The Dusk Guard Saga is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic by Viking ZX. The first book, Rise, as well as several side stories (Carry On, The Definition of Strength, Old Habits, Emoticon, Hearth's Warming Cookies and Why me?) have been completed so far.Steel Song is a retired bodyguard, enjoys jogging, visiting his family, and tending to his garden. This changes one day, when he receives a mysterious package with no return address and is called out of retirement to join a newly-formed unit. Their first task: investigate strange thefts that had been occurring on the Equestrian Railway - an assignment that might just turn out to be much more dangerous and earthshaking than anyone had bargained for.The story is notable for featuring a cast made up almost entirely of original characters. It has been featured in the Twilight's Library, Canterlot's Finest section.
Badass Boast: Nova has a very short, but very poignant one in Operation chapter 14, after being dressed down by the Big Bad for being just a cowardly thief.
Nova: “I am more than a thief!” (Casts The Spell) “I am a Dusk Guard.”
Badass Crew: The Dusk Guard grows to be one as the story progresses.
Badass Grandpa: While not technically a grandpa, Steel Song has a daily practice routine harsher than that seen for the Equestrian Royal Guard, leads an elite team of military commandos from the front, regularly fights and wins against much younger opponents, and still soundly kicks manticore and giant golem butt, all while pushing sixty.
Bare-Fisted Monk: Sabra of the Zebra, the youngest master of the Fimbo style in seventeen generations.
Bond One-Liner: Nova: "And, that. Is how, you hit it until it stops moving. Sir."
Boss Banter: Radiant constantly taunts the team when trying to squish them, first with her army, and then with her giant golem.
Boxed Crook: Nova's requested to work for the Dusk Guard to pay for the many, many things he stole. Unusually, there's no physical leash. He could easily escape, and everyone in the Dusk Guard knows he could easily escape, but Nova has rules.
Brown Note: Enchanting gems is dangerous. A unicorn that tries to enchant too fast, or too much, will go mad.
Nova got his cutie mark when he froze everything around himself in a feat of panicked spellcasting, including an unfortunate guard who nearly died as a result and almost lost three limbs from cold burns. He avoided using his magic ever since.
Hunter lost his fiancée in an accident, which resulted in a three-year-long depression.
Steel broke his sparring partner's leg while in the academy. He almost quit from guilt, and still thinks about the accident from time to time.
Disproportionate Retribution / Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Steel comes back home to a furious Sapphire, who proceeds to slap him and then beat him over the head with her saddlebags, never once explaining it's because he broke Cappy's heart a few weeks earlier. Steel of course has no idea what's going on. Two weeks later, she comes to him and Steel demands explanation, after which she recognizes her error and apologizes... but not for actually hitting him.
Do Anything Soldier: While each member of the Dusk Guard is technically not this trope, the unit as a whole, is. During the initial interview, the princesses specifically asked Steel Song to select a group of five individuals that could perform any and all of a wide variety of completely different tasks.
Dream Walker: Princess Luna. Part of her duties as the Regent of the Night is watching over the dreams of her subjects. She intervenes only in extreme circumstances.
Fantastic Fighting Style: The are a lot of different fighting styles in the story. Maji Kwato (The Water Hoof) of the Zebra monks, the Stone Wall and Mud Wall stances of the earth ponies, the Charging Hoof Style, the Tempest and Hurricane styles of the pegasi.
Four Is Death: There are four generations (though still three types, as Mk.II was just a slightly improved Mk.I) of golems that Mint and Radiant built, not counting the huge mecha-sized one.
Gadgeteer Genius: Sky Bolt. Her latest commercial design, The Alicorn, had to be reverse-engineered, because nobody understood how it worked exactly, and so she would have been the only one able to maintain it. Her pet project is an improved steam engine with estimated 250% power increase over regular ones. She plans to use it in The Hummingbird, a miniaturized airship.
Genki Girl: Cappy the mailmare, Pinkie Pie, Sky Bolt.
Get a Room!: Steel jokingly threatens to take up a garden hose against his sister Sapphire and her husband Click at one point in the first book.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: During a pre-match strategy session, Hunter says that Dawn's skill with ropes is terrifying, and so he wants her on base defense. Nova sniggers, and Hunter nearly bursts out laughing. Dawn and Steel are not amused.
Grail in the Garbage: A break-in happened in a museum where some crystals being kept in a very old box were swiped, sans one. Luna later tells the guards that the three stolen crystals can become a key for unlocking Sombra from his prision.
