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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12. Weapon of Choice

Equinox opened her eyes and stared, unseeing, into the forest. It took her a few moments to realize she was on the ground. She slowly got up, unable to remember how she got here. There was the Ursa… and she was flying… and then it attacked her…

Panic gripped her. Equinox immediately glanced at her backside. If her wings were damaged beyond repair, she would be useless. She had no magic, no extraordinary strength… if she couldn’t fly, she might as well be an earth pony. An earth pony with no connection to the elements. An earth pony that all the day-dwelling ponies distrusted.

She slowly unfurled her wings and looked them over. They were sore, but the wings themselves were still intact. Equinox let out a small sigh of relief. In her half second of panic she had concocted a crazy plan to live life as a day-pony in disguise. With her ability to see in the daylight, she might be able to hide her bat-like qualities… But then who would look after Mist?

Equinox took a deep breath. She had to get back to Mist. Her younger sister was touched, there was no other way to put it. Something had always been wrong with her. But… she was a gentler soul than all the others around her. Equinox needed to be with her, to protect her.

A roar from an Ursa sounded in the distance.

Equinox glanced upward and saw that her fall had been broken by the thin branches of two trees. As she tried to decipher the angle at which she fell, two of the Night Guard flew overhead. Although it was dark, Equinox knew they had spotted her; their slit-pupil eyes able to pierce through even the blackest of nights.

The two soldiers broke apart, one to deal with the Ursa and one to investigate Equinox’s presence. Equinox knew that getting caught meant trouble, but she was too sore to outrun one of the Night Guard. She would try and talk her way out of this, if need be.

The bat pony that landed before her was clad in Night Guard armor. He had a bow and quiver strapped around his body, and, strangely, a small whistle on a string around his neck. Equinox couldn’t see the soldier’s cutie mark, but she could see his eyes. They were a very pale gold. She had seen them before…

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” the soldier asked.

Equinox stepped forward. “I was wandering the forest when an Ursa unexpectedly attacked me. I thought it was the Night Guard’s duty to take care of those things. Shouldn’t you be doing your job?” Equinox didn’t want to start a fight, but she did want to pressure the stallion into leaving without inquiring about her further. Guilt seemed like a good tactic.

“Equinox?” the soldier asked, taking a hesitant step forward.

She defensively held her foreleg up. “Yeah? Do I know you?”

“It’s me, Pale Dusk. I would see you sometimes in-”

“Pale Dusk? This is where you went to?” she asked in disbelief, cutting him off. “I thought you had run off to join your uncle and aunt in the Badlands!”

He shook his head. “Why are you so far from Hollow Shades?”

“I…” Equinox hesitated. “I’m here training for the Night Guard.”

“Really?” Pale Dusk asked with a smile. “Wow, your timing couldn’t have been better. I’m sure Captain Phantom Shade was ecstatic to see you.”

Equinox was glad he was excited to see her. This meant he most likely wasn’t going to report her to Thunder Clash. “I don’t think Captain Phantom Shade cared about my presence one way or the other. All he seemed to care about was that I passed the courses.”

“Really? Does he know of your special ability?”

“I… I don’t know. I’m sure he does. Why? What does my special ability have to do with anything?”

Another roar cut through the night air.

Pale Dusk turned his attention to the forest. “I’m sorry, Equinox. I don’t have much time to talk. Can you make it back to the barracks? Do you know where it is?”

“I can manage.”

He jumped into the air and nodded. “All right then. I look forward to seeing you in the Night Guard.” Pale Dusk flew off to meet back with the others.

Equinox didn’t want to squander her opportunity. She took to the sky and flew low along the canopy of the trees. As she went, she tried to keep close to the shadows, just in case Thunder Clash was out and about. Her thoughts quickly drifted back to Mist. I hope she made it out of the forest all right.

---

“So, does a pony lose their special talent when a bat pony, ya know…?”

“Nope!” Mist excitedly whispered.

“What if they drink from multiple ponies? Do they get multiple talents?”

“Nope! Only one at a time!”

Pip rubbed at his sore and irritated shoulder. “How long does it last? The extra talent?”

“Five… maybe ten minutes? Sometimes less?” Mist shrugged. “It just depends.”

They were slowly making their way through the forest. Equinox should be around here somewhere… Pip was determined to make sure she was okay before turning back. Mist was also in the same boat. Scootaloo, on the other hoof, was more interested in getting back, but she tagged along regardless. Scootaloo was up ahead, quickly scouting the area while Mist and Pip discussed things.

