A Captain's Legacy
Shining stared up at the oak door that towered above him. It was a normal door, no different than a typical door one would find inside a house. But given the contents stored away behind it, it had an unusually grand feel to it, and Shining couldn't help but feel dwarfed in its shadow.
The old grandfather clock down the hall let out twelve loud booms.
It was noon. The high sun's rays shone through a nearby window and across Shining's stationary, white frame. It warmed his fur while he kept his blue eyes locked on the door.
His parents always said how the attic held an eclectic assortment of things, from old music records to hardcover books that hadn't been opened since his grandparents lived in the house a decade before.
Shining imagined his deceased grandfather, the stallion with the amputated hoof and a pair of wild, yet kind, eyes. Shining imagined his still-alive grandmother, the sweet mare that would always have a batch of cookies at her house for him and Twilight, who would show their gratitude through their quick gobbling of the snacks. The elderly mare would laugh, looking down at her grand-kids' chocolate and cookie crumb-covered faces.
He always felt there was more to his grandparents than what he already knew, especially his grandfather, who passed on about two years prior due to heart problems.
Shining wanted to discover more about his grandfather, to find out why the old stallion had such an air of mystery around him, both in life and in death.
That's why the young colt stood in front of the door, which led up to the attic. There was something about his grandfather in there. He always heard his parents talk about it, calling it his grandfather's "legacy". It was something that both confused and fascinated him, and he made it his goal to discover what they meant.
He thought about asking parents, but his gut instinct told him they'd never say. They were always so adamant at keeping whatever secrets were behind the door, behind the door, concealed from the curious eyes of the young colt. They often said how, sometimes, things were best left alone. They wanted to respect his grandfather's memory.
But the curiosity of a young colt was a powerful force, and Shining desperately wanted to find out what was behind the door, what lay in the attic behind it.
Unable to remain patient any longer, Shining raised his hoof to the brass knob and turned it. Slowly, the door creaked open, revealing a dark, wooden staircase that, to put it mildly, needed a little more than some TLC. It looked incredibly fragile, like each step had the potential to collapse under Shining's weight. The wood was cracked, cobwebs scattered in the tiny corners of each, individual step. The space was narrow and dark. Shining knew the climb would be a tedious one.
Sighing, he turned and took a quick look back. Nopony was around. His parents would surely scold him if they found out he went into the attic. But that would mostly be because of the dangers that lurked up there, namely rats and rusted nails that could get him ill, had he come into too much contact with either of them.
Both of his parents were downstairs and Twilight was sleeping, taking advantage of the Saturday with a relaxing, afternoon nap,
Once certain that the coast was clear, Shining cautiously began his climb the stairs. He slowly raised his hoof and brought it down onto the first step.
A loud creak sounded, as if he stepped right onto a mouse. He cringed; worried that somepony might have heard the sound. He whipped his head around to look behind him, only to see an empty hallway, not a soul in sight. For the time being, he was still unnoticed.
He let out a sigh of relief and slowly continued his ascent to the attic, each step he took was more cautious than the last. The stairs kept emitting squeaks as he ascended. He kept his eyes down, watching out for any of the dreaded nails or rodents his parents warned him about.
The air got progressively mustier. It smelt like he stepped into a time capsule and he was now inhaling in the stale air from years past, which wasn't exactly false. The attic hadn't been entered in at least two years.
Finally, he reached the top step and sighed. He lifted his head and scanned his surroundings. The attic wasn't anywhere near as dark as the staircase leading up to it was. A modest window allowed ample sunlight to enter the dark space. Boxes upon boxes stacked up to the ceiling, shelves of books pressed against the wall.
Amazingly, it wasn't too cramped. While the stored items made it difficult for the colt to navigate, there was more than enough space for him to walk from one end of the attic to the other without having to step over anything.
His eyes continued to take in the entire area, when a bright glimmer caught his eye.
Shining turned towards the source. Right in front of the window, under a tunnel of light, was a pile of gold-plated military gear. There was a breastplate, gold shoes, and a very large helmet that had a hole in the front for a horn to be placed.
Shining recognized it as armor worn by members of the Royal Guard. His wide eyes started at the top of the pile of gold equipment, and moved south until they landed on something that, at first glance, didn't belong. It was blue and made of felt, a golden star hanging off of it. Shining took a few steps towards the mysterious item. He briefly studied it before realizing what it was.
But this wasn't any ordinary medal; this was the Equestrian Medal of Honor and Service, something only a select few, brave ponies ever had the privilege of receiving.
Shining gawked at the symbol of honor, wondering why so many military artifacts were in the attic. Had his parents bought them? Were they family artifacts, passed down from generation to generation?
He took another step towards the medal and leaned forward, his nostrils so close dust that covered the gold on the medal flew into the air, some of which flew up Shining's nose. He started to feel the familiar tickle of a sneeze coming on, so he tilted his head back, trying to hold it in, to keep himself from making such a noise where he might give away his position to his parents.
"Ah....." Shining tried his best to hold back, trying to suppress the sneeze, but it was inevitable.