He Was Right There All Along: The final battle with Blade. The team walks into an enormous, seemingly empty hallway, only for Nova to notice there are golems in standby mode on the balconies.
Hidden Purpose Test: The first training exercise against the Guard during Rise is officially about testing everyone's skills when outnumbered... but it becomes increasingly clear that it's also about their ability (and inability) to work together and trust each other.
Honour Before Reason: The Griffin society runs on this. It's the only way to avoid a wholesome slaughter between the clans.
Important Hair Cut: Hunter cuts his mane back to its previous length, from before his fiancée died, when he decides to join the Dusk Guard.
Incoming Ham: Radiant: “Well, look who finally decided to show up!”
In Harm's Way: Dawn frequently shadows doctors at the hospital, offering them advice, despite her forced retirement, just to feel that she is doing something meaningful.
Jumped at the Call: Steel Song, Hunter and Dawn had been getting incredibly bored with their current life. Sky Bolt was offered financing of her pet airship project. All accepted the offer practically on the spot.
Just in Time: The princesses are about to sign the documents relieving them of the ERS shares, when Hunter shows up with evidence.
Loophole Abuse: Blade doesn't care about the villains' plot, and doesn't really want to fight Hunter, but is under contract to follow their orders. Steel Song knows that such a contract can only be broken if the one who entered into it find themselves at such a massive disadvantage that retreat is the only reasonable option, or if they are challenged to a duel by a Blademaster. Steel Song happens to currently be the only non-griffon Blademaster alive.
Oh Crap: The reaction of everyone in the know when a giant crystal golem shows up. A few moments later the Princesses as well, when their attack does little but piss it off.
The Dusk Guard is storming Radiant's headquarters, making short work of the dozen or so golems she has... and then she reveals that she wasn't bluffing when she said she had an army.
The team managed to bury all of the abovementioned army under the collapsed building, escaped with their lives, and are starting to wind down from the fight. Only for a gigantic crystal golem to burst out of the rubble.
Cappy was in Steel Song's sister's graduating class. She looks like she's in her mid-twenties.
The Perfect Crime: Things are vanishing from sealed containers in locked railway cars. Nobody knows how, or who could be doing it, so the Dusk Guard is dispatched to investigate.
Poor Communication Kills / Could Have Avoided This Plot: The whole mess with Cappy could have been avoided at so many points in time, if only someone would have stopped to explain it to Steel, or Steel had simply said why he didn't want to engage in a relationship.
Princess Luna of all people only informs Steel about Cappy's nightmares well after the whole thing is over.
Powered Armor: Sky Bolt's upgraded armor designs are drastically more capable than the showy Day and Night Guard sets, and even in low-power mode significantly increase the user's strength and durability. The high-power augmentations could give the armor suits from Crysis a run for their money.
Cappy uses the maneuver when she wants something from Steel. It works astoundingly well.
Dinky makes the expression when Hunter comes to say good-bye.
Punch Clock Villain: Hunter's griffon friend, Blade. She doesn't care about the sister's plot, but she's under contract, and it would be a stain on her honor as a griffon warrior if she were to break that contract.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Nova is a snarky thief, Sabra is a zebra monk on a religious pilgrimage, Sky Bolt is a genius engineer with no military background to mention, Dawn is a pacifist doctor who refuses to retire, and Steel Song is an amazing warrior with nearly no social life and nearing the retirement age himself. Only Hunter is a typical example of his paygrade, and that's because he's trying to get over the loss of a loved one. Contrasted with the Day and Night Guard, which are larger and uniform armies which make each individual member interchangeable.
Retired Badass: Steel Song. He comes out of retirement at the beginning of the story.
Rule of Three: The first book is divided into three acts: Assembly, Training, and Operation.
To become a blademaster one must challenge and defeat three active blademasters.
The sisters created three golem types: wooden, iron and crystal.
Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Maniacal laughter? Check. Megalomania? Check. Creating an army of constricts to take over the world? By the end, Radiant has all the symptoms.
She Is Not My Girlfriend: Blade teases Hunter about a new marefriend, prompting him to respond with this line, only for the griffin to reveal she was leading him on, and didn't know about Thistle.
Sherlock Scan: Hunter deduces that Sabra had been at the Ranger station a few days before based on a strand of hair caught in the doorway, a few tracks and a weather report.
Shining City: Canterlot. It's especially prominent at the train station.
