Just mind your own business and do your training. You’re dismissed, recruit!”

Pip backed away, knowing they weren’t going to listen. He was glad he hadn’t brought up the reason for going to Canterlot. He suspected Thunder Clash might have rejected his request completely… Doesn’t matter. I’ll just bring them solid proof and then they’ll have to see what’s going on!

Boom!

“What the-” Thunder Clash yelled out.

Snips and Snails had, once again, exploded their obstacle course. The two unicorns came walking out, this time not covered in tiny alligators. Both of them looked proud of themselves, even as Thunder Clash flew over with a frown on his face.

“You’re too late, recruits. If you aren’t capable at this point of the training it’s our policy to demote you to one of the easier guard units. That, or you can leave. The choice is yours.”

Snails frowned. “We didn’t make it?”

“No,” Thunder Clash sternly responded.

“It’s okay, Snails,” Snips replied, patting the taller unicorn on foreleg. “We gave it our all.”

Snails nodded. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

“Pack your things,” Thunder Clash said, motioning them to the barracks.

Pip galloped over to meet them at the door. The two unicorns nodded in unison. “Are you guys okay?” he asked. “You’re not upset?”

“No,” Snips replied. “Snails and I decided we’re going to join the Friendship Guard instead. I think we'd be better suited there, and we can’t wait to get back to Ponyville to tell everypony of all the amazing things we’ve done!”

Snails nodded. “Yeah. It’ll be amazing. Thanks, Pip. We’re going to miss you. Tell Princess Luna hi for us when you see her, okay?”

Pip laughed to himself. “Sure, guys... No problem.”

---

“So, Squeaks… Have you ever played pirate’s dice before?” Mist asked, gently nudging her dice around the table.

Pip shook his head.

The bat pony barrack room was much darker than the other barracks. The windows had heavy curtains, though they were currently open to allow the moonlight, and even the walls were painted a dark shade of gray. Pip found himself glancing around the room more often than not, curious to find something that would be shocking. He found no such thing.

“Have any of you played?” Mist asked the other Ponyville recruits.

Rumble looked at his five dice and frowned. “No.”

“Just tell us the rules,” Scootaloo said impatiently.

“Okay, okay,” Mist said, her voice and mannerisms bursting with excitement. She flailed her forelegs around and haphazardly motioned to the table. “We’re all going to get five dice, and then we have cups, and then we put the dice in the cups, and-”

“Oh, so this is liar’s dice,” Marble interrupted. “I’ve played that before.”

“Me too,” Rumble said. He suddenly frowned. “Well, not really. I just watched my brother play it with the other Wonderbolts when they came over to our house. It looked fun, though.”

Scootaloo nodded. “Yeah. I’ve played it.” She reached out and scooped up five dice. “These aren’t loaded, are they?”

“Wait, so we were all playing the same game, even though we’re from different places in Equestria?” Rumble asked, dwelling on that thought. “That’s pretty awesome. I guess it’s a small world after all, huh?”

“Squeaks?” Mist said, drawing Pip’s attention back to the table. “You’ve played too, then?”

“Er, no. I’ve never played. What're the rules?”

Equinox motioned to Scootaloo and Marble. “You two play a quick round. Show him how it’s done.”

Marble shook her head. “I think somepony else should do it.”

“Heh, afraid of losing?” Scootaloo taunted.

“No, quite the opposite, actually. I don’t want you to feel bad when you lose in front of everypony.”

“Oooohhh,” Specter drew out the word and rubbed his hooves together, obviously delighting in the situation. “Are you going to let that stand, Scoots? You gotta defend yourself or else she’s going think you’re weak!”

Scootaloo, easily goaded, glared. “I can win at stupid liar’s dice. It’s practically a game of chance anyway!”

Marble rolled her eyes. “Pip. You might want to pay attention. I’ll teach you some good pointers.”

Pip nodded and got close to Marble. The table they were all sitting at was oval in shape, a place to eat for the recruits. The chairs they had were uncomfortable, and they didn't have enough, some of the recruits had to sit on boxes. Pip had a small chair that didn’t fit his larger frame. He awkwardly teetered on it.

Scootaloo took five dice and Marble took five dice. They placed them in their cups and shook. Each slammed down on the table hard. Rumble, Gloom and Specter moved in close to see what Scootaloo had. Mist and Equinox got in close to see what Marble had.

“You start,” Scootaloo demanded.

Lifting her cup, Marble examined her dice. In a low whisper she said, “Liar’s dice is a probability game. You play by guessing how many of one number is on the table, each player taking turns until a bluff is called. See my dice here?”

She had a 3, 2, 5, 5, and 6.

“The trick is to remember you’re guessing for the whole table, not just the opponent’s dice or your own dice.” Marble looked up at Scootaloo. “My guess is that there are two fours.”

Pip was confused. She didn’t have any fours. Why would she guess that?

Specter, Gloom and Rumble all glanced down at Scootaloo’s dice. “Three fours,” she answered almost instantly.

