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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11. Nendum Sanguinem

Completing five sets of ten push-ups while wearing heavy plate armor was exhausting.  

Pip was gasping for breath at the end of it all, barely able to continue counting. Thunder Clash flew amongst them, scanning everypony to catch those who were shirking their exercises.

The Night Guard armor was purple and black in color scheme. It consisted of a helmet, neck guard, saddle guard, chest plate, and heavy hoof guards on each hoof. The chest plate was decorated with a single blue eye design, meant to represent Luna’s watch over the night.

Every piece of the armor weighed more than Pip thought it would. When he had imagined himself wearing it, he never imagined buckling under its weight. Just gotta train harder.

A distant roar filled the night air.

The recruits looked up and around. Thunder Clash shook his head. “Don’t worry your heads about it. That’s the cry of an Ursa. Most likely an Ursa Minor, calling for its mother. Unlike you sorry lot, the real Night Guard will take care of it.”

Snips and Snails collapsed on the ground and gave each other worried glances. Pip hadn’t yet moved to Ponyville when the Ursa Minor had been a problem, but all the foals in school would talk about it for hours on end. It had taken Twilight Sparkle herself to remove it from town. Pip could only imagine how dangerous a creature like that could be.

Another roar, this time louder.

The bat ponies began nervously scanning the darkness. “Are you sure the Night Guard will handle it?” Gloom asked, his large ears twitching. “It sounds close...”

“This is the natural time of year that the Ursas are active. They typically stay within forests, so there shouldn’t be much for you rookies to worry about.”

ROOOAAR!

Even Pip crouched down, fearful that an Ursa could jump out of the darkness at any moment. Thunder Clash didn't cringe or flinch away from the roaring, but he did look concerned.

“Listen up, recruits. Go back to the barracks. Consider this your lucky night. You only had to do half of your exercises.”

The Ponyville recruits sighed in relief and immediately began removing their armor. Pip took this moment to trot up to Thunder Clash. The drill sergeant was staring up into the sky, his eyes scanning the area for other ponies.

“Sir, can I have a word with you?” Pip asked.

“I told you not to worry about it, boy. The Night Guard will protect you. Just go back to the barracks and rest.”

“No, that’s not why I wanted to talk to you…”

“What is it? Spit it out.”

Pip nodded. “Well, it might seem a little strange but… have you been having any nightmares lately? Involving the sun?”

Thunder Clash suddenly turned his full attention to Pip. “Has Phantom Shade been whispering his theories to you, boy? I told him I would break his wings if he went around spittin’ his mutinous ramblings to my recruits. Well!?” Thunder Clash barked. “Did he?”

Pip vigorously shook his head. “N-no sir! I haven’t been speaking with Phantom Shade at all! I just, er, me and the other recruits-”

“Listen to me,” Thunder Clash hissed, interrupting Pip. He lowered his voice when he realized some of the other ponies were watching. “Princess Celestia has never failed us. Whatever things you think you’re seeing, it doesn’t concern her. You get me?”

“I never mentioned Princess Celestia, sir.”

“Princess Celestia and the sun are practically one in the same. Think long and hard before you going around claiming everything is some sort of sign. I won’t take kindly to it. Now get out of my face. I’m going to make sure the soldiers charged with this area know what’s going on.” Thunder Clash opened his wings and took to the night sky. Pip watched him go, slightly confused. When Pip turned he realized everypony else had already gone.

ROOOAAR!

Pip ducked his head and walked over the armor racks. He quickly removed his armor and galloped back toward the barracks. Before he reached the door he spotted three silhouettes of ponies flying off toward the forest. Since Scootaloo couldn’t fly, and Rumble wasn’t three ponies, Pip figured it was the bat pony recruits. He changed course to follow them.

Much to his surprise, he watched the three ponies fly into the forest itself, straight toward the roars. Pip stopped at the tree line and listened. He could hear the sounds of trees cracking and birds taking to the sky. The longer he listened the more he realized there was much more than just one beast wondering the forest tonight.

