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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24. The Star Guard

“Don’t!” the nightmare cried.

But it was too late.

The magic coursing over Equinox surged and flared. Like Phantom Shade, she had no horn to control the flow and it erupted outward. A bright glorious light filled the room and shook the tower. Pip had to shield his eyes with a hoof, but the heat was intense he felt as though he could dehydrate within moments.

Just like with Phantom Shade, Pip felt his mind become fuzzy and disorientated…

When the heat subsided, he opened his eyes. He was outside, in a beautiful emerald green field on the outskirts of Ponyville. The sudden shift left him momentarily started, but he calmed when he realized this was… a dream? Celestia has no power over dreams… does she?

The cool breeze and pleasant melody of the birds caused Pip to relax. What was this? He slowly got up and glanced around. It was an empty field. No other ponies.

Suddenly, an ominous shadow was cast over him. Pip glanced up and saw a silhouette of dragon flying through the air, blocking the sun. The dragon… it was black and twisted. A nightmare creature. Behind him flew other dragons… their bodies covering the sky like a swarm of locusts.

Pip shook his head. This wasn’t a dream. It was a vision. When the nightmare dragon passed over, it breathed a darkness that rotted the planets and ended the melody of the birds. But, just as quickly as the vision started, Pip felt himself waking. He left the vision partway through; thankful he didn’t have to deal with something like that.

When he opened his eyes, he saw the floor of the tower was cracking and crumbling. Before he could react, it gave out under him and everypony in the room fell through to the floor below, smashing down into Luna’s chambers.

Coughing back the dust and debris particles, Pip tried to stand. He couldn’t. His shoulder was in agony, his back leg wouldn’t respond and he didn’t have any energy left. One pony got up, however, and Pip’s heart sank when he saw her.

Nightmare Moon stood from the wreckage of the tower and tossed the rocks off with her tattered wings. She teetered from side to side, shaking her head as though hearing voices no other pony could. “No,” she hissed to herself. “No!”

Pip couldn’t move, all he could do was watch as Nightmare Moon fought some sort of inner conflict unseen by anypony else.

“You need me!” Nightmare Moon cried. “You’re nothing without me!” Her face contorted in pain and she defiantly slammed her hooves down on the stone floor. Cracks began appearing in her hide and they sizzled and hissed, breaking apart like glass. She slammed her hooves down a second time and the armor and façade of Nightmare Moon shattered, revealing Princess Luna.

Weak, and wobbling on her legs, Luna took a moment to compose herself. Her mane was light blue and plain, like a normal pony’s, a result of her weakened state. She immediately turned her attention to her sister. Luna slowly walked to Celestia’s side and magic flared from her horn, breaking whatever enchantment kept the other alicorn from waking.

The pieces of the Nightmare Forces that were still on the floor began to disintegrate into smoke and Luna crushed them as she trotted by. Once Celestia was moving, Luna turned her attention to Pip. She trotted over and gave him a look of worry.

“Pip…” she spoke lightly. “You’re hurt. You need to rest. Sleep, Pip.”

This time, Pip didn’t mind the suggestion to sleep. He nodded and gently rested his head against the cold stone. Everything would be fine… He could rest.

---

The sound of a creaking ship brought Pip out of his deep slumber. He hadn’t realized how tired he was, or how sore his muscles and injuries were. When he looked around, he saw the glorious waves of the ocean all around him and his boat, the full moon hanging in the sky to greet him.

Pip got to all fours and looked around. This was his ship in the dreamscape. His favorite dream to share with Luna. And this time it was complete; his favorite princess was standing at the far end of the ship, her gaze fixated on the moon above.

“Luna!” Pip gasped. He ran to her, the dream version of his body working at full capacity. Luna turned to him and smiled as he collided with her. Embracing her in a hug, Pip closed his eyes and allowed the love and nostalgia to fill his being. He missed seeing her here, and he thought it might never happen again…

“Pip,” she slowly replied, holding him close. “I’m relieved to know you’ll make it.”

“Make it?” Pip asked, parting from her with smile he couldn’t control. “Of course we made it! We defeated the Nightmare Forces! You’re okay!”

Although she was still smiling, her expression became somber. Pip took note of her mane. It was the night sky once more. “Pip… They didn’t know if you would wake. You’ve been asleep for- well, it doesn’t matter. I managed to reach you, Pip. And it means the world to me.”

“It means the world to me too, Luna,” Pip earnestly stated. “Thank you. Thank you for not forgetting about me.”

“I will never forget about you, Pip. Rest assured, it couldn’t happen even if I wanted it to.”

