• Published 1st Feb 2017
  • 4,666 Views, 688 Comments

Knights of the Realm - Kinni


Sunset, Trixie and Twilight were chosen as Celestia's apprentices, but they also choose to become Knights, protectors of Equestria. They are prepared for that, but Equestria is probably not prepared for them.

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Deer Racers
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After all that, they once again got on the transport platforms and moved through the forest to get to the next challenge arena. And it didn't really take long before they got there, and they saw that this time the fighting arena was very different.

This was an area that didn't actually need to have trees removed, because it just naturally didn't have trees. The reason for that was the valley-like hole in the ground, which would be very dark and foreboding at night, but during the day it could be seen that the hole wasn't actually all that deep, and it lead to some sort of underground river that wasn't slow and calm, but wasn't rushing and furious either.

All in all, it was still foreboding, but not as much as it would be at night. And connecting the two sides was a thin yet firm-looking rope.

The content of the match seemed pretty easy to guess, and Pinkie Pie piped up:

"Ohh! A circus hanging rope act! Can I do it? Can I?" She begged the others, specially the three leaders.

Trixie spoke in an apologetic voice "Sorry, Pinkie. But you know that buck is going to add all sorts of restrictions to try and give his side an advantage, and it won't be a lot of fun for you."

"Ah. But... But hanging rope act..." Pinkie whined.

"Don't worry Pinkie, I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun with your own challenge." Twilight was conciliatory "Trixie, it seems you already have a good idea of who should take charge for this one." She looked at her partner.

"Indeed. Trixie's opinion is that your other apprentice is the one most suited for this challenge." She responded.

"Me?" Fluttershy asked, doubtful.

"Trixie is positive of that. There is no way for them to know about Soul Mirror, so it should be an unparalleled trump card for this match." Trixie was absolutely certain, as usual.

"You can do it, Fluttershy. Show them your skill!" Twilight encouraged her disciple.

"Okay." Fluttershy nodded "I'll do it then."

But before she went forward, Marching Water still had to actually announce the contents of the Challenge.

"As you all can see, what we have here is a hanging rope. And I think this makes it obvious what kind of challenge we are going to have in this arena. I am talking about the Balance Duel!" He waited a beat "Both contestants will walk on this rope, and the loser is the first one to lose balance and fall to the river below. The restrictions are simple, no harming your opponent or the rope. And no flying either, since it would defeat the purpose" Another beat "Who will the Knights choose to represent them in this match?!"

Seeing her cue, Fluttershy flew up to the side of the hole, right next to the rope, before landing and waiting.

"It appears that Knight Fluttershy has decided to step up to the plate." Marching Water announced "And on the side of the challengers, we have a face that should be very familiar to everydeer who follows the entertainment news, and quite a few ponies as well!" He waited for a moment as a deer started walking towards the other side of the rope "I am talking about Living Leaf, of course! The famous performer who earned great merit with her rope tricks, and also defeated several villains!"

As her name was mentioned, Living Leaf got close enough for every one of the Knights to be able to see the details of her appearance. She was a doe with light orange fur and leaf-green eyes, and had a particularly small build.

"Hey, Fluttershy, catch!" Pinkie shouted, and threw a rope at the pegasus.

Fluttershy caught the rope and immediately understood what it was for. She had to bind her own wings, just to make sure. She took a few moments to figure out the best way of doing it, and then wrapped up both wings twice before doing a good knot. She returned her attention to the hanging rope just as Marching Water started talking again.

"Now that both contestants are ready, I'm going to count to three. On three, both of them should get onto the ropes so we can start the match. okay? One, two, three!" He announced, and Fluttershy and Living Leaf jumped on the rope on their respective sides.

Fluttershy almost lost balance right from the get-go. She hadn't exactly trained for this, after all. But just the general physical and mental training of the Knights was enough for her to adapt quickly and be able to stand on the rope with her legs together.

-

As soon as Marching Water saw Fluttershy almost fall, he smiled internally.

'This is too easy. Maybe allowing Leaf to manipulate the rope with her magic won't even be necessary. I wonder what will be the expression on the faces of the rest of the Knights when she falls?'

He settled down to watch the show.

-

Knowing that it was better to leave nothing to chance, Fluttershy immediately started her ability.

"Soul Mirror!" She announced.

Just like all of Fluttershy's techniques, Soul Mirror was based on Empathy. And in fact, it was much more dependant on it than things like Animal Spirit, which only used the empathy as a sort of "path" for the energy of her soul. This technique was exactly as the name implied, a mirror. And what it reflected was the very soul of the opponent.

The pegasus smiled and relaxed, before starting to walk on the rope with sure steps, like she did that sort of thing everyday. And Living Leaf, looking at her, could feel an intense familiarity from Fluttershy's new movements. Which was obvious, considering that the Knight was imitating the doe herself. And she obviously wouldn't simply let Fluttershy get close, thinking (rightly) that this would be a bad thing for her.