“Why did Screech act so different afterward? What happened?”

Mist tilted her head from side to side. “Well, sometimes your talent really permeates your vitality. Do you know what I mean?”

“No. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Well, for example, maybe your special talent is, er, making clothing! But that could be anything… making lots of clothing, making punk rock clothing, making sturdy and practical clothing… but the pony with that talent most likely has a preference. Say, high fashion clothing! That preference, if it’s strong in the pony, then influences the bat pony! Even strong personal desires will affect the bat pony!” Mist snickered in her normal ke ke ke way.

“What’s so funny?” Pip asked. He hadn’t thought this discuss warranted laughter.

“Your talent is to defend and protect ponies! You say it all the time! Just imagine what would have happened if Princess Luna showed up! Could you imagine how weird Screech would have been acting? How he would have constantly fawned over her?” Mist could barely control her snickering now.

Pip flushed with embarrassment. “W-what? I don’t constantly fawn over her!”

Mist smiled and snorted. “Sure you don’t!”

“Hey! I thought bat ponies liked Princess Luna as well! There’s nothing wrong with liking her!”

“I’ve never met her… and I certainly don’t think about her all the time!”

Pip nearly tripped over a root in the dark. “W-well, there’s your problem! I’m sure you would think of her from time to time if you had actually met her! She’s amazing! She watches over the night and faces the nightmares so that other ponies don’t have to! She’s basically given up her entire life simply to raise and lower the moon! It’s not like she can leave Equestria, not with her responsibility! And she doesn’t demand anything from us ponies for it!”

Mist lifted an eyebrow and allowed him to continue.

“She’s an alicorn, so I’m sure that, if she wanted, she could be doing any number of other things! Princess Luna never even really gets to see her subjects outside of their dreams… she works while they sleep and she retreats during the day, out of sight. She’s so magnificent and beautiful and magically talented… who wouldn’t look up to her?”

“Pip, are you talking about Princess Luna again?” Scootaloo shouted from the clearing up head.

“Oh, come on! I don’t talk about her that often!”

Scootaloo glanced back and sarcastically quipped, “I’m pretty sure she could have filed a restraining order by now and nopony would have questioned it.”

Ke ke ke!

With a long sigh, Pip decided to remain quiet. He didn’t understand why more ponies didn’t appreciate everything Luna did for them. Princess Celestia had the Summer Sun Celebration, but what did Luna have? Pip smiled to himself. Well, I guess she has Nightmare Night… But that isn’t the same thing. The Summer Sun Celebration is a festival to recognize how amazing Celestia is! Luna’s holiday only focuses on the time she wasn’t even here… the time she was Nightmare Moon.

“Oh! Look! There goes my sister!”

“What?” Scootaloo and Pip both asked.

Mist pointed to the night sky. “She just flew by. I think she’s heading back to the barracks!”

Scootaloo groaned. “Now we have to walk all the way back!?”

“Yeah, looks like it.” Pip didn’t mind walking. He was just glad Equinox was all right.

“We better hurry,” Mist muttered, staring up at the sky. “We don’t want to be caught out here when the sun rises…”

“Why?” Scootaloo asked. “The Ursas won’t be out then, and we’ll be able to see-” Scootaloo stopped herself too late. “Nevermind,” she quickly snapped.

Pip rotated his shoulder. He was still sore. “Why don’t you guys go back? I’m only slowing you down.”

“I did not get dragged out her to rescue your sorry hide, only to have you send me away,” Scootaloo stated angrily. “We are going back together whether you like it or not!”

“Yeah! I didn’t drag Scootaloo out here just to leave you two alone!” Mist happily added. “Besides, what if an Ursa comes back?”

“All right, all right,” Pip said. “Let’s go.”

---

By the time they spotted the barracks, the moon had almost completely disappeared beyond the horizon. The sun was threatening to rise from behind the mountains at any moment, and the sky was awash in blues and purples. Once they determined that nopony was watching, Pip, Scootaloo, and Mist all ran from the forest and out across the training field. By the time they reached the barracks, the dawn had officially commenced.

Staying within the shadows, Mist quickly entered the barracks. Pip and Scootaloo glanced around one last time before they entered. Out of the corner of Pip’s eye he spotted the other guard trainees walking out onto the exercise field. They looked so much happier than the Night Guard trainees…

Once inside, Pip quietly trotted over to his bunk and crawled into it. Scootaloo was already in her bunk by the time he glanced around again. Hopefully Thunder Clash never knew we were missing… Pip placed his head on the pillow and closed his eyes.

