It didn't take very long. A pulse of magic spread out from the magical circle and expanded beyond the room, beyond the castle, beyond the city. The magical power was dispersed into uselessness, but it had only been used to kickstart the process. Trying to search all over Equestria using magical power had always been an impossibility, instead, Fluttershy's sense of empathy lightly touched all over that huge territory. It was so light a touch that it could do nothing in most situations, but when it made a connection with magic similar to that of Pinkie and Twilight, their connection was enough to send data of the location towards the map.
The trio of ponies had their eyes closed and could not see the results of their search as it was happening, but the other ponies in the room had no such restraints, and they used their superior senses to be able to see the map clearly despite not being able to remain inside the magic circle. They saw as red points started to appear on disparate locations. First one, then two more almost at the same time, then another one, yet another, and after a longer pause, a sixth one appeared.
They waited a few more moments as the spell ran its course, but no other red points appeared on the map, and the trio who had performed the ritual opened their eyes and shook their heads, before looking at the map.
"Come. It's already over." Twilight called the others, and they stepped over the inactive magical circle and crowded around the map.
For a few moments, they simply watched, silently trying to work out where each of the target locations were supposed to be. Celestia was the first to come to a real conclusion, so she cleared her throat and began talking:
"I can already tell that this is not going to a simple matter in any fashion. The closest Shard of Chaos is in the Rottweil Tunnels, territory of a particularly strong pack of diamond dogs. They are the Jeweled Commandos, famous for their skill with gemstone magic as well as their physical prowess." She said in an even tone "Also, there were no Shards on the Great Canterlot Quarry, and for that I am grateful."
"There is no way any Shards of Chaos can form there, the place is too chaotic, so any will of the type that could form one would end up split into pieces among the disparate chaotic energies." Twilight Sparkle, who was the specialist, pronounced, and Celestia accepted the explanation.
"Gemstone magic, huh? This could be interesting." Rarity said, already trying to think about ways of using that in her artificing.
"Ah'm more worried about what kinds of havoc a Shard of Chaos could cause in a place like that." Applejack commented.
"Moving on," Celestia decided to keep explaining "The next Shard of Chaos is in the southwest region of the Forest of Kalindor. This place is Zebra territory, and while they don't get to the same level of nature management as us, the Zebras have their own way of manipulating nature to act in harmony with it. It's a little similar to what the deer do, actually."
"I had a nice talk with a few of the trees of the deer about the nature magic. I wonder how the zebra trees feel about it..." Fluttershy mentioned.
"So that's what you were doing? I thought you were trying to Soul Mirror the entire forest." Rainbow Dash half-joked.
"Perhaps later..." Fluttershy muttered.
"Okay..." Celestia tried not to think too much about it "Almost at the same distance, but nearly at the opposite direction of the previous one in relation to here... It's the city of Saddleoak, a rare majority pegasus population that doesn't live in a cloud city. The reasons for that revolve around the fact that the city was built at the center of a weather configuration that caused all sorts of magical effects on the climate around the place. One of the biggest and best schools for weather magic specialists is located there, and they just need a lot of pegasi to keep things under control in general."
"Ah. A Shard of Chaos right in the middle of a city? That can't be good." Pinkie Pie said.
"I've already faced one chaotic weather condition today, why is this coming up again?" Rainbow Dash complained.
"Do you want a lecture about the most common types of chaotic energy effects?" Twilight teased her.
"And after that... There's one on Lake Tsucara, which is a common tourist destination due to the clear waters and friendly aquatic life. It has one of the most famous underwater forests in the world as well, with the inhabitants of the place using them as their main source of food." Celestia kept going.
"And again normal ponies are in big danger." Sunset sighed.
"There is no way this won't somehow involve laser sharks or something, is there?" Applejack asked blandly.
"Water, water creatures, underwater plants... There are just so many ways the Shard could manifest..." Trixie said.
"Right... And about the next one, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that this Shard is in the middle of the Arrankar Mountains, very inhospitable place, no ponies that can be in danger. The bad news is that I'm pretty sure the Shard is right on top of an old fortress used by Warlock Black Hooves, a mage expert in ice magic that was a great foe of the Knights of the Scarlet Dream." Celestia said in an apologetic voice.
"Yeahh... This is definitely going to be a thing." Twilight said.
"Must brush up on my fire spells." Sunset spoke blandly.
"Hmm... An old fortress used by a wizard... A'm sure it should have plenty of traps and hidden passages." Applejack considered.
"I'm not ready for this. The Fire Ruler Sword is still only a vague idea..." Rarity muttered.
"And the last one is in the quarry of Longborough, because chaos magic seems to have a strange affection for quarries." Twilight was nodding, Celestia sighed "And this place has everything. A pretty big and important river crosses nearby, there's a city of majority earth ponies that has a focus on earth magic research, there's a forest nearby where some interesting varieties of herbs grow, the quarry is connected to one of the biggest mountains in Equestria..."
"This makes it pretty much impossible to predict what the Chaos Shard is going to do... Not that it is much easier to predict the behavior of chaos magic at the best of times..." Trixie complained.
"I'm surprised more Chaos Shards didn't get into troublesome places like this... I guess since it hasn't been that long from when he lost his body, Discord's powers are still very diffuse, so even his will wasn't enough to warp the probabilities to a level where it would cause the most trouble for us..." Twilight made her contribution to the discussion.