Marble half-smiled and turned back to Pip. “So, it’s very likely that with five dice you’ll roll doubles. After the first pony guesses, the next pony can increase the amount or the number on the dice. Since Scootaloo is brash and impulsive, she just assumed I would have at least one four if I were guessing with fours.” She again returned her gaze to Scootaloo. “I’ll call that a bluff.”

“Er, really?” Scootaloo asked.

Specter smacked her on the back and began laughing. “I can’t believe she got you on the first round!” Scootaloo revealed her dice. She had two fours, but since there weren’t three on the table, she had lost.

Marble elaborated, “Now she loses one of her five dice. The pony with dice at the end of the game is the winner. You can also call spot on, meaning you’re guessing the exact number on the table. See? Simple enough.” Pip was mildly interested in the advice, but more interested in the fact that Marble was using Thunder Clash's war lessons for a dice game.

“Let’s go again!” Scootaloo angrily shouted. “I got this!”

They shook their dice and slammed the cup on the table. Marble glanced up at Scootaloo. “You’re first.”

“Then I think there are three fives on the table.”

Marble had a single five under her cup. “I’m going to say this is spot on.”

Mist began jumping up and down with the aid of her wings. “This is so exciting!”

“Eh, I’ve seen better parties,” Marble said, glancing over at Scootaloo’s dice. Marble had called it. Scootaloo had two fives. Mixed with Marble’s single five, there were three. Exactly spot on. “I played this once with Pinkie Pie when she was experimenting with games. Half way through, she forgot the rules and suddenly started playing Yahtzee without informing me. I’ve never taken drugs, but I imagine the confusion I felt in that moment is what it feels like to be high.”

Scootaloo slammed her face against the table in frustration. “How did you know I only had two!? You have to be cheating!”

“Well, you see, there’s a certain percentage chance that-”

“No, I mean, how did you know!?”

“I didn’t. I just guessed.”

“Arg!” Scootaloo tugged on her mane growled into the table. “It’s always like this with you! You’re insane, I swear it! The craziest pony I know!”

Marble sighed. “This is why Sebastian is my new favorite recruit.”

Pip was taken aback. “Really? Even over me?”

Marble had to think about it for a moment. Pip frowned. It’s a tossup between me and inanimate object? I think I’ve hit new lows. “I guess you don’t complain as much as Sebastian does…” Marble eventually muttered. “And you have better stories… I guess you’re still ahead.”

“Oh. Thank you for that ringing endorsement,” Pip sarcastically muttered.

Specter couldn't stop himself from laughing. He had been cackling the entire time, amused by Scootaloo’s frustration and Marble’s utter victory. “Scoots!” he said between laughs. This was the loudest Pip had ever known Specter to get. “Scoots, you’re my new favorite day-pony! The look on your face!” He continued to laugh. “Priceless!”

Gloom slammed his hooves on the table. “Enough watching! I want to play!”

Marble pushed away from the table. “I’m going to go. I’ve already tried the whole party scene. It doesn’t work for me.” She trotted off before anypony could disagree.

“I’m going too!” Scootaloo growled. She angrily hopped off her chair and began to flounce off. Specter held up a hoof and tried to calm his laughing.

“Oh, come on! Don’t be like that! Stay! We were having so much f-f-f-” he burst into laughter again, cutting himself off.

Rumble left the table and wandered over to Scootaloo. “I’ll go with you, if you want.”

“No, I mean it!” Specter finally got his laughing under control. “Stay! I want you guys to stay! We’re like, the top recruits right now! Getting into the big leagues, ya know? Besides, Scoots… I didn’t think you walked away from a challenge!”

Scootaloo turned around, a determined look on her face. “You're right, I don’t! I’m going to win at this game if it’s the last thing I do, Celestia be my witness! That’ll show Marble!”

Rumble nervously rubbed his mane. “You sure? We could just go out back and hang for a while or something.”

“C’mon, Rumble!” Scootaloo dragged him back to the table. “We’re doin’ this tonight!”

Pip half-heartedly listened as he stared at the table. Once the night was over, he was going to head to Canterlot and investigate the library in an attempt to prove, once and for all, it could have only been Luna to manipulate dreams.

Mist and Equinox sat on either side of him for the game. “Don’t look so sad,” Mist told him. “Equinox and I like you better than any of the things we have!”

“Thanks,” Pip muttered. At least I got that.

Although Pip wasn’t very good at the games, the time in the bat pony barracks was some of the most enjoyable he had experienced since joining the Night Guard. He played until daybreak, but it hadn’t felt that long at all.

---

The chariot ride to Canterlot was pleasant. Pip had flown so many times in his dreams that being up so high didn’t bother him. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he knew there was a possibility he could plummet to his death, but he tried not to dwell on it.

The sight of the Canterlot Castle in the brilliance of the morning light was breathtaking. The castle city below was also a sight to see from the sky, and he enjoyed every moment of it. Once the chariot landed, Pip wasted no time trotting straight for the castle. If there was any place to investigate alicorn magic or the two sisters, it would be in the Canterlot Library.

The market of the city was bustling, but Pip didn’t even bother to look. As he trotted, a few of the Canterlot ponies turned twice to get a better look at him.

