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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8. The Curse of the Moon

Pip opened his eyes and stared up at the dull gray ceiling. His heart was beating a million times a minute and his whole body was covered in sweat. He couldn’t remember the details, but he had been having terrible nightmares… Something about bats, the sun, always being small, failing out of the Night Guard… every insecurity he ever had all rolled into one.

Shifting onto his side, Pip realized he was in the infirmary. Morning sunlight was streaming through the windows. Most of the beds were empty but Pip could see a few ponies talking to the medics and getting their minor injuries tended to.

One of the medics spotted him and immediately trotted over. “Pipsqueak?” the medic asked. “Can you understand me?”

“Yes,” he answered in a rusty voice. His throat hurt.

“I’m glad to see you’re awake. How are you feeling? Can you move your legs?”

Pip rubbed his face and muzzle in an attempt to fully wake up. With effort he managed to move all his legs. He was still stiff, but the burning pain he felt before was gone. However, despite his physical health, Pip was still shaken by the unknown nightmares. Dread clung to his every thought.

“Seems like you’re recovering quickly. That’s good.” The medic, a unicorn, used her magic to begin scribbling some information down on a clipboard.

“Well I be okay?” Pip asked.

“It seems so. Star Spider poison differs in effects depending on the dark magic that made the spider monstrous. Since we don’t know why the spider got so big… I’m not entirely sure what the side effects will be. You will most likely feel strange emotions or experience phantom pains. However, all documented cases of Star Spider poisoning have confirmed that the side effects disappear after a week or so.”

“What about my leg?”

“You’ll have a scar, but otherwise you’ll be fine. We’ve already tended to the injury. Keep the bandages on for the next few days.”

“Where is Mist?” he asked, glancing around the infirmary. He didn’t see her.

“Mist?” the medic asked.

“The bat pony that was injured the same time I was… Where is she?”

“Oh, the bat pony. She was taken to the bat pony infirmary. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

Pip nodded and leaned back against the bed he was on. The medic wrote a few more notes before placing the clipboard at the footboard. “I’ve recommended you stay here for the rest of the day and get some sleep. If you’re still feeling well by sundown we'll see about releasing you.”

The medic trotted off to another pony in the room. Pip sighed. He pulled the blankets over his body but he dreaded going back to sleep. The nightmares… he couldn’t even picture them, but the feeling of terror was strong enough to dissuade him from sleeping. He stared at the ceiling at an attempt to keep his eyes open.

---

Click. Click. Click-click.

Pip tossed and turned. His eyes slowly blinked open and he realized then he had fallen asleep. Nightmares… all he could remember was the fear from the nightmares… The details were fleeting… Luna had forgotten him, he couldn’t dream, a monster was chasing him… Pip leaned up in bed, shaking his head.

Click. Click. Click-click.

There was a constant flashing of lights in Pip’s face. It took him a few seconds to notice Featherweight was next to his bed. Featherweight leaned in close to him and whispered, “You awake, Pipsqueak? If the medics ask, I’m your cousin! They wouldn’t let me in here unless I was in the royal guard or family!”

Click. Click-click.

Featherweight was a slender cream coated pegasus with a two-toned brown mane and a feather for a cutie mark. He had a special camera around his neck, specialized for pegasi to take pictures and fly at the same time. He was repeatedly taking pictures of Pip.

“What are you doing here, Featherweight?”

“I heard there was a super-secret Night Guard training assignment last night and I had to be the first one to cover it. The moment I found out you were one of the Night Guard recruits I knew I had hit the jackpot!”

“What?” Pip was confused. Secret? He hadn’t know the assignment had been secret…

Featherweight leaned in close to him. “Tell me. What was the assignment?”

Click. Click.

“Um… It was just monster trapping…”

“What kind of monsters?”

Pip shook his head. If this was supposed to be a secret, should he even be talking to Featherweight? “I don’t know if I should say.”

“Oh, come up, Pipsqueak! We’re old friends, right? I won’t name you in the article I write! I’ll keep you anonymous!”

Featherweight had been his friend when Pip moved to Ponyville from Trottingham… but Pip had a duty to the royal guard now. If they felt the training should be kept under wraps, then he should adhere to their decision. “I’m sorry, Featherweight.”

“Okay, okay… I’ll ask you other questions. Tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how vicious are the bat ponies? Be descriptive.”