Pip took a deep breath and allowed the smell of sea salt to fill his nose. The moonlit waters gently lapped against the side of the boat. Weather so perfect it could only happen within the dreamscape. “Luna, why did you stop visiting me?” he asked, though it pained him to do so. He didn’t want to ruin this moment, but he desperately wanted to know. “Had I done something wrong? Did I upset you?”

She shook her head. “Of course not. I… I thought I needed to handle all my problems without relying on others. I didn’t want to trouble you. I thought it was selfish of me to put such a burden on a foal. It wasn’t your place to keep me safe from the Nightmare Forces. I should be able to do it myself.”

“It’s no burden. I never realized it until recently, but… it gives me purpose. Knowing that I can do something, like fight the darkness… I’m happier helping you than I ever was before.”

There was a silence between them as they turned their attention to the waters. The silence and comfort couldn’t last, however. Keeping his gaze on the water, Pip asked, “Is everypony okay? Did they make it?”

“Who are you referring to, Pip?” Luna asked.

“Well, lots of ponies, really… Scootaloo?”

“She will be fine. The effects of petrification can be reversed.”

“Equinox?”

Luna sighed. “She will never fly again, but she lives.”

“Thunder Clash?”

“Many things have tried to kill Thunder Clash. It is a wonder he is still with us.”

Pip perked up. “Luna! I need to tell you something before I forget… In the fight against Nightmare Moon, when Equinox used Celestia’s powers, I dreamed of dragons. One of them looked like it was possessed by nightmares. It was a vision, Luna.”

The princess of the night furrowed her brow. “You’re sure, Pip?”

“Yes.”

“Then I, yet again, underestimated the Nightmare Forces. I thought only ponies had pieces of the darkness planted in their dreams… I hadn’t even considered other creatures. This… This is a grave matter I will have to discuss with Celestia. The Nightmare Forces are already taking hold in Equestria. They surfaced in other ponies mere days after the conflict in Canterlot.”

Pip hated seeing her so worried. “Luna, do you have to go soon?”

Luna smiled. “We have all the time we need.”

“Then I say we wait to worry. Tonight we can just dream.”

She looked to the boat. In a playful tone she asked, “Shall I be Luna the Scallywag?”

Pip laughed in slight embarrassment. “No… No, I think I’m ready to move on. Being a pirate with a heart of gold will always be my favorite dream from when I was a foal. But I recently witnessed nightmares and darkness… I would rather enjoy everything a real dream can offer. I want to fly with you, Luna.”

She nodded and unfurled her wings. “I would like that.”

Altering the dreams to suit his needs, Pip imagined wings; one white, one brown. They took to the sky and flew upward, never bothering to angle back to the ground. They just flew higher and higher; passed the clouds, passed all reasonable heights, and into the realm of the heavens themselves.

Gliding and sailing, they danced through a sea of stars and colorful nebulas. The rainbow speckles of dust and the celestial bodies of far-off places surrounded them. Pip flew through the lights of an aurora borealis and Luna twirled along the rings of a nearby planet. It was a dream, and all was whimsical and happy.

Although they didn’t speak, Pip knew this was where they belonged. In the night sky, together, calling this place home like only the moon and her stars could.

Pip could have stayed in this moment forever, but soon he felt the need to wake. He nodded to Luna as they continued to fly, and she nodded back. They sailed toward the sun and Pip let its light envelop him into consciousness.

---

“Oh! I think he’s waking!”

“Really?”

“I wouldn’t have said it unless I meant it!”

“That’s not true. You tried to fake us out yesterday.”

“Oh… Yeah. Well, I’m not faking it this time! He moved!”

Pip blinked his eyes several times and took a deep breath. He had a sharp pain in his chest and immediately caught his breath. Real life was much different than his dreams…

“Pip!” Scootaloo said, jumping into his field of vision. “You’re awake, right? Tell them I’m not lying!”

Specter pushed his way into Pip’s line of sight and half-smiled. “There he is. The sleepy-head is finally with us.”

Confused, Pip sat up and looked around. He was in a hospital of some sort. It definitely wasn’t the infirmary back at the barracks. When his vision became clear he realized the other Night Guard trainees were here with him. Marble, Rumble, Gloom, Equinox… and Mist was curled up at the end of his bed, smiling. There were cups and dice all over his blankets. Had they playing games while he was sleeping?

“Where am I?” he asked in a rusty voice.

“The Canterlot hospital,” Marble answered very matter-of-factly.

“How long have I been here?”

“A while,” she answered not very matter-of-factly.