“Pip! Pip, wake up!”

“Hm?” Pip asked.

“Wake up! It’s time for training!”

“No it’s not,” he grunted, rolling over. “I just went to bed…”

“But it is! Wake up!”

Using every ounce of willpower he had, Pip opened one eye to glance out the window. The sun was setting. Pip jerked up in his bunk and stared in disbelief. It hadn’t felt like he had slept at all!

“Oh… You’re bleeding.”

Pip saw Snails standing next to his bunk. The unicorn was frowning and pointing to Pip’s shoulder. He glanced down and saw the bite wound from Screech had opened up. His blankets and pillow were stained with a dark red smear.

“It’s nothing,” Pip tried to reassure him, but his head was light and he felt as though he may faint.

“I have bandages and gauze,” Snails offered. “I got them for Snips. Do you want them?”

“Sure…”

Snails used his magic to guide the bandages and gauze. Pip didn’t have to lift a hoof. He waited till they were tightly secured before jumping down to the floor.

“What are you guys doing?” Rumble asked from across the room. “Thunder Clash is going to bust in here if we don’t get out there!”

They all trotted from the barracks and went out to the back field. The bat ponies were already waiting there, but even in his light-headed state, Pip recognized that one of them was missing. He took his place in line next to Gloom and attempted to squint through the darkness. Screech was the one missing.

Thunder Clash flew down and landed in the center of the sparring ring. Around the edge were various types of weapons the soldiers in Equestria were issued. Before he began the lesson, Thunder Clash cleared his throat.

“Due to circumstances that we don’t need to discuss, our training group has been reduced by one. Screech will no longer be training for the Night Guard. Now that everypony is aware… I have something else I want to say.”

Pip glanced back to the bat ponies again. None of them seem bothered by the announcement that Screech would no longer be training.

“I understand I stress to you the need for combat excellence and physical strength,” Thunder Clash continued. “However… There is a big difference between ponies and other creatures. I should have stressed this point earlier, and for that, I apologize. Let me explain.”

“I told some of you the first half of a sentence my instructor used to drill into my head. I told you that a good warrior knows himself, and that a great warrior knows himself and his enemy. The last part to that phrase is… and a master of war need never fight at all. I used to think that was namby pamby nonsense. Until I saw it in action.”

“Ya see, recruits, if you’re smart enough, you will have won the battle before it even begins. A true master of war is so far ahead of the rest, that they can plan out the moves and find a victory long before his opponent even knows they’re fighting. Those well-versed in conflict will always have the option not to engage in combat if they don’t want to.”

Pip hung his head. He felt as though Thunder Clash were talking directly to him. Did Thunder Clash know? I should have tried harder to avoid fighting with Screech… If I had been better that wouldn’t have happened…

“But,” Thunder Clash recaptured Pip’s attention, “Equestria isn’t just inhabited by ponies. Equestria is a land where emotions and thoughts give rise to power. Some enemies are nothing more than darkness itself. Some enemies are made and born from hate, and you will always need to fight them, lest you become part of them.”

“What I’m trying to say is this: you should always seek to avoid fighting with ponies. Save your fight and energy for the real enemies. Save it for the darkness incarnate. Everytime you fight your fellow pony you give rise to anger and vengeance. If everypony followed through with their revenge, there would be a world with no ponies, do you understand me? It’s easy to start a conflict. It takes a master to end one.”

Snails lifted a hoof into the air.

Thunder Clash reluctantly pointed to him.

“So, does that mean we should all harness the power of friendship, sir?”

The bat ponies began laughing. The Ponyville recruits did not. They had seen the “power of friendship” in action one too many times to just laugh it off as a joke…

Thunder Clash shook his head. “I’ve had lots of good friends in my time, and never once did my feelings for them manifest into glorious rainbows of ultimate power. No, the whole reason I’m training you is because we need to rely on a source not so arbitrary. Leave the friendship powers to the Princess of Friendship. Do you maggots understand!?”

“Sir, yes sir!” they responded.

“Good. Now we can move onto tonight’s lesson…” Thunder Clash flew over to the weapon racks and began removing various types of weapons, throwing them into the sparring ring. While everypony waited for him to finish, Pip turned to Gloom.

In a low whisper, that he knew Gloom would be the only one to hear, Pip stated, “I’m sorry about Screech.”

“Why?” Gloom immediately responded under his breath. “You got a masochist streak in you?”

“Er, no. I thought you and he had grown up together.” At least, that's what I remember Equinox telling me...