“Um…”

“Have any of them attacked you? Tried to drink your blood?” Featherweight kept his voice low, as to not bother the other patients, but his tone was one of excitement.

“Well… they aren’t like that… Some of them are actually-”

“Descriptive! Descriptive! Not many ponies are brave enough to train side-by-side with a bat pony! My readers would love to hear all about it! I heard they were killing machines… How many small animals have you found dead by the training grounds? Do they attempt to kidnap foals?”

Pip practically laughed. Was Featherweight being serious right now? “Where did you hear that? Bat ponies don’t try to kidnap foals. They might be a little aggressive, but they aren’t vicious.” Well, Screech not included… Pip shuddered at the thought of Screech. A lingering dread still haunted him. He couldn’t shake it and it felt unnatural.

“Are they a danger to society? I’ve heard they have an insatiable thirst for pony blood. Were you persuaded to join the Night Guard so that you could be a host for their feeding?”

“No, nothing like that!” Pip sat up fully and rubbed his head. He glanced to the windows. It was early afternoon. “Look, I don’t know much about the bat ponies, but I know they aren’t as terrible as you’re making them out to be.”

Featherweight sighed and pulled Pip close. “You gotta give me something interesting. Why don’t you tell me why you joined the Night Guard in the first place? Why not the Sun Guard? Everypony wants to serve under Princess Celestia, obviously. She’s clearly the most powerful and awesome princess of the four… Were you just so transfixed by the bat ponies that you wanted to train with them? Are you some sort of weirdo fanatic?”

Pip shoved Featherweight away, slamming him into the nightstand by his bed. “You know nothing about the princesses!” he hissed in anger.

Pip was taken aback by his own outburst. Before Featherweight could say anything, Pip held up a shaky hoof. “I’m sorry, Featherweight… I… I’m not feeling like myself right now…” He felt bitter, angry, confused… The very mention of Celestia being better than Luna caused his blood to run cold with hate. Pip took several deep breaths. He didn’t like being out of control of his own emotions…

Featherweight flapped his wings and flew to the other side of his bed. The medics had turned their way, but Featherweight waved to them as though everything were fine. “It’s okay, buddy. I’ll go get you a glass of water. Think about my questions, okay? Maybe about what you’ve learned about the bat ponies?” Featherweight flew off to the other end of the infirmary. Pip was glad he went. He really didn’t want to have a conversation with anypony right now.

Unfortunately, another pony had the audacity to approach him. This pony was wearing a heavy cloak and hood, hiding their body, cutie mark and face from sight. Pip could see the coat color; a dark gray.

“Hello?” he asked. “What do you want?”

“Pipsqueak. It’s me.”

It took him a few moments to recognize the voice. “Equinox? How… how are you here? It’s the middle of the day.”

“I can see through daylight, remember?” She stepped up close and looked him over. “Are you feigning some sort of injury to get out of training? You look perfectly fine.”

Pip stared at her for a moment, his throat tight with anxiety. The thought of returning to training hadn't hit him until this very moment.  “Uh… Am I even allowed to go back to training?” he asked quietly, fearing the answer. The terrible dread that haunted his heart tightened its grip.

“Why would you ask such a thing?”

“I didn’t get a Star Spider… and Mist had to call for help.” Pip hung his head. “Phantom Shade made it clear. He didn’t want ponies that couldn’t take care of themselves.”

“Hm. I forgot you were unconscious through Princess Luna’s speech. Apparently you found something that excited her. She praised you and Mist for your bravery and investigative determination. She spoke of how we might all be needed to fight the darkness one day; to fight against dark magic. She said that your willingness to engage it made her proud. I don’t think Phantom Shade could remove you from the Night Guard after such praise.”

Pip was a storm of feelings. On one hoof he was glad to hear that he would be able to stay in the Night Guard, on the other hoof he was devastated that he missed out on seeing Luna… especially if she were speaking of him positively. “W-well, that’s great…”

“I came to thank you personally. For saving Mist. She's recovering quickly.”

“I’m sure anypony else would have done the same.”

Equinox shifted her weight from one hoof to the next. “Not everypony thinks as you do.”

Featherweight flew back, a glass of water in one hoof and a notebook in the other. He handed Pip the water and took a seat next to him. With a questioning glance he turned to Equinox. “Um, who are you? Me and my cousin need to talk some family talk.”