'So... There's six places to go, and I think we should hit them all at once, but how do we divide things up?" Sunset had practical concerns.
"I think that in this situation, the best decision is getting a few reinforcements so that nopony has to go alone." Celestia said, then cast a spell "And we have just the right number."
"Who are ya calling?" Applejack asked.
"You'll see." Celestia said.
A few minutes later, those who had been called arrived. They were three ponies and one dragon, just enough to reach twelve individuals who could go to the mission. The dragon was obviously Spike, and the three ponies turned out to be old "friends" the original trio had met and fought in their first mission (well, they fought two of them). Yes, they were the three avatars of Luna, now completely free of any traces of the black magic that had infected them before.
Dark Moon was the unicorn, with a gray coat and silver mane. She didn't have a cloak of shadows anymore, but an actual black cloak with a hood that hid part of her eyes. Silver Soul was the earth pony, with a dark blue coat and yellow mane. She had a big saddlebag and a broad smile on her face. Lightning Chaser was the pegasus, with a light blue mane and a green coat. She walked in the stiff and ready manner of the guards, with her eyes looking forward at all times.
"Ah, Spike, how have you been?" Twilight immediately went to talk with the dragon and gave him a hug.
"Oh, you know the deal. Luna's been putting me through all kinds of difficult training so I get better faster... And it works, but the effort is... Very tough." He answered, while Sunset and Trixie gave their own greeting to him.
Meanwhile, the avatars were introducing themselves to the five Knight who had never seen them before.
"I'm Silver Soul! Nice to meet you!" Was the introduction of said pony, who insisted on shaking hooves with everypony in a way that reminded the others of Pinkie Pie.
"This one is called Dark Moon..." The unicorn spoke in a "spooky" voice, looking at the others from the corners of her eyes.
"I am Lightning Chaser." She said in a businesslike tone, seemingly trying to project enough seriousness to single-handedly counter all the silliness of the rest of the room.
The five Knights introduced themselves as well, and Rainbow Dash asked Silver Soul:
"You're the ones that our teachers fought in their first mission, right?"
"Right." She agreed, and Lightning Chaser raised a hoof "Except for her." She put the hoof back down "But none of us actually remembers it, since we were sunken too deeply on the darkness."
"And not the fun kind of darkness, either..." Dark Moon interjected.
"Exactly, it was the darkness of dark magic." Silver Soul said "Apparently I got taken out rather fast due to a surprise attack, while Dark Moon managed to last for a good bit of time." She looked at Lightning Chaser "And she apparently hit Sombra with a lightning bolt. It must be really sad to have done something awesome like that and not remember it."
"Hah. That would really be uncool." Rainbow Dash agreed.
The Knights got on well with the avatars. Pinkie kept making silly faces at Lightning Chaser, trying to get her to crack a smile, and Rarity somehow got into a conversation with Dark Moon about providing her with clothes to go with her "goth style".
But the fun had to end sometime, and Celestia pulled Spike for a few words.
"My sister has informed me that you are ready to become a Squire and accompany the Knights on a mission to receive a promotion to Knight." She said, stunning him "Are you willing to do it?"
He recovered after a few moments and put a hand over his heart "Yes, I am." He said.
"Then, you are now officially a Squire." Celestia smiled.
Everypony congratulated him, and then Rainbow Dash had a thought:
"Does that mean the avatars are Squires too? Will they become Knights?"
"No." Celestia and the three avatars spoke in unison.
Realizing that there should be a reason for that, Rainbow Dash asked "Why?"
Celestia sighed and began her explanation. "It comes down to the fact that they are connected with Luna. And Alicorns cannot be Knights, for there are some fairly important duties that are mutually exclusive between the two." She closed her eyes "The duty of the alicorns is to be pillars that support the pony civilization. As such, they must be simply guardians and cannot act recklessly in ways that could compromise their role as pillars. On the other hand, Knights have to act recklessly, doing things such as the Overdrives and magic that warps their own souls, because their role is to deal with the threats to Equestria, and so they manage to achieve great feats that go beyond what the alicorns could do due to being limited by their roles. But the price of that is having to take great risks, to the point where it is common for Knights to die by sacrificing themselves for the world."
The atmosphere became somber. They understood what she was saying, and each one of the Knights had come to terms with it in their own ways.
After that moment, Celestia got the attention of the others and proceeded to give orders:
"I have thought about it and decided which pairs to form and where to send each of them. I believe Sunset and Spike shall make a good pair for Longborough, since her power can deal with most unexpected circumstances and he is tough enough to survive said circumstances." They nodded in acknowledgement "Rarity and Silver Soul should team up for the Rottwell tunnels, because their abilities are well-suited towards fighting underground or against Diamond Dogs. Twilight and Fluttershy should go to Lake Tsucara, since Twilight's ability with chaos magic should help prevent problems and Fluttershy's connection to nature would help with many of the possible issues. Applejack and Dark Moon should go to the fortress in the Arrankar mountains, since Applejack's eyes can detect hidden problems and Dark Moon's darkness magic is powerful and versatile." She took a breath before continuing.
"Rainbow Dash and Trixie should go to the forest of Kalindor, since they combine strength and trickiness well-enough to deal with the possible issues. And this leaves Lightning Chaser and Pinkie Pie to go to Saddleoak, and the combination of powerful chaos magic with weather magic should help a lot against possible chaotic weather."
Nopony (or dragon) seemed to have issues with that, so the pairs went off to plan and prepare.