With a heavy sigh, Pip ran into the forest after the bat ponies. It was a terrible idea to be wandering around in the forest with Ursas walking about. Additionally, Pip still didn’t know why Rust Wing had been removed from the training, and he was hoping one of the bat ponies would be willing to explain it to him.

The forest was dark, but it didn’t take long for Pip to run across the glittering ferns. They helped him make his way without tripping and falling over every root and rock. As he continued forward, Pip worried he may be getting lost. He thought the bat ponies had gone this way, but how was one supposed to track a creature that flew? He had no idea… I hope I don't run across any more giant Star Spiders. Then again, this is pretty far from where I found it.

“Keep your voice down, keep you voice down!”

Pip turned toward the voice echoing through the trees. Much to his displeasure, he recognized Screech’s tone and rasp. Galloping toward the voice, Pip quickly came upon a small clearing within the trees. Screech, Specter and Gloom were sitting upon branches on the edge of the clearing.

Gloom pointed. “I told you I heard something following us.”

“What are you doing here, earth pony?” Specter asked. “It’s dangerous in the forest right now.”

Pip trotted out to stand in the middle of the clearing. He could see better there, with the light of the moon flooding the area. “I came out here to tell you guys the exact same thing. It’s really dangerous out here. You don’t want to be caught by the Ursas.”

The bat ponies began laughing. Specter acted as the group’s spokespony. “Well, thank you very much, mother. We had no idea.”

“Maybe we should all go back together. So you don’t get hurt.”

“Was that a threat?” Screech suddenly interjected.

Pip shook his head. “What? No, of course not. I just don’t want you guys to-”

“What do you care?” Gloom snapped. “All you day-ponies just need to worry about yourselves.”

Specter nodded. “Maybe you would have gotten a better time on your obstacle course if you weren’t always helping all the other weaker ponies.”

“How did you…?” Pip’s voice trailed off.

“It was obvious. You finished in time so close together, both of the other ponies had your scent on them, you continually go out of your way to help the two unicorns… Maybe you would have impressed Phantom Shade by now if you weren’t so concerned with everypony else. You’re only going to get yourself removed from the training. And for what? To force the other ponies into your debt? Do you want them to owe you a favor or something?”

“What? I would never force them to do something they didn't want to do. And helping each other isn’t going to get us removed. ”

“Tell that to Rust Wing,” Screech said with a cruel smile.

Gloom nodded. “And it could have been two of us that went home…”

ROOOAAR!

Everypony stopped talking and looked around. That time the roar sounded close… really close. Pip gulped. “Um… Why don’t we all go back now?”

Screech jumped down from his branch and motioned for Pip to go. “Leave us. We don’t want to look at your dirty, spotted hide any longer. We came out here to watch the Night Guard fight the Ursas and we aren’t leaving till we see it.”

“If the Night Guard catches you out here, you might get into trouble. I’m just looking out for you guys.”

Screech glared. “Ya know, if you don’t want to wait for us to fight, you could have just said so. No need to come out here like you’re concerned or under the guise of helping us. It makes me hate you that much more when you lie about it… when you make it seem like you’re on some sort of high ground.”

“W-wait,” Pip said, backing away from the bat pony. “Hear me out. How about we just say we had a fight and you won. That way we can get passed this, and you guys can consider going to the Summer Sun Celebration with me. You can even see the princesses! It’ll be a lot fun!” Pip forced a laugh. He felt pathetic, but he hoped what he was saying was sinking in. Maybe Marble is right... I feel like a foal right now...

The bat ponies were silent for a moment.

But then the silence was broken by Gloom and Specter bursting into laughter. Both of them were grabbing their sides and throwing back their heads. Screech just half smiled.

“I think he’s asking you out on a date, Screech!” Gloom said between laughs.

Specter nodded and smacked Gloom. “You said it! Maybe he isn’t lying! Maybe he’s just confused!”

The two of them continued to laugh and Screech had to turn back to them with a glare. “Shut your faces! I don’t want to get caught out here because of you hyenas!”