“I’m a recruit in training for the Night Guard,” she answered in a harsh tone.

“Oh? You’re training for the Night Guard? You should pull up a seat! Maybe you could answer some questions as well! Tell me, on a scale from one to ten, how vicious are the bat ponies?”

“Tsk,” Equinox hissed.

Pip tried to put himself between them. “Featherweight! No more! We don’t want to answer questions!”

“Don’t worry,” Featherweight laughed. “I realize now you might not want to describe so much gore. How about this; how barbaric are the bat ponies? Do they even know how to live in a civilized society?”

“This is your family?” Equinox asked Pip, barely containing her rage. “Do you think this ingrate would have saved Mist? I think not.”

“Ingrate?” Featherweight snapped. “Do you know who you’re talking to!? I’m a very important pony! I own a newspaper company!”

Equinox glared at the pegasus and flashed her fangs. “You’ll be a very sorry pony if you keep that tone with me.”

Featherweight fell back in his chair and pointed. “B-b-bat pony! Bat pony!”

Click. Click. Click-click.

Equinox backed away from the flashes of the camera. Medics and soldiers turned to see what was going on.

“How are you even here!?” Featherweight shouted, jumping up from the ground and taking to the air with his wings. “Bat ponies can’t be out during the day! Help! Somepony help! She threatened me! She’s going to drink my blood!”

Pip glared. “Featherweight! Stop it! You’re making a fool of yourself!”

Soldiers ran over with spears at the ready. Equinox glared at them and lowered herself into a fighting stance. Featherweight continued to point.

“See! She’s a bat pony! She’s come to feed on the sick!”

The soldiers hefted their spears and Pip could feel his blood running cold once more. “She’s a member of the Night Guard!” he barked. “It’s this pony who doesn’t belong here! He’s with the press! He snuck in! If you had any sense you would remove him!”

Startled by Pip’s outburst, the soldiers exchanged nervous glances before turning to Featherweight. The slender pegasus glared at Pip and took off flying for the door. The soldiers chased off after him, but stopped once they saw he was leaving for good. Equinox calmed down, but she kept herself tense and ready for anything.

One of the medics tepidly trotted forward and glanced between Pip and Equinox. Eventually the medic settled on Equinox. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave. There is a bat pony infirmary just next to this one.”

“She has to leave?” Pip asked in exasperation. “Why? She’s with me.”

“I’m s-sorry,” the medic stammered. “It’s the rules. She’ll make the other ponies nervous… and we don’t want to risk anything happening.”

“But-”

“Forget it, Pipsqueak,” Equinox interjected. “This is how it always goes.” She threw her cloak onto Pip’s bed and spread her black leathery wings, no longer concerned who knew what she was. The other ponies in the room flinched at the sight of her and actively ducked down when she flew over to get to the door. Pip watched her go, pained he hadn’t been capable of setting this right.

“Seriously?” Pip asked the medic. “Bat ponies aren’t even allowed to be in here?”

“That’s the rules.”

Pip threw off his blankets and prepared to chase off after Equinox. The medic rushed to his side and blocked his path.

“What are you doing?” the medic asked, pointing to the clipboard. “You should rest for the remainder of the day! That’s the recommendation! Relax, or you might agitate the wound on your leg!”

Frustrated, Pip slowly got back into bed and remained quiet. The medic trotted off, not muttering another word. In his angry silence Pip realized the entire infirmary was stuffy and the air thick with disinfectant. He hated it. What’s wrong with me? It’s just the infirmary… No need to get angry. Pip rubbed at his chest. Maybe I should continue to rest…

---

“Oh gosh! He’s waking up!”

“Fluff his pillows! Fluff his pillows!”

“I did! Do you have the hay sandwich?”

“Got it!”

“Did we remember the juice?”

“Yup!”

Pip opened his eyes and fought back the urge to vomit. He didn’t feel right… He immediately sat up in his bed and turned to the window. Late afternoon. He had only been sleeping for an hour or two. Why did everypony need to wake him?

“Pip! Are you okay? Is there anything you need?”

He turned to his left and saw Snails. “Um…”

“Are you hungry, Pip? Do you want a hay sandwich?”

Pip turned to his right and saw Snips. “What’re you guys doing?”

“We’re here to make you feel better!” they answered in unison.