“It’s been a little over a week,” Equinox told him. “Don’t worry, you haven’t missed much.” Unlike the others, Equinox looked like she had travelled a mile through nightmares. Her hide was scarred all over with jagged lines, the scars from using the alicorn magic. Her left wing was missing its webbing, only the bone outline of it was left. Despite her appearance, she held herself with confidence, but Pip could see a sadness in her that wasn't there before.

Specter snorted and looked at Equinox like she was crazy. “Hasn’t missed much? Where were you when a nightmare creature showed up in the Crystal Empire?”

Equinox turned to him with a glare. “I was going to save any shocking information until he was feeling better, Specter.”

“It’s not that shocking, but it’s definitely something he missed.”

Pip shook his head. “Were any ponies hurt?”

“The crystal heart was able to take care of it,” Equinox quickly explained, trying to downplay the entire event. “Don’t worry.”

That information disturbed Pip. The Nightmare Forces had dug their claws into the minds of ponies, just like Nightmare Moon said… Maybe she had been right. Maybe her victory really was inevitable if Luna was the only one capable of fighting them. Luna couldn’t walk through all the dreams in one night. She couldn’t catch the nightmares before they manifested fully in the ponies they infected…

Crash!

Everypony jumped. There were two unicorns as the far end of the room attempting to mend a broken portion of the wall. A chunk had slipped and smashed into tiny fragments, but otherwise everything was as it should be. Pip breathed a sigh of relief.

“Pip?”

“Hm?” he asked, turning back to the group.

Equinox was looking at him oddly. “I asked if you wanted to play a round with us.”

“You did?” Pip asked, glancing at the dice. “Sorry, I didn’t hear.” He touched his ear and felt it was bandaged up. There was a deafening pressure over it. He suspected it would never work again.

“Well?” she asked.

“Yes, of course I’ll play with you guys.”

Scootaloo gave him a sly smile. “I’m getting better at this game, I’ll have you know. We’ve had plenty of time to practice, what with you being all wounded and the guard ponies taking care of everything in Canterlot.”

“I’m glad you’re okay, Scootaloo,” he said with a laugh. “How did they-”

“Shush, shush!” Scootaloo hissed. In a voice imitating Thunder Clash she said, “We aren’t to speak of it.”

Mist gathered dice and a cup before squirming her way up to Pip’s side. She rolled onto her back and continued to smile as though this were the most joyous activity anypony could be engaged in. “I’m going to play next to you,” she told him.

“Of course,” he replied.

The other recruits began getting ready for the game, Scootaloo boasting she would beat them all this time around. Marble rolled her eyes and Specter laughed.

Mist leaned in closer to Pip and whispered something into his bad ear. He turned to her. “What was that?”

She wrapped her forelegs around his neck and whispered into his other ear, “I wanted to thank you.”

“For what?”

Ke ke ke!

“Kiss her already,” Specter suddenly said, propping himself on the bed and watching everything that was happening with an amused smile. Scootaloo suddenly jabbed the bat pony with her foreleg.

“You’re ruining the moment!”

“You could kiss me and we could set the mood,” he said, leaning in closer to her. Rumble grabbed a pillow from the nearby bed and threw at Specter’s face. The bat pony grabbed another pillow and threw it back.

“Oh, that how we going to play?”

Gloom smiled in delight. “Finally!” He tossed a pillow at Marble and soon it was an all-out pillow-brawl with all the ponies in the room, including the two unicorn workers. Everypony, that is, except Mist and Pip.

Despite the chaos raging all around them, including Marble smashing a few random things in the room when nopony was watching, Mist and Pip stared at each other.

“Aren’t you,” Mist awkwardly began. “I mean, don’t you… love Luna?”

Pip took a breath and held it. He loved Luna. But would Mist understand what that meant? Luna was long-lost family, a piece of himself, an unequalled confidant… and she had dictated the relationship. It was pure, chaste. Pip wouldn’t have stopped her from making the relationship more, but he would never broach the subject. He could live with loving her like this, and he knew she loved him just as much. Would Mist… be okay with that?

“Mist…” he muttered under his breath. “I do love Luna. But-”

“How do you measure the worth of a pony?” Mist asked him, cutting him off. “Is it what they’ve done? What they can do?”

Pip didn’t know where these questions came from. “I guess I don’t know… It’s a complicated questi-”

She placed a hoof over his mouth to silence him. A pillow flew by overhead. Mist leaned in closer and removed her hoof. She gently kissed him and pulled away before he could fully return her affections. “I’ll show you,” she whispered in a very serious tone, unlike her normal sing-song voice. “Maybe I want you to talk about me like you talk about Luna. Maybe I want to be better, just to catch your eye, just to show you my worth can be just as much.”