The two quelled their laughter, but they continued to snicker under their breath from time to time. Screech turned back to Pip, no longer amused. “Ponies keep trying to tell me to help everypony else, but all I see is a bunch of ponies trying to use me for their own gains. I don’t need help. Why should I help others?” Screech slowly advanced and unfurled his wings.

Pip took another step back. “We don’t need to fight,” he breathed.

“Heh. All of life is fighting! You fight to get to the top, you fight to get what you want, you fight to stay alive when enemies come calling… and you fight for what you believe in. If you can’t or refuse to fight, why should I even bother listening to you? Even the Princess of Friendship,” he spat those last words, “fights those who oppose her! If there’s one thing I learned from the Badlands… it’s that the best fighters always get what they want. And I want you out of here.”

Without warning, Screech lunged. He slammed Pip into a tree and quickly took to the sky afterward. In the sparring ring he wasn’t allowed to use his wings or fangs… but this wasn’t the sparring ring. Pip shook his head and turned to Specter and Gloom for assistance. They smiled back at him, content to watch the fight from the tree branches.

Realizing he would get no help, Pip braced for Screech to attack again. The bat pony dove for him, but Pip remained calm. He grabbed Screech as he came in, turned slightly, and used Screech’s momentum against him, just like Thunder Clash had drilled into his head, night after night.

Screech slammed against the ground and slid a few feet through the dirt. Specter and Gloom laughed, which surprised Pip. They weren’t really backing Screech… they just wanted to see a fight. It was then that Pip realized they might not even be friends themselves. They may just consider each other acquaintances; other bat ponies with the same career goal.

Screech jumped up, turned around and lunged again. This time it was fast, too fast for Pip to catch. Pip hit the ground on his back, winded. Screech slammed his head down, but Pip had been hit too many times with that specific attack not to know when to turn his head to lessen the damage.

SLAM!

It still hurt, but Pip's muzzle wasn’t broken this time. His vision blurred for amount, but nothing Pip couldn’t handle. He kicked Screech off his body and, before Screech could take to the air, bucked him into a nearby tree.

Anger flashing in his eyes, Screech pushed off the tree and ran forward. Pip volted out of the way, but Screech had been expecting that. The bat pony turned around, flapped up into the sky and slammed down on Pip’s back, sending them both to the ground.

SLAM!

As Pip was momentarily stunned, he briefly caught a glimpse of Screech’s white fangs in the moonlight. The searing pain in his neck and shoulder was all he could focus on after that. Pip kicked upward, attempting to send the bat pony flying, but Screech held fast. The grip with his fangs was so intense that Pip thought the bones in his shoulder might shatter.

Then Pip began to feel light-headed and his kicks became weaker and weaker…

Screech suddenly let go of him and backed away, his muzzle stained with blood. The moment he let go, Pip felt a little better, but he still felt weak. It didn’t help that his muscles were also still aching from the exercise before. Pip slowly got to his feet and saw that the white of his coat was now crimson along his leg and chest.

“Let’s see your special talent in action, shall we?” Screech laughed.

Before Pip could focus on the fighting again, Screech rammed into his side and smashed him against a nearby tree. Pip slumped to the ground, unable to stand. He looked up and noticed the change in Screech’s flank. Next to his own cutie mark, a pair of bloody fangs, was another cutie mark… Pip’s mark. The sword and star.

Screech took a step closer and looked down upon Pip with a cruel smile. “Break his leg, Screech!” Gloom cheered. “He’ll be in the infirmary for a while after that!”

Screech reared up to slam him, and Pip had to look away, bracing himself for the pain he knew was soon to come. But it didn’t. After a long moment, Pip turned and looked back at the bat pony. Screech was still standing there, on his hind legs, but the look on his face was one of internal conflict.

“What’s wrong?” Specter asked.

Gloom jumped down from the tree. “Screech?”

Screech took a few steps back and lowered himself down to all fours. “I… don’t feel right… This isn’t right…”

Gloom softly laughed as he stood by Screech’s side. “Hehe… What did I tell you about drinking the blood of ponies with strong talents? They mess with your head. This is just like that time we raided that merchant… All you wanted to do was sell oranges after we attacked him.”

