Two Months After the New Knight Proclamation
Inside a meeting room, two high-ranking members of the Wonderbolts were talking with each other.
"So..." Spitfire asked "What did you think of her? Will she work?"
"Well, she is certainly skilled, as you might expect from one of the Knights, but that's not really what you're asking." Soaring answered.
"Indeed. There was no way that part was going to be a problem." Spitfire mentioned.
"If you want to know if she's capable of working on a team without unbalancing everything..." Soaring nodded "Then the answer is yes." He made circles with a hoof "She did fairly well in syncronizing with others, and her attitude doesn't show any ideas of being better than the others or expecting any kind of special treatment. I guess the Knights really are as humble and approachable as ponies say."
Spitfire smiled "I was hoping that was going to be the case. I don't think there is going to be any problems with insubordination, given that she asked for my autograph as soon as it was remotely appropriate. And I think that, in the future, she should be able to help a lot in creating new performances."
"I guess we should give her the good news, then." Soaring said.
The two of them left the room to go to the waiting room were Rainbow Dash was waiting for the results of her test.
"Candidate Rainbow Dash." Spitfire started, with a neutral expression "We have analyzed the results of your three days in this testing camp."
The pegasus Knight had a mostly confident expression, but still wasn't able to rid her face of all small traces of worry.
"And the conclusion we have reached is..." She smiled "You have passed. Welcome to the Wonderbolts."
"YEEEEAH!" Rainbow Dash shrieked, unable to contain her joy, she spun in the air while pumping her forelegs up and down.
Spitfire waited until she was done celebrating, before speaking.
"Okay, so the first order of business will be..." She was stopped by a flash of light.
And as soon as the light faded, everypony could see that a scroll had appeared right in front of the rainbow pegasus. She took it and read it, before looking at Spitfire with a complicated expression.
"Well..." She started, stopped, then started again "It looks like duty calls. I'll start as soon as I get back from this mission. Unless I have to recover first. See you soon!"
Then she dived right through the cloud layer in the room, instantly fixing the hole as she passed through.
After a moment of silence, Soaring spoke:
"I guess we'll need to get used to that now that she's on the team."
Celestia's scroll had told Rainbow Dash to join up with the other Knights at the center of Canterlot, so that was where she went.
Reaching the fountain, which was the specific meeting place, Dash saw that Sunset was already there, but otherwise there were no other Knights present.
Rainbow greeted Sunset and the two settled down to wait for the others. They didn't have to wait long, as Pinkie Pie jumped out from inside the fountain only a bit later. Then Rarity teleported there, appearing together with a bunch of crates. Then Twilight teleported in bringing together Fluttershy and Trixie did the same together with Applejack.
"Ohh..." Trixie spoke as soon as she caught Rarity in her sights "Those crates... Does that mean everything is ready?" She asked the clothier unicorn.
"Indeed, darling." Rarity nodded "I have managed to finish the armors for all of us!"
"Amazeroonie!" Pinkie shifted right next to Rarity "Can we see them? Can we?"
Sunset decided to be the adult in this situation (the only pony around older than her was Fluttershy, who probably wouldn't do it) "That can wait until after we receive our mission." Then a scroll appeared next to her "It says here we should go to the Royal Center of Magical Research first, since they've got something new for us." Sunset shrugged "Guess the mission this time is not time-sensitive."
"Let's first teleport those crates to the castle's holding area." Twilight said, writing a scroll and teleporting it "Some guards can keep an eye on them so we don't have to keep carrying them around."
Rarity nodded, and both her and Twilight cooperated to send the crates to the right location via teleport. After that, the eight Knights took off walking, since the building they were headed to was fairly close by. They used the time to get updates on what the others had been working on during the time they were separated.
"Ah managed ta master Space Step." Applejack said proudly "Now Ah can use it whenever Ah want."
"That's a really nice thing, since you were the least mobile member in our last mission." Trixie mentioned.
"Besides the armors, I have finished building my second weapon." Rarity said in a mysterious manner.
"Let me guess. It's a sword." Rainbow Dash teased.
"Yes. I like swords." Rarity didn't deny it.
"I can see that. As for myself, I've been working to create a normal version of the Wind Destroyer Hoof. Something I can use without needing a Limit Break. It's going well." Rainbow Dash explained.
"Now my Emotion Charge is good enough to reach 50% whenever I want, and sometimes I can even get to 60%!" Pinkie exclaimed.
"That's pretty nice. If you get to 100%, you gain special abilities depending on what emotion you're using." Twilight recalled what was known about it "They're different for everyone, so I can't help more than that."
"And I... I finally managed to master Soul Mirror." Fluttershy said, once everypony else was done.
"Congratulations!" Twilight praised.