“Mist…” Pip could hardly believe it. He had always assumed, with ponies as great and magnificent as the alicorn princesses, that nopony would consider him much. He was just an earth pony. “You don’t have to change yourself.”

“Not change,” she said with a laugh. “I need to be better. I’m already pretty amazing, but I want you to see that I can be just as worthy of affection!” She was smiling now, her happy tone returning. “You’ll see! I’ll be the princess of bats!” She quickly kissed him again, a mischievous and flirtatious look in her eyes.

He laughed and she held him close, nuzzling into his neck. His shoulder hurt, but he didn’t push her away. The warmth of her presence was worth the sting.

“Hey! Hey! No fair! It’s now all of you versus me!” Specter was cowering in the corner of the room with the others over him, bashing him playfully with pillows. They stopped, but the moment they did, Specter threw a single pillow at Rumble and flew away, quickly flapping his wings and exiting the room at high speeds.

“Why you-” Rumble burst out of the room after the bat pony. Scootaloo chased after the other two, carrying a pillow in her mouth.

The two unicorn workers shrugged and went back to fixing the wall.

Marble trotted back to the bed and sighed. “I didn’t feel like playing pirate’s dice anyway. I guess this works out for everypony.”

Equinox nodded and sat down next to the bed. “Yeah. We should probably be getting ready regardless.”

“Ready?” Pip asked.

“Yeah, apparently Luna knew you would be waking today, so she called together some meeting that’s to be taking place tonight.”

Pip immediately glanced toward the windows. They were covered with heavy curtains. “What time is it?”

“Mid-afternoon?”

“What’s happening tonight?”

Gloom joined the conversation, brushing himself off. “Apparently it’s some address to the public. After the whole nightmare thing in Canterlot, ponies were upset. Then the Nightmare Forces sprang up in the Crystal Empire and now everypony is afraid nightmares will be showing up everywhere, demanding Princess Luna and Celestia do something about it. Princess Twilight Sparkle was called back from her trip and Princess Cadance was called in as well. Everypony wants to know who will handle the nightmare threat.”

Pip snorted. “Wow. Who is going to handle the nightmare threat?”

“Luna?” Gloom shrugged. “She has dream powers, remember?”

Pip nodded. Could she do it all her own? He would just have to speak with her at this address…

---

The halls of Canterlot Castle were packed with ponies and delegates from all over Equestria. It was early evening by the time Pip managed to walk into the main hall, accompanied by the other Night Guard trainees. There was a place saved for them near the front, near the thrones of the princesses, and Pip quickly limped his way over. The nurses at the hospital were reluctant to let him go, but he didn't want to miss this address.  

All four princesses were here. They were standing before the crowd, silent and regal. The ponies gathered were agitated and confused. They were murmuring things to themselves about the nightmares and the impeding threat. Next to the princesses were their guard captains. Shining Armor, Lightning Dust, Flash Sentry and… Ghast. Pip eyed the bat pony and wondered where Phantom Shade was. It occurred to him then that he hadn’t asked about the bat pony…

After Pip took his seat, Princess Luna stepped forward. The crowd became silent.

“Citizens,” she said, her voice echoing off the walls and reaching everypony, even those located in the very back. “We've called you here tonight because of the growing concerns. We-”

“Are all the princesses at risk?” a pony from the crowd shouted.

“Who else will turn?”

“Who is going to stop this?”

“Please,” Luna pleaded. “Remain calm. We have contemplated this threat for a long while.”

“Who is going to protect us from the nightmares? What if one appears in Manehattan!? We don’t have any ponies there that can stop them!”

“What if one appears in Appleloosa? We have barely anypony there! The nightmares would destroy everything lickity-split!”

“What if the princesses turn right now?”

The crowd of ponies began frantically whispering to themselves. Pip understood their frustrations. There was a lot of destruction from the King Basilisks and some ponies most likely lost their lives… But on the other hoof, who was going to stop more of these nightmares from showing themselves? Once they formed, only power equal to the alicorns seemed to be enough to defeat them. It all came back to Luna… She could do what her father once did. She could have to hunt down all the pieces of the Nightmare Forces and stop them before they grew into something powerful.

But…

All by herself? The Nightmare Forces weren’t toying around. If one already appeared in the Crystal Empire… they were on the brink of disaster. Luna couldn’t do it all. She just didn’t have enough time in the day.