“What’re you guys doing!?”

Pip glanced upward and saw Equinox and Mist land in the clearing. Equinox immediately rushed over to stand between Pip and Screech.

“Are you insane!?” Equinox shouted. “I told you to leave him alone!”

Specter jumped down from his tree branch and joined everypony else in the clearing. “Calm down, Equinox. He’s still fine. A little low on blood… but fine.”

“Didn’t you all see what happened to Rust Wing!? Is that what you want to happen to you as well!?”

Mist eyed Pip with tiny frown. She looked as though she wanted to comfort him, but she kept her distance.

Specter shook his head. “We’ll be fine. If he tries to report Screech… Gloom and I will say he’s making it up. Isn’t that right, Gloom?”

Everypony turned to Gloom. He was staring at the forest with wide eyes and trembling legs. Without answering Specter’s question, he slowly began to take a step backward. “It’s here…” he muttered.

Suddenly, smashing through the trees and onto the edge of the clearing, was an Ursa Minor. Its space-like translucent body loomed over them, and its red and yellow eyes scanned the forest, taking everything in. The Ursa wasn’t as much a baby as it was a teenager… An adolescent on the prowl for the first time in its life.

Everypony in the clearing was stunned. An Ursa could eat a pony in a single bite, if it were so inclined. Unexpectedly, Speech jumped forward. “Go! I’ll keep it distracted!” He flew up to the creature and slashed at one eye with the tip of his wing. It wasn’t enough to blind the star-bear, but it was enough to cause it irritation.

ROOOAAR!

“What’re you doing, Screech!?” Gloom shouted as he took to the air. “Get out of there!”

Screech dodged the Ursa’s attempts to slash him. Equinox also jumped into the fray, but Mist did not. When Pip looked around for Specter, he realized the bat pony had silently slipped away, not making a single sound.

Mist rushed over to Pip. When she got to his side, she stopped and began nervously prancing in place. She was staring at the blood on his neck, shoulder and foreleg like it would jump off his body and eat her. Pip struggled to stand and was nearly crushed when a tree trunk went sailing overhead at frightening speeds.

Screech and Equinox were fighting the Ursa Minor, attempting to keep it away from the others. They swooped and attacked before pulling out of reach. Since the bear couldn’t fly, they were at an advantage.

Equinox turned to Screech with a look of confusion. Clearly this was not Screech’s modus operandi. She didn’t have time to question it, however, and instead yelled back to her sister, “Run! Take Pip and run!”

With a forced gulp, Mist took one step closer to Pip and stared at him in fright.

“Please, Mist,” Pip asked. “I don’t think I can run right now…”

Mist held out a hoof but immediately pulled it back when Pip took a step closer. “I… I’m sorry!” she shouted as she turned away and flew through the forest at top speeds. Pip watched in disbelief as she went. She left me? She actually left me?

ROOOAAR!

The Ursa swung with its paw and clipped another tree, lifting it from the ground and tossing it through the air. With the tree gone, Pip could see another Ursa Minor in the distance. Was this some sort of mating season? Were all the bears out and about right now? Where was the Night Guard?

Suddenly, shadows cast by the moonlight informed Pip that the Night Guard was overhead. Equinox noticed it too. She glanced up to the sky and saw that soldiers were beginning to deal with the Ursa problem.

“Screech! If we don’t leave soon they’ll see what you’ve done! We have to go!”

Screech flew around the head of the creature, attempting to strike it in its wounded eye again. “You go! I’ll handle this!” He finally managed to strike the creature in the wounded eye once more, just as Pip’s cutie mark faded from his flank. Once it was gone, Screech backed away from the monster like he was truly seeing it for the first time. Without a second glance back, he flew from the clearing at top speeds.

The Ursa Minor, with Screech out of the picture, turned its attention to Equinox. It slashed through the air, nearly cutting a wing from her body. She turned to Pip and then to the monster and attempted to draw it away. She began slowly flying backward, taunting it as she went.