“I’m here too.” Pip glanced upward and saw Marble at the foot of his bed. She was quietly standing and passively observing the scene.

“Should we get you a different kind of hay sandwich?” Snails asked, examining the one he was holding. “Do you not want it?”

“Um,” Pip looked at the food. He didn’t feel hungry, but he knew he should eat. “This is fine. Thank you.” He took the sandwich and began to munch on it slowly.

Snips jumped around on the right side of the bed. “Oh! Oh! Do you want me to get you a different kind of juice? I can!”

Pip cringed at the offer. “Guys… What’re you doing? I really appreciate you coming to see me, but the medics have the food and drink situation handled. I’ll be okay.”

“We want you to be your friend!” Snails replied in a desperate tone. He threw himself on Pip’s bed and hung onto his foreleg. “Please let us hang around you! We want to be recognized by Princess Luna and Phantom Shade too!”

“This isn’t how friends treat other friends…”

“This is how sycophants treat their master,” Marble sarcastically offered.

Snips and Snails both tilted their head in confusion. “Sy…co… phant?”

“Nevermind,” Marble sighed.

Pip shook Snails off his forearm. “Listen. I prefer if you just treated me as a friend. I’ll help you train if you want. You don’t have to do anything for me.”

“So,” Snips began, “you would be happier if we stopped fawning over you?”

“Yes.”

Snails vigorously nodded. “Then that’s what we’ll do! Whatever you want!”

Marble face-hoofed. “I think this is as good as it’s going to get, Pip.”

Glancing around the infirmary, Pip realized the medics were all busy. He didn’t feel well, but he attributed it the constant interruptions to his sleep. “Actually… There is something you guys could do for me.”

Snips and Snails perked up. “Anything!”

“The medics don’t want me to leave just yet, but I feel fine. Would you two mind resting here in my place?”

“You mean, pretend to be you?”

“Yes. Exactly that.”

Marble shook her head. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? If they wanted you to wait-”

“I’ll be fine,” Pip snapped. He hated himself for getting angry so quickly… and then he hated himself more for hating himself. I just need to clear my head. I'll be fine then.

“All right. If you say so.”

Pip slid out of the bed and took the cloak Equinox had thrown at him. Snips and Snails crawled into his place and threw the blankets over their bodies. If a medic were to get close it would be obvious it wasn’t Pip under there. They were so awkwardly shaped, it looked as though there was a baby hippopotamus under the sheets.

“I’ll block everypony’s view,” Marble offered, stepping up to the bed. “I’ll see you tonight for training, Pip. We’ve combat training, if you recall.”

“Thanks, Marble. You’re the best.”

She nodded to him and Pip trotted out the front door.

---

Pip walked through the training grounds with a heavy step. His back leg hurt when he put too much pressure on it, but that was to be expected. He half-limped to avoid putting too much weight on it.

The sun was beginning its downward descent. It was dusk. Soon the moon would rise and they would begin their training anew. Pip wanted to find Equinox before then and apologize to her. He felt guilty about the situation in the infirmary. He should have sent Featherweight away the moment the pegasus had come back.

Much to his relief, he spotted Equinox out in the sparring circles. She was practicing her training all by herself. Pip remained quiet as he approached, careful not to interrupt her while she worked.

With each thrust, punch, buck and kick she got wilder and wilder. Her breathing was angry and her mane wild with sweat. She was so focused in her drills that she hadn’t even noticed Pip approaching.

“Have you been at this the whole time?” he asked. It had been hours since he saw her last…

Equinox stopped her drills and turned to him with narrowed eyes. “What does it matter?”

“I’m sorry about earlier. Featherweight isn’t really related to me. He’s just an old friend.”

“You should pick better friends.”

“I’m training to be in the Night Guard now. I think I already have.”

Equinox rolled her gold eyes. “Heh. Please. Spare me.”

Pip walked over to the sparring circle and stood at the edge. “Tell me about the bat ponies. I’m tired of not understanding why everypony is afraid of you all. I don’t see why there is so much animosity between us.”

There was a silence between them. Pip listened to the wind as it whistled by. He wasn’t going to leave without hearing what she had to say. He wasn’t.

Equinox mentally capitulated. She walked over to him and looked straight into his eyes. “Do you know the story of the two sisters? The story of the Mare in the Moon?”