Shining sneezed all over the gold armor and medal. The only thing that saved the artifacts from his tactical snot-missiles was his front leg, which he used to cover his nose. Sighing, he wiped his nose with the back of his hoof, cleaning it of the snot that accumulated.
"Celestia bless you!"
"Thanks." Shining replied before he froze. He turned around to see an excitable Twilight standing behind him, a huge grin on her face, her eyes full of playfulness that was typical for a filly her age. Shining had been caught red-hoofed by his little sister.
"Ha-ha, you sneeze so funny!" Twilight said, "You were like....ahhh...CHOOO!!"
Twilight fell back to exaggerate her brother's sneeze, laughing once she hit the wooden floor. Shining should have been scared, he should have worried that his little sister would eventually run downstairs and tattle on him. But Twilight wasn't like that, and even if she was, Shining couldn't possibly worry when her cute little face was around. She was like a tiny bundle of energy with the best intentions, even if they didn't always result in the best outcomes.
He could never get mad at her. Once she finished laughing, Twilight stood back up and looked up at her brother with wide eyes, full of the innocence of filly-hood.
"So Shining, what are you doing up here?"
"I could ask you the same thing Twily." Shining said with a soft chuckle. His little sister pushed past him and made her way towards the armor.
"Wow, what's all this stuff?" she asked, slowly extending a hoof out towards the golden helmet that lay on the floor.
"That's what I'm hoping to find out." Shining Armor said, turning his attention back to the medal that lay on the floor.
Twilight's little hoof touched the surface of the helmet, causing her to shudder, "Ooohh. It's cold."
She turned to see Shining leaning towards the medal, his eyes focused on what was written on the golden part. Grinning, Twilight went over by his side and leaned forward, squinting at the medal.
"What exactly are we looking at?" she asked.
"I'm trying to read what's written on the medal," Shining said.
"Well, go ahead!"
Shining nodded and leaned towards the medal, eyes scanning the words engraved into it.
Twilight began fidgeting, her impatience growing as she waited for her brother to say something.
"Well? What does it say?" Twilight asked.
"It says...'To a Pony of Great Honor and Integrity: Captain..." Shining paused as he read the name, shocked at what it read, "...Silver Blade."
"Hey! Isn't that our grandfather?" Twilight asked.
"Yeah it...it is." Shining said, picking up the medal and holding it in his hoof. His eyes were wide and his face was in shock as he continued to look down at the award, "I never knew he was a Medal of Honor recipient...or a captain for that matter."
Twilight looked back over at the giant helmet, Grinning, she pointed to it and turned back to her brother.
"Hey Shining! Can you put this helmet on? I want to see what it looks like on you."
Shining looks up at his sister, then down at the helmet, lying on the ground with a certain pride the colt couldn't explain. He didn't need to try it on to know it was much too large for his head. Plus, it was his grandfather's stuff. Surely putting the helmet onto his head when he didn't do anything to earn it would be disrespectful to his grandfather's memory.
He now understood why his parents didn't want them up there.
"I don't think so Twily."
"Oh come on, please?"
Shining was about to protest, but when he looked into his little sister's eyes, he couldn't help himself. For the first time Shining Armor wasn't concerned about his sister's future, because he knew even if she hit hard times, her sweet puppy-dog look would be enough to get even the greediest of ponies hand her all of the bits in their possession.
"Fine." Shining said, conceding defeat to his little sister. He slowly walked over and placed both hooves onto the helmet, lifting it up to eye-level. Immediately realizing it was much heavier than he originally thought, he began swayed around. Twilight watched him, calling out the occasional 'be careful', which really served no purpose other than make Shining roll his eyes and think, "No, really Twilight? This is supposed to look like a circus act where I'm about to fall over."
Finally, Shining stabilized himself, his hooves firmly pressed against the sides of the large helmet, easily a couple of sizes too big for his colt head. Slowly, he lifted it above his head and, even more carefully, brought it down to his horn stuck out of the small hole at the front. Once he felt the metallic interior of the helmet press down against the top of his head, he released his hooves from the sides.
Shining looked behind his sister and at his reflections in an old mirror, propped up against a stack of moist boxes. Even with the giant crack running down the middle of the glass, he could see his reflection. The helmet was huge on his head, reminding him that this helmet was not his, yet it was real. It was his grandfather's guard helmet, something he wore to protect his life during combat he so bravely fought in, and he was using it to play dress-up.
Twilight looked up at her brother and giggled, "You look silly!"
Shining knew he looked silly, downright stupid even. But being the big brother, he wasn't about to let his sister win that easily.
"Really? I think it makes me look pretty dignified." Shining said, giving his sister a salute, "Captain Shining Armor, reporting for duty!"
Twilight gasped, "Oh! You're right; it does look good on you!"
Shining chuckled, lowering his hoof back to the ground and shaking his head.
"No you were right, it looks stupid."
"No!" Twilight exclaimed, "Shining, you look like an actual member of the Guard!"
Looking into his little sister's eyes, he could tell she was being sincere.
"Y-you...you think so?"
Twilight nodded, "Yeah, in fact I think you could pass as a Captain!"
Shining Armor chuckled, rubbing the back of his helmet with his hoof, "Thanks Twily."