“So? What does that matter?”

Pip glanced at him in confusion. “You don’t care at all? That he’s gone?”

Gloom snorted in hushed laughter. “You gotta take what you can, when you can. I’m not going to lose sleep over Screech. He’s insane. Always has been. Why would I go out of my way to help him?”

Pip didn't respond. Gloom glanced to him with a shrug.

“Screech didn’t say, but his special talent made it so he saw pony’s memories when he drank their blood. He would get confused by which ones were his and which ones were from other ponies. It messed with his already fragile mind. He’s just a ticking time bomb of violence. It’s better he’s gone. Thunder Clash has done us all a favor; I’m sure Screech would have snapped one day and turned on us all. Don't ever bother apologizing.”

“All right, recruits,” Thunder Clash motioned them close. “Everypony gather in so you can see.”

Pip walked forward, but his mind dwelled on other matters. His life in Ponyville had been near ideal. He was never hungry, he had a good school, and he was loved by his mother and father… Plus, Princess Celestia and Twilight Sparkle watched over him during the day. At night, Princess Luna would wander the dreamscape with him. She protected all the ponies that slept through the night…

What did the bat ponies have? During the day they were sleeping. During the night they were awake and unable to see Luna. Who was there to help them? Did the princesses even know about how bad it was in the Badlands? With a name like Badlands you think everypony would know. Screech literally had nopony there for him. Not even a pony to watch over his dreams...

“Pipsqueak!” Thunder Clash snapped. “Are you paying attention, boy?”

“Er, no sir,” he quickly replied. “What’s going on, sir?”

“Weapons. Look at them. Pay attention.”

“Sir, yes sir!”

Thunder Clash glanced back down to the weapons in front of him. “Now, the style of fighting I will need to train you in will depend greatly on the weapon you choose. Each weapon is a unique piece of equipment. Do not expect to be a master at the halberd if you train using a sword, and vice versa.”

“From my experience, certain races of ponies do better with certain types of weapons. Myself, being a pegasus, have found the spear to be the easiest to wield. It is inherently a distance weapon, meaning its best when not in close combat. Throwing a spear, or thrusting with a spear behind troop lines, is the most efficient. With pegasi, you can throw the spear, retrieve the spear, and then fly away from the enemy to attempt it again. You can also charge with it. Given that pegasi can fly upward, you will almost always have enough room to get a good speed on your charge, unlike grounded ponies.”

He continued with, “The halberd is an expert’s version of the spear. It isn’t meant to be thrown… it’s meant to disarm and cut down opponents. The hook of the halberd can be used to effectively control your opponent, or draw them in close for physical combat. Almost everypony in the Sun, Friendship and Crystal Guard uses either a spear or halberd, and with good reason. They are effective weapons.”

“The next set of weapons are the heavy ones, like axes. Axes are bulky and meant to cleave flesh. The point of an axe is to end a fight in a single blow. There is little finesse with an axe. It’s raw power in weapon form. The war hammer, or maul, as some call it, is the expert’s version of the axe. It’s a heavy weapon meant to smash. Mauls break the opponent’s armor, as well as their bones. It, like the axes, can end a fight quickly, if you manage to connect with your target.”

“The last three weapons are harder to train with, but are some of the most effective. The bow and arrow are the choice of bat ponies. Since bat ponies can see through the darkness, they can shroud themselves in it, and snipe their opponents, who are often unable to return fire. Additionally, because bat ponies can fly, they can find a perch with which to shoot much easier than a grounded pony.”

“These here,” Thunder Clash motioned to a pair of heavy looking hoof guards, “are referred to as claws. They are bladed hoof guards, used for close combat. Wielded by the right pony, they can be devastating. Used by an amateur… Well, let’s just say that getting close to the enemy is sometimes a work of skill all on its own.

Thunder Clash motioned to the last set of weapons. “The sword and knife are skill based weapons. They require intensive training and I’ve only ever seen unicorns able to wield them effectively. They require precision and grace. This one here is specifically for unicorns. See how it has no handle? Unicorn magic can hold it without fear of being cut… and any enemy that tries to take the weapon from you is a sorry opponent.”

Snips and Snails leaned in close to get a better look.

“Now, if you were in the other guards, I would tell you to all start training with the spear. However, since you will be sent on solo missions from time to time, or be expected to handle yourself rather than in a squad, you can choose your own weapon. Pick the one that’s most suited to your fighting type. We have all night. Try them all if you wish.”

Pip glanced at the weapons. Hmm…

 
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