Ship Tease: Sky Bolt and Sabra are visibly attracted to each other, though it's much less pronounced in Sabra's case.
Hunter can't stop thinking how pretty Thistle's wings are.
When a Zebra master wishes to become a Grand Master, he thinks of a question that has no answer any of the Zebra can give. He then must travel the world until he finds the answer to his question. Hunter suggests using "What do I have in my pockets?" as a possible way of getting out of this custom.
When Steel tells Nova Beam that he can tell him something that will shut the annoying kid up, Nova asks if it is "I am your father".
Before the game of Capture the Flag, Nova asks if they have any sort of team slogan. Hunter suggests Yippe ki-yay.
There are various strange apparatuses on shelves in Princess Celestia's study, much like Dumbledore's, and her phoenix is also keeping her company.
While poring over reports, Hunter remembers the quote from Fetlock Holmes: "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."
Stuff Blowing Up: The battery crystals are extremely unstable. Hunter uses one to blow a hole in the rail car wall when cornered.
Super Senses: Sabra has superbly keen hearing, to the point he can navigate by it while blindfolded.
Technical Pacifist: Dawn considers herself a pacifist, but is not above strong-arming unruly patients and fights just as well as everyone else when the need arises.
To Be Lawful or Good: Blade chooses to be lawful, in the context of sticking to her contract. She doesn't like it, however.
Token Minority: Sabra is a Zebra, a species so rarely seen in Equestria that the residents of Ponyville didn't really know what one was until Twilight Sparkle explained.
Arguably, Steel Song himself, seeing as how A: he's the only Earth Pony on the team, and B: the military is usually made up of Unicorns and Pegasi.
Training from Hell: Although it starts slow, the Dusk Guard training regimen is much harder than the other Royal Guard units. For example, the usual running distance for a daily regimen in the guard is 6 miles. The Dusk Guard runs 12 on 'easy days'. It is through sheer determination, more than anything else, that the recruits are enduring it and succeeding.
Trick Boss: Both Radiant's golem army and her huge crystal golem are taken down with an uncanny use of the environment.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Steel Song and Cappy have this in spades in the first book. The fact that she is half his age doesn't help, as he insists she can't be thinking of him in "that way". Then Sapphire angrily informs her brother that Cappy is actually two years older than Sapphire herself, she simply looks young, and she really is thinking of Steel in "that way", and things get resolved.
Victory Fakeout: The dusk guard has defeated the golem army and successfully escaped from the collapsing building. Too bad Radiant is dead. Wait... why is the ground shaking?
So Radiant is finally in custody, and everyone is enjoying their lives. The credits roll... And then we see that Mint has been behind it all, and she is traveling the badlands after her escape, looking for new opportunities to wreak havoc.
Warrior Poet: Sabra is very philosophical, as befitting a warrior monk.
Wham Episode: Training, Chapter 3. The thief has stolen a set of magical keys that have been thought lost. They unlock the prison of a powerful evil being.
The Epilogue: It was Mint who designed the basic golems. She's been playing up the innocent victim act, escaped, and is headed toward the Diamond Dog tribes, intent on being their leader. She also seems more than a bit unhinged.
Wolfpack Boss: Subverted in the final fight with Blade, thanks to Steel exploiting ancient Griffin traditions.
Played straight later, with the battle at the counterweight, where the team is opposed by multiple golems.
Wrench Wench: Sky Bolt. She works as an engineer in an airship construction company before joining Dusk Guard as their primary mechanic.
You ALL Look Familiar: Explicitly invoked with the Royal Guard armor, which is enchanted to mask the natural colors of the wearer, and make them appear nearly identical.
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: After Sabra does a magic-assisted running jump, flips in mid air and lands in the training ground below: “Sabra!” Sky Bolt called, gliding down next to him. “That. Was, Awesome!”
Required Secondary Powers / Reality Ensues: Sabra can feel the full force of his magic-enhanced punch through his body, and skids a foot backwards. The Dusk Guard as a whole needs time to readjust to the increased speed of their movement while in armor, lest they sprain muscles, or worse.
Super Speed: One of the mods shown during a presentation in chapter 4.
Oh Crap: Nova realizes that not only the salesman insists on Vinyl signing his album, but she has recognized him.
And yes, she knows he had robbed her.
Not What It Looks Like: Nova and Vinyl are having a heartfelt conversation in a restaurant, when suddenly the owner walks in with their order, and they realize how close to each other they had been leaning. Vinyl immediately denies anything was going on. The stallion doesn't buy it.