Twilight nodded at her brother, but then something else caught her attention. Something was shining behind the golden breastplate.
"Twilight, what are you looking at?" Shining asked.
But Twilight didn't respond. She simply trotted over and grabbed the object in her hooves and dragged it into the open. It was a plaque, roughly the size of a piece of paper. The outline was oak; the center was solid gold with a long engraving carved into it.
"What is this?" Twilight asked.
"Not sure, let me read it." Shining took a step towards the plaque, only to have Twilight jump in his way.
"Um, actually could I read it please?"
Shining smiled, "Of course."
Twilight turned to the plaque, cleared her throat and began to read it. "To Captain Silver Blade, honorable leader of the Equestrian Royal Guard. We give you this plaque and Medal of Honor in honor of your amazing service. Saving thirteen of your men from certain death, and leading countless others, even with the loss of your limb, you have proven to be a prime example of our forces. For this we thank you, and present to you the Equestrian Medal of Honor."
"So that's why grandpa was missing his left hoof." Shining muttered, remembering his grandfather's nub of a leg, how he always said bad people took it from him while he fought for the lives of others. How he wasn't able to make the military connection, he wasn't sure.
"I can't believe he did all of this. Why wouldn't mom and dad tell us?"
Twilight shrugged, "I don't know, maybe they didn't want us to know about the violent way he lost his hoof?"
Shining sighed, "They treat us like we're foals. It's not like we don't know what war is; besides he was clearly a hero. What's the point in covering that up?"
Twilight looked up towards the ceiling, deep in thought with possible explanations.
"Maybe they just wanted his memory to rest in peace with him." Twilight said, trotting over to the golden shield that rested against equally golden back-armor, and looked at her reflection staring back at her, "he didn't need anypony to do bragging for him. Maybe the lives he saved were all the reward he needed. Or maybe all of this brought back painful memories he wanted to forget."
Shining was baffled by his little sister's poignant remarks.
"Where do you come up with this stuff?"
Twilight turned to her brother and grinned. "I read a lot."
Shining sighed, "You sound more mature than most ponies I go to school with."
The white colt then walked over to his sister's side and looked at his reflection in the shield, the helmet still on, his little sister by his side as he towered over her. He looked powerful, like a protector-strong, willing and able. Twilight wasn't kidding when she said he looked like a captain.
His reflection didn't get past his little sister either, who looked up at her brother and grinned, "I bet you'd be the best Royal Guard Captain in Equestrian history!"
Shining smiled, not taking his eyes off of his reflection. "Yeah..."
He continued to stare at himself, imaging a large group of ponies behind him, following him into battle.
He could see spears flying, swords slashing, ponies wrestling on the muddy ground. He would bravely stand at the front of the line ready for battle, giving his troops a motivational speech, a focus on "freedom" and "sacrifice". He imagined trying to live up to his grandfather's legacy, not fully confident that he'd be able to.
This wasn't the first time Shining thought about joining the guard, imagining what it would be like to take control of an army, fearlessly lead a group of Equestria's finest into battle. Would he be brave? Would he be a bold leader?
But now, as he looked at his face, reflecting brightly back at him in the gold, he realized there was one more question nagging him.
Could he live up to his grandfather's legacy?
Slowly, he raised his hoof up to his head. He gave his reflection a salute, imaging that he was doing it to a crowd of hundreds ponies, all under his command, all cheering him name in triumph. He smiled, prideful in his statuesque appearance.
Twilight looked up at her saluting brother and smiled. She leaned her head against his leg and looked at their reflection, the image of her pressed against her brother, standing powerfully by her side, his hoof up in a salute, his face stoic, yet a smile that still showed kindness. The light from the window engulfed his body, making him appear even more powerful.
Taking all this in, Twilight couldn't help but smile even more.
"You really would make the best Captain ever."
Shining chuckled, "How do you know that?"
"Well...if it's anything like being a big brother," Twilight nuzzled Shining's leg, "nopony can be better than you."
Shining turned from his reflection and looked down at his sister. He wrapped his leg around her and brought her close to his side, ruffling her mane a bit.
"Quit it!" Twilight complained, but her giggle took all seriousness away. Shining stood back up.
"Come on, let's go downstairs. I can get you some ice-cream."
Twilight's eyes lit up. "Oh! Can I have chocolate sauce on it? And sprinkles?"
Shining laughed, "Twily, I wouldn't mind if you put hot-sauce and jalapeno peppers on your ice-cream."
"Yay!" Twilight shouted before running off. Shining watched her disappear down the stairs before he took the helmet off. He was about to put it down when he saw his reflection. No longer the mature stallion he saw in the shield. His appearance was once again that of a colt. A colt with honorable and profound dreams, but a colt nonetheless.
He smiled, "Maybe one day, I'll live up to your legacy grandpa."
Shining gently placed the helmet onto the floor, back with the rest of the armor, shimmering proudly in the sunlight. Someday he would work towards achieving that goal. But for now, it was time to go back to being a colt. And so he trotted off, a smile still on his face, ready to gorge on ice-cream with his little sister.