Citizens,” Luna shouted, quieting the crowd. “I know we have called you here many times in the last few days. Some days to honor the fallen, some days to honor the brave bat ponies that saved Canterlot from the King Basilisks. Tonight, however, we are here to announce our plans for the future. Your princesses have contemplated the current threat and have come to a realization. I, as your princess of the night, will purge the nightmares while you sleep and, hopefully, prevent them rising in the waking world.”

“Only you? Is that enough?”

Luna shook her head. “No. It isn’t enough. Which is why I have decided to form a special guard force to help me in this endeavor. Pipsqueak, can you please join me?”

The crowd of ponies began exchanging confused looks. Pipsqueak ducked down, baffled. What could Luna want with him right now? Equinox nudged him.

“She called you.”

Pip nervously nodded and got out of his seat. The ponies in the room eyed him as he trotted up. If he had known he was going to be in front of everypony, he would have attempted to cover all his bandages and wounds. As it was now, he looked like a waking mummy.

When he reached Luna, Pip bowed deeply. It was a formal setting and he knew he should be formal. “Princess?”

“Pipsqueak,” she spoke in a soft voice, directly to him and him alone. “All those years in the dreamscape together… You are the only other pony that knows my secrets and how the dreamwalking ability works. You have experienced both dreams and nightmares and have firsthoof knowledge of their power. You were one of the ponies to face down Nightmare Moon, and the only one who saw it coming ahead of time. Your loyalty is without question, which will be needed for this task.”

“But,” Pip whispered. “I have no magic, Luna. I can’t do what you do.” She spoke again, but he couldn’t hear it. He glanced up at her and leaned in closer to better hear.

“If I asked you to fight for me, would you?” she asked.

“Of course,” he replied. “If you need me to fight the nightmares, I will. I just don't know how I will do it...”

“Good.” Luna turned to address the ponies in the crowd. “The Nightmare Forces are a threat to us all and more powerful than ever. Pipsqueak, will you lead the new guard, the Star Guard, against the nightmares? Will you fight the forces before they take form in the waking world? Will you help all ponies, not just the ones that sleep at night?”

“Yes, Princess,” he answered, unsure of what she wanted from him. How would he do that? How would he help them?

“Do you swear to uphold the good name of Equestria? To value honor, kindness and friendship? To pursue laughter and integrity? To be generous, and all that implies?”

“I do, Princess.”

Celestia levitated a small hoof-sized box over to Luna. She took it and turned back to Pip. Luna opened the box and revealed a Fragment of the First Night. It was a tiny orb, a tiny void, sucking in all nearby light. Pitch black and beautiful.

Luna touched the Fragment of the First Night with her horn and ignited her magic. There was a flash and soon the fragment changed… She levitated it to Pip and he held out a hoof to take it.

No longer was it just a dark void. At its center was a tiny crescent moon. Just like Luna’s cutie mark.

“I have placed a piece of my magic within that Fragment of the First Night,” Luna spoke to Pip and the whole crowd at the same time. “With it, you will be able to enter the dreams of others and purge the nightmares within.”

Pip stared at the Fragment of the First Night and took a deep breath. This was a great honor and responsibility. And it was a precious gift. Luna had told him all about her power, and now he understood why she had asked him up here and not somepony else.

Luna's magic could connect the dreams of others and take ponies through multiple dreamscapes… If Pip was to lead a guard, he would be taking other ponies with him into the dreamscape and helping others overcome the Nightmare Forces. But… if she had sacrificed a portion of her magic… It meant her power, and the power in the orb, would be weaker than Luna at her peak.

But Pip would trust Luna knew what she was doing. Perhaps it was better for more ponies to search dreams than to be the most powerful pony in the dream.

“You’ve not much time to get ready,” Luna spoke to him. “The Nightmare Forces are already active and we must move quickly. I know you haven’t had much time to recover, but there are thousands of ponies and thousands of non-ponies. And… the bat ponies, Pip. They must be cared for as well. I need ponies to walk the dreams of the day.”

Pip nodded, holding the fragment close. “You can count on me.”

Luna smiled. “Then you are hereby Pipsqueak, Captain of the Star Guard, the Guardian of the Night.”

The crowd cheered, showing their approval for this plan. The other princesses and other captains bowed to him, and he bowed back. Pip turned around and glanced at the other recruits. They smiled and nodded, all of them showing their support. Even Thunder Clash waved to him from the crowd.

Pip didn’t know if he was physically ready, he had only completed half the Night Guard training, but he knew he couldn’t turn back now. If Luna needed him to be her sword, he couldn’t ignore her call. He had made a promise, after all. A promise he intended to keep.

 
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