“Vaguely,” Pip responded. He didn’t like to admit that Luna had once been Nightmare Moon. He hated that everypony secretly held it against her at some level. “What of it?”

“There is a legend that the bat ponies tell… a slight expansion to the tale of the Mare in the Moon. You see, Princess Luna had become bitter that the ponies shunned her glorious night, but that doesn't mean she didn’t have her own followers and guards. The old Night Guard, the guard that existed 1,000 years ago…”

Pip listened intently.

“When Princess Luna was consumed by the Nightmare Forces, her bitterness was spread among her followers… The legends of my people say that was when the first bat ponies were born. They were transformed by dark magic into creatures of the night.”

“When Nightmare Moon was defeated… the other ponies cast aside the bat ponies, claiming their blood thirst and aversion to the light was punishment for following the corrupted sister. The bat ponies were chased from the cities. They were hunted and banished to lands far away from all those who dwelled in the sun. The legends say bat ponies are cursed, you see. Cursed by the moon.”

Equinox continued, “Generations passed and Princess Luna was eventually forgotten by all those mortal… but the fear and hatred of bat ponies was not. The ponies of the day would see our fangs and wings and eyes… and they were frightened. No matter how the bat ponies acted, they were always considered cursed. Before Princess Luna returned, there were only two careers a bat pony could engage in: you either became a bandit in the Badlands or a fruit farmer in Hollow Shades. Anything else and you were shunned.”

“Now that Princess Luna has returned, there is one legitimate position a bat pony can fill in your sun-dwelling society. The Night Guard. Only Princess Luna cares for the bat ponies. Only Princess Luna knows what it means to dwell forever in night. She welcomed us into her service when no other pony would… I didn’t live through the time of one sister… But my mother and father did. They speak of the bad times and how they feared meeting other ponies on the road. They feared they would be attacked for being night-dwellers… for being bat ponies.”

Equinox suddenly glared at him. “Only the bat ponies truly fear the return of Nightmare Moon! If Princess Celestia were to banish Princess Luna to the moon again we would have nothing! We would be outcasts again! Left to rot on the outskirts of society! But what of you day-dwelling ponies? You ponies didn’t even remember Princess Luna after a few generations! Nothing changed for you! You have nothing to lose if Princess Luna were gone! Why are you even here? You don’t want to protect her like we do!”

Pip took a moment to mull over the story. “Is that legend true? About how bat ponies came to be?”

Equinox turned away from him and shrugged. “It’s an old legend. And history is written by the victors. Perhaps it was a cruel addition to give legitimacy to our banishment. Perhaps it was reality. I don’t know.”

“Are you truly banished? Or is this just a misunderstanding?”

“Did you see bat ponies in your town?” Equinox asked sarcastically. “Or bat ponies in Canterlot? In Trottingham? Where have you seen them?”

Pip immediately saw her point. Bat ponies were nowhere to be seen except in the Night Guard. “But now that you’re in the Night Guard, more ponies will come to see you for what you truly are. They won’t need to be afraid of you.”

“But they are. They always are. They always will be. That’s why we’re always separated. You must see it already. That everypony thinks we’re dangerous. My mother tried to convince me to live in the day with you ponies, but I was chased from town. Specter’s parents and older brother went out into the world in hopes of finding a new place for bat ponies… and they never came back. Gloom and Screech were raised in the orphan pens of the Badlands… Rust Wing was a guide through the forest until the ponies blamed her for the death of their chickens and pigs, then she was attacked and chased away. Too many examples to be a misunderstanding.”

The sun was nearly set now. The moon was on the rise. Soon all the recruits would be out here and then Pip would no longer be able to speak with Equinox so earnestly.

“Do you remember what Thunder Clash said?” Pip asked. “About truly losing the moment you gave up? You shouldn’t give up. Not yet. Maybe we’ll all become members of the Night Guard. Maybe Princess Luna will help the bat ponies come back to society. Maybe those bad days will be nothing but a distant memory.”

“You’re childishly optimistic. I like to be practical. I just want me and my sister to have a place in this world. You’ve earned my trust but I won’t back you on some crazy crusade.” She opened her wings flew off toward the barracks. Pip didn’t bother moving. The other recruits would be filing out to these fields any moment now. He would just wait and contemplate the difficult situation he found himself in.

 
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