“Your mother was a badger!” she called out. “You’ll never catch me, beast!”

Pip began hobbling away, attempting to distance himself from the monster should Equinox give up and fly off. He turned back to the sky. It seemed as though the Night Guard were busy dealing with the other Ursa Minor. Of all my luck…

“Help! Somepony help!”

Somepony was crying out in the forest just ahead of him. Pip braced himself for the worst. Was there another Ursa Minor ahead of him as well? His question was answered, however, when he saw Scootaloo being carried through the air by a determined Mist. Scootaloo was thrashing about, attempting to knock Mist’s grasp, but she just wasn’t able to.

“Help!” Scootaloo cried out again. “I’m being abducted! Somepony get this crazy bat off me!”

Mist let go of Scootaloo only a few feet from Pip. Scootaloo would have crashed hard had it not been for her tiny buzzing wings. She landed gracefully and shot Mist as look that could kill.

“When I get my hooves on you-”

Mist shook her head and pointed. “Ursa Minor! Run!”

“What?” Scootaloo turned around and saw an angry Ursa Minor rampaging toward her. Pip’s heart sank. Where was Equinox? What were they going to do? It was then that Scootaloo spotted him. With very little time to act, she ran to his side, hefted him onto her back and began racing forward, her wings buzzing in overdrive. Pip wrapped his forelegs around her neck and held on for dear life.

Even with Pip’s weight, Scootaloo was remarkably fast. She ran across the ground with a sure footing and amazing dexterity. However, the Ursa Minor was gigantic. With each step it covered massive ground. Its slow run was enough to keep up with Scootaloo, who was now raggedly breathing just to maintain her speed.

Through the tree line, Pip and Scootaloo spotted the reflection of the moon off a river. Scootaloo immediately turned toward it and began running at full tilt. The Ursa Minor followed, smashing trees and shrubbery out of its way as it rampaged.

“Scootaloo! Not the river!” was all Pip could yell in time.

Scootaloo slid to a halt before colliding with the water and made a sharp ninety degree turn to run along the bank. What was she thinking? Pip thought. He was too weak to carry her through the water and she wasn’t the greatest swimmer, at least not during the obstacle course… and the Ursa was so big it could have stepped over the river to other side with ease… If she had jumped into the water they would have surely been caught!

With deep breaths, Scootaloo began to pick up speed once again. The Ursa smashed through the trees and continued after them along the bank of the river, roaring as it went. The monster was angry; angry about the damage to its one eye.

Just as Scootaloo’s breathing bordered on the extreme, Mist jumped from the shadows of the trees and pointed to a spot behind a large bush. Without thinking, Scootaloo jumped to that point. She and Pip fell. There had been a large hole on the other side of the bush; large enough to comfortably fit four ponies, but the opening was small enough that the bush hid it from sight.

The Ursa Minor rampaged passed them, rushing down the river without bothering to carefully examine anything. Scootaloo and Pip stared at each other for a long time as they took deep gulps of air. Pip wasn’t nearly as exhausted as Scootaloo, but his heart was still beating hard regardless.

“I think we made it,” he muttered once the stomping overhead became a distant sound.

Scootaloo nodded, still trying to catch her breath.

“Are you guys okay down there?” Pip heard Mist ask.

“Yes,” he called up. “Thank you.”

“Come up and wash yourself off!” Mist squeaked.

Scootaloo began laughing between breaths. “I can’t believe… we did that…”

Pip nodded to her. “That was all you. I was just dead weight.”

She laughed again. “I had no idea why that weird bat pony started carrying me away… I’m glad she did… You look messed up…”

With a snort of laughter, Pip picked himself up and slowly climbed out of the hole. The bank of the river was a complete mess. Everything was either knocked down or destroyed completely. Pip sighed and walked up to the water. There was silt and tree breaches in it, but he jumped in regardless.

The cooling sensation of the water eased the pain of his shoulder, but the silt scratched and stung at the same time. He quickly got back out, thankful he was no longer covered in his own blood.