“A pinto stallion? He must be from Trottingham,” he heard a mare say to another.

“We don’t get many visitors from Trottingham!”

“It’s such a lovely city! We should take a vacation there!”

Pip ignored them and found himself on the steps of the Canterlot Castle in no time. The royal guards there, clad in the gold Sun Guard uniform, nodded to him. He nodded back and continued inward.

A small portion of the castle was open to the public, or so Marble had informed him; most of the library, the front half of the gardens, and the courtroom. The hallways and decorations were immaculate, completely free of dust and stains. Pip laughed to himself, his eyes wide as he wandered. So this is what it’s like to be in the castle… It was everything he had hoped it would be.

Although Pip had never been to the castle, the library wasn’t hard to find. He quickly galloped in and began glancing around. There were hundreds of books… more than Pip had ever been expecting. Slightly intimidated by the daunting task, Pip walked over to the first bookshelf and began glancing at the books. The first one was titled:

An Absolute Guide to Magic Spells

Would what he was looking for be in that book? Pip nervously took it off the shelf. Was Luna’s dream-walking ability a magic spell or would somepony classify it as an innate ability? Oh, sweet Celestia… If I have to comb through every book… This could take a lot longer than one day. Pip tried to calm himself. Not all the books could be about magic, right? He placed the book on a nearby table and glanced at the next title. It read:

An Abundance of Magic: A Guide to Unusual Spells

What the? Pip frowned. Wouldn’t the absolute guide cover all the spells? Did there really need to be another book for unusual spells? Pip had no experience with magic outside of being with Luna. He didn’t know how they were classified, what it even meant to be a spell, or how he would know what book would be the correct one to search through.

Pip began looking around. He spotted two unicorns reading through a few texts down one of the many aisles of bookshelves. He trotted over to them and smiled. “Hello.”

The male unicorn of the duo had three jets for a cutie mark, a gray coat and dark gray stylized mane. He was wearing tiny spectacles on his nose and glanced over them with a lifted eyebrow. “Yes? Can we help you?” He unnecessarily drew out each word as he spoke.

“Um, do you happen to know where I can find a book about, er, alicorn magic or… dream magic?” Pip asked.

The unicorn slowly frowned. “Whatever would you need a book about magic for?”

“Hush, dear,” the female unicorn of the two responded. She was a pale yellow in color, with a purple and white mane. Her cutie mark was three dollar signs, and she held her head high at all times.

“Forgive my husband, Jet Set,” she said, her speech equally as drawn out as her husband’s. “We’ve been in this dreadful library for far too long and I think it’s starting to play tricks on his mind.”

“Yes, you’re quite right, Upper Crest,” Jet Set responded. “That was terribly rude of me. Go on then, what were you asking?”

Pip nodded. “Alicorn magic? Dream magic? Have either of you ever run across books like that?”

They both shook their heads. “No,” Upper Crest replied. “I can’t say that I have. I’m sure the library will have something, however. Princess Twilight Sparkle was seen here just the other day, stocking some of the shelves with her latest tomes.”

Pip hung his head. “Thank you for your time,” he muttered.

“Are you new to Canterlot?” Jet Set asked. “I’ve never seen you in the library before.”

“I’m just a Night Guard trainee,” Pip shrugged. “I don’t live around here.”

“The Night Guard?” Upper Crust said, lifting her eyebrows in curiosity. “Do you know the Captain? Phantom Shade, I believe his name was?”

“Yes,” Pip replied.

Jet Set smiled. “Oh, most fortunate for us! We just recently met Phantom Shade at one of the evening soirees here at the castle! I had never met a bat pony before, but he was such a gentlecolt, I had to get to know him. Do tell him that we spotted you in the library, hmm? Tell him we spoke well of him?”

Upper Crust nodded. “Oh, do. It’s so good to get to know exotic ponies from time to time. You will be a dear and tell him?”

Pip forced a smile. “Sure. I’ll tell him I saw you.”

“Very good,” they both replied.

With a heavy sigh, Pip turned back to the library. He would just have to do his best to search through until he found what he needed…

---

Dusk.

The library wasn’t open to the public at night. Soon it would close, and Pip hadn’t found anything. Not a single thing. His table was piled high with books, but he just couldn’t read through them in time. Scanning the table of contents was simple enough, but so many things about magic were grouped into categories, it was hard to tell if it included or excluded what he wanted to know.

An entire category of magic dedicated to night spells? Would that have things about dreams? Apparently not. Night hadn’t referred to the time of day, but the name of a pony, which only left Pip even more confused.

Frustrated, Pip began galloping down the aisles, looking for anything that might catch his eye. He stopped when he spotted a door at the back titled:

Twilight Sparkle Wing

Stocking in Progress – (RESTRICTED) Not Open to the Public

Pip trotted closer and hesitated. Princess Twilight Sparkle was an alicorn… and she had kept extensive notes on everything she ever did. She probably could have been the Princess of Knowledge had the whole friendship thing not come up.

He glanced around. Nopony was nearby. Maybe this section of the library would contain the information he needed…

 
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