Further conversation was stopped, as when the eight were almost getting to the building where the Royal Center of Magical Research was located, Pinkie Pie suddenly had a small spasm.
"Problems?" Twilight asked, instantly serious. The Pinkie Sense was something that she had never been able to understand the mechanics of, much less replicate, but it was still an asset that could not be denied.
"Not exactly..." Pinkie shook her head a little more than necessary "It's weird, but I think what this Pinkie Sense is saying is that we should stay here and not get involved until everything is resolved."
"Until what is resolved?" Rainbow Dash asked, looking around "There doesn't seem to be anything in particular happening."
She had spoken too soon. Once her words finished resounding through the air, strange noises started leaking out from the inside of the building. Sounds of magical blasts, explosions, roars and several other sounds, which were more difficult to identify reached the ears of the waiting Knights. Rarity and Fluttershy smiled slightly at Rainbow Dash's abashed expression while Sunset shook her head. Then they started paying more attention to the sounds in order to try to discover what was happening inside.
They didn't need to bother. Only a few seconds later the closest wall of the building exploded, and after the resulting cloud of dust dispersed, the eight Knights had a pretty good view of what was going on.
There was an immense monster halfway out of the building. The monster could be compared to some of the weirder chaotic creatures the Knights had faced during the situation with Discord, as it was a monster with very little in common with any natural creature of the world. Specifically, this monster seemed to be a mass of flesh covered in deep fish like scales, with far too many tentacles, eyes and mouths, of many different shapes and sizes. However, that creature didn't seem to be a walking contradiction like the aforementioned chaotic creatures, instead looking like something that was designed to be able to live in the depths, due to multiple eyes giving it many forms of vision for an environment without light, and the multiple mouths and tentacles of varied styles could be used to catch and eat all sorts of varied prey. It looked like something that could actually exist somewhere.
Then some of the tentacles started spewing magic (being stopped in the air by some wards which were placed around the building), and everyone could see that it was a magic user too.
That was clearly a being that had evolved into being the peak existence in whatever environment had spawned it. So it was no surprise that it took even the Knights a moment to notice the pony holding onto it.
She was a unicorn mare with a light yellowish gray coat, a mane of brilliant amaranth with moderate purple and grayish violet highlights, dark purple eyes and a cutie mark of a waning moon with sparkles. She was also wearing a sweater and glasses. The three original Knights recognized her as Moondancer, chief of Celestia's Special Division of Extreme Magical Research, so they understood why the Pinkie Sense had told them not to do anything. The other five didn't know who she was, so they felt slightly on edge at the prospect of just watching what was happening.
Moondander was holding onto one of the bigger tentacles (in a part without any extra stuff) with her left foreleg, and she was using her right foreleg (surrounded by sharp rings of magic) to fend off any tentacle that tried to get nearby. With a flash of her horn, Moondancer created an energy shield around herself just before the monster started bombarding her with spells. Then, with another flash she conjured up a magical blade that started spinning incredibly fast and moved to cut the nearby tentacles. Then she started conjuring spheres of light that floated towards the sky before starting to shoot repeated blasts of magic at the monster.
Roaring, the monster started to shake its tentacle to force Moondancer off, but she clung on grimly for a few seconds, before using another flash of magic to conjure four magical chains connected with the ground that forcefully held that tentacle still. Then the monster started to attack the unicorn directly with tentacles and every bit of magic it could get, slowly breaking the magical shield. But Moondancer kept creating new shields faster than it could break them.
She kept conjuring more of the spheres of light, until Moondancer had enough for her next trick. Finally letting go of the monster, she used another spell to make all of the spheres of light join in a formation. They started dancing around each other, and releasing bits of magic that turned into more spell scripts.
And then the formation released a gigantic blast of energy, straight at the monster.
There was a horrifying shriek as the blast of energy completely covered the creature for several seconds. When it was over, the monster was still alive, but it clearly was in bad shape. Several of the tentacles had been destroyed, along with most of the eyes. The creature in general seemed to be covered in cuts and burn marks, and it was clearly stunned.
And Moondancer still wasn't done.
With a stomp to the ground, she made a magic circle appear around herself, and then she charged magic for a second before shooting at the building. The blast of magic activated another magical circle on the building, which was connected to Moondancer's circle by several lines of light. Then she raised her right forehoof to the air, and the light spheres in the sky started charging energy and spinning around each other in a complex pattern.
Then they shot a powerful beam of magic straight at Moondancer, who received it in her hoof and condensed all the power into a sphere, before pointing at the monster.
"Magic Ritual: Entropy Spark." She released a beam of energy with the consistency of pure light.