Mist was there waiting for him, smiling as she watched him approach. “I’m so glad you’re okay!” she said in her usual sing-song voice.

Scootaloo jumped out of the hole and half rolled herself to the bank of the river. Her legs worked just as well as jelly. Once in the water, she began wiping Pip’s blood off her back and feathers. “I’m okay too,” she sarcastically called out to Mist. “Just in case you were wondering!”

“Oh, I know you’re fine,” Mist laughed. “That’s why I got you to save Squeaks!”

Scootaloo frowned. “Squeaks? That’s a terrible nickname! Seriously! The worst!”

Mist frowned and hung her head. Pip shook off the water like a wet dog. “It’s okay, Mist. I don’t mind. Thank you. I appreciate you bringing Scootaloo.”

“Are you feeling okay?” Mist asked, flying over to him and examining his body. “Nothing feels strange?”

“N-no… Should it?”

“Well, it looks like a bat pony bit you… I just want to make sure you didn’t catch a disease.”

Scootaloo stopped splashing around in the water and stared at the other two in shock. “Pip!? You were bit!? By who? What happened!? And, er, diseases!? What did you say about diseases!?”

Mist shrugged. “He could have caught Cutie Pox.”

Scootaloo took a few moments to let that sink in. “Cutie Pox?”

“Yeah. It happens sometimes when a pony gets bit by a bat pony. Cutie Pox.”

Scootaloo pulled herself from the river and slowly walked over. She looked terrible. Pegasi with wet wings always looked sad and pathetic. “Wait a minute… My friend Apple Bloom got Cutie Pox once… I thought she got it from mixing a potion with the Heart’s Desire flower.”

Mist dismissively waved her hoof and snickered. “Oh, the Heart’s Desire flower just gives you the worst possible interpretation for what your heart desires! I should know! I have eaten, like, five of them!” Mist continued her soft ke ke ke snicker. “The first one I ate because I wanted everything to taste like mango. Then, after about a year, I really started to dislike the taste of mango… so I ate another one to get a different taste, but then everything tasted crazy and terrible! You can see where this is going. It wasn’t until after the fifth flower that my sister got the cure for it.”

Scootaloo began laughing. “That would make sense… Twilight Sparkle did run around town talking about how Cutie Pox had once been some weird disease that randomly disappeared generations ago… Wait, bat ponies can spread Cutie Pox!? How do you guys drink blood without infecting everypony!?”

Mist looked taken aback and embarrassed at the same time. “Er… Well… maybe not all bat ponies drink blood… and… er… The ones that do, drink pig and chicken blood!”

“Really?” Scootaloo asked. “They don’t drink pony blood?”

“It’s forbidden… At least, it is in Hollow Shades. I know the bat ponies in the Badlands do it from time to time.” Mist slowly tapped her two front hooves together. “Phantom Shade told us if we ever drank the blood of another pony while working, or training for, the Night Guard, he would throw us out. He said other ponies would think we’re evil and not trust us.”

“I just assumed you drank pony blood,” Scootaloo awkwardly stated. “I guess you know what they say about assumptions.” She left the ground and went back to the river. Now that it was running clear, she wanted to get rid of the dirt in her coat.

Mist turned to Pip and lowered her voice. “I’m sorry Screech bit you. He did it to get the vitality of your blood.”

Pip placed a hoof on his shoulder injury to keep it from bleeding. “What is that? What are you referring to?”

“If a bat pony drinks directly from the source of another pony, they can temporarily have access to that pony’s special talents and abilities.”

Pip looked at Mist in shock. He had no idea bat ponies could do that! That was… an amazing ability, but he understood why other ponies would find it frightening. But why had they kept it a secret? Pip pushed it from his mind. It wasn’t the bat pony’s fault they drank blood. It was just in their nature. But… how was he going to convince others of that? I am terrible with words…

ROOOAAR!

The roars of the Ursa Minor’s worried him. “Mist… We should get going. We need to find Equinox.”

“Hm,” she nodded with a smile. “Let’s go!”

 
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