The light completely covered the monster, and it released a silent scream, since not even sound could escape from that light. The extremities of the monster started vanishing little by little, like they were being turned into more of the light. And this "unmaking" started spreading through the body of the monster faster and faster. Bigger sections of the monster disappeared at an accelerated rate, and then it finally vanished completely, and Moondancer stopped her magic.
She waited for a moment, seemingly checking whether everything was really over, then seemed to notice the Knights "Hello!" She waved at them.
The eight ponies came closer as she interfaced with the magic circle of the building again and started fixing what had been broken in the battle.
Being the one who was most familiar with the magical researchers, Twilight took the lead "Hi, Moondancer. So... Business as usual, I gather?"
The five newest Knights got a weird expression on their faces upon hearing those words.
"Yep. Nothing extraordinary. And you Knights are still doing well, according to the data Celestia sent us." Moondancer spoke without reservations.
"That's right." Twilight pointed to the five apprentices "These are our apprentices and the newest Knights of the Realm. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie who are mine, Applejack and Rarity who are Trixie's and Rainbow Dash who is Sunset's." Then she turned to the five to introduce the researcher "This is Moondancer, chief of Celestia's Special Division of Extreme Magical Research, who is based here." She pointed to the building, that was already almost completely restored.
"Hello to you guys." Moondancer did a little wave to the five.
"Nice ta meet ya!"
The five answered in their own ways, then Sunset spoke:
"That spell was pretty cool. What was it?"
Moondancer sighed "It's basically something that forcefully returns things to zero, via borrowing from the concept of entropy. But it is far from a complete product. Even I can only use it with the help of the Central Magical Circle..."
Trixie decided to get the meeting back on track "Ah, not that Trixie isn't enjoying this conversation, but Princess Celestia told us to come here to get the newest research you've been working on."
"Oh yeah. I almost forgot." Moondancer wrote a few complicated patterns in the air and then made them play a small song in conjunction with the movements of her horn. Then a small metal box which didn't seem to have any way of opening appeared in the air, before Moondancer pushed it towards Trixie.
"I'm sure you'll like this one. It's an analysis of the magical nature of space based on tests performed via more than three hundred different spells that affect space, and including every single spell variation we could find. This is pretty much a blueprint for learning about space." Moondancer said, proud of the work.
"I'm sure this will be very useful for us." Twilight assured her "Sorry for not having visited recently, these days have been busy."
"Don't worry about it." Moondancer smiled playfully "Just keep being awesome and us researchers will be happy." She then turned to the newest Knights "But you should come on over when you can. We are really interested in performing some direct experiments." And with that slightly ominous line, Moondancer teleported back inside the building.
There was a moment of silence.
"We can check that later." Sunset said "For now, let's actually go see what mission Celestia has for us this time."
Later, when the Knights were in a meeting with Celestia...
"The deer are acting up again." The princess said.
The three original Knights immediately got unwilling expressions on their faces "Ah. I knew this was going to happen someday, but I didn't think it would be this soon." Twilight whined.
"... Did we miss something?" Rarity asked "None of the information you told us to memorize mentioned anything about deer."
"That's no surprise." Sunset said firmly "We have focused on the real threats to Equestria. The deer aren't a threat as much as they are an annoyance."
"An annoyance at a level that the Knights have to deal with it?" Rainbow Dash asked "That seems weird."
The Princess decided to explain things briefly "Deer in general aren't a problem. It's just that they have a tendency to elect representatives that embody the worst of the power-hungry politician stereotype." She waited a moment for that to sink in "They do things like hinder Knight activities in their territory with bureaucracy, as well as manipulating diplomacy in an incredibly wily manner. All that to get extra concessions and more power."
"Right... And what are they doing this time?" Applejack asked, feeling a little out of her depth.
"It's the Challenge of the Knights." Celestia said "Ostensibly created to test whether the Knights are really capable of protecting Equestria, it can only be called when there are at least eight active Knights of the Realm that haven't gone through the test before. They go through nine challenges, one for each of them and a team challenge. Every challenge is, by design, rigged to give the deer side an advantage, and they will cheat as much as possible as well. If the Knights lose even one of the challenges, we will have to give the deer a part of our territory."
There was silence for a moment.
"Those... Those are some truly annoying conditions." Rarity mentioned "How did they get you to agree to them?"
"The boss deer of the time was just really, really annoying, okay? I just wanted him to shut up." Celestia sighed "Anyways. While they are annoying, the deer just aren't that much of a threat. The Challenge of the Knights was issued fifteen times so far, and the Knights never lost a single round. I believe you are more than capable of dealing with that."
Applejack looked at the original Knights, their leaders, who were currently commiserating about this being "the least glamorous part of the job", but eventually Sunset looked at the Princess and gave the answer for all of them.
"We won't disappoint you."