So Living Leaf charged magic into the rope, and suddenly multiple strands of it separated to attack Fluttershy.

Soul Mirror was an ability with limitations that were easy to see. While Fluttershy could copy Living Leaf's skills, she couldn't copy her abilities, and as such couldn't simply disable the attack by using the rope magic of her own opponent, as much as she felt that would be a cool way to fight. However, the strengths of that ability were equally apparent.

Fluttershy reinforced her muscles with magic and jumped high in the air, while still moving forward. Then she landed and proceeded to run on top of the rope, in a magnificent display of the doe's skills. She dodged more and more of the rope strands that Living Leaf was sending her way, sometimes with small movements and sometimes with jumps.

That was a demonstration of the true might of Soul Mirror. She did indeed copy the skills of her opponent, but it was through an active process based on connecting with the enemy. And that same connection could be used to completely predict the actions of the target.

Fluttershy considered it pretty cool, though she still would have preferred being able to disable the opponents with their own attacks. But the Knight was getting closer and closer to the doe, who was finally pushed too far.

"HAAA!" She shouted, and released a huge amount of magic all at once.

Understanding that she needed something undodgeable, Living Leaf had used her trump card, forcefully decreasing the temperature of the rope to near zero levels and allowing pure heat transfer to affect the entire arena and the air around it, creating an area of cold that could not be escaped.

The rope was immediately coated in ice, with the exception of the part the doe was on. The sudden blast of cold spread through the air with the speed and sound of an explosion. The sides of the hole also started freezing over, even though they were pretty far from the rock. The air itself started congealing drops of ice, due to the humidity of the river below.

Even that wasn't enough.

Knowing she wouldn't be able to evade, Fluttershy focused every scrap of power she had available on her aura defences. She might not be as flashy as Sunset, but she was close to her in terms of pure power, so that was a significant amount of energy devoted to shielding. But most importantly, while Living Leaf had tried her best to create an attack that couldn't be dodged, she had made it too diffuse, and the amount of cold the Knight had to endure was lower than it could have been.

The doe still refused to give up, she desperately prepared herself for another spell, planning to attack as soon as she recovered enough from the previous power expenditure. However, it was far too late. Fluttershy stepped forward once, twice, three times, using every bit of borrowed skill together with her own magic to avoid slipping on the ice, and she managed to get into range.

Then she simply Stared at her opponent. Why mess with what worked?

Living Leaf managed the amazing feat of enduring half a second under Fluttershy's Stare before her body froze and she fell down from the rope.

While Marching Water was announcing her victory, Fluttershy looked with interest as a deer hidden in the river used water magic to bring Living Leaf back up from the river, floating in a bubble of water. But that ended up being a mistake.

Fluttershy had disabled Soul Mirror to be able to use her Stare, and the lack of the doe's skill helping her made the Knight lose balance while trying to see what was going on. And she also fell from the rope.

Not wanting to take a bath after winning the battle, Fluttershy forcefully opened her wings, snapping her ropes, and she flew next to the opponent, smiling at her, before going back to the other Knights.

They were smiling a little too widely, and she felt embarrassed.

"That was great!" Pinkie exclaimed "I'm not even disappointed I didn't get to do it anymore, you were just amazing out there! I specially liked the part where you fell down and had to fly." Pinkie said without even a hint of mockery, which only made things worse.

Fluttershy blushed and looked down, embarrassed.

-

The fourth challenge arena was also relatively straightforward. It was a race track.

It was shaped like an O, and was full of sharp inclines and declines, and the terrain in general was pretty bumpy. Along the lines of the track, there were small crystals with runes engraved on them. In the empty area in the middle there was a double-sided crystal board. On the track, there was a very clear starting/finishing line, since it had a large demarcation and an actual arch.

"Oh, a race? That would have been fun..." Rainbow Dash whined, since she had already had her turn.

Marching Water was explaining the rules "In this race, we have anti-teleportation wards set up, and it is also against the rules to fly."

Rainbow Dash's changed expression "Well... It would still have been fun."

"And that's because this is actually an obstacle race!" Marching Water announced "All over the track we have put magical traps with a variety of effects, and our racers will have to deal with them while they try to cross the track. To prevent cheating, we have also put special crystals on the sides of the track. The racers will wear necklaces with crystals that will have to pass through the middle of each pair of crystals, crossing the whole of the track, to be able to be recognized as victorious."

"Hmm..." Trixie made a considering noise "Trixie believes that this is the perfect stage for her to create a real show."

"Are ya sure?" Applejack asked "Ah could use my Eyes of Truth to see the traps." She mentioned.

"Indeed. But Trixie believes they have something more than just the traps in store for us, but it won't matter with the strategy Trixie has designed." She said proudly.

"If you're sure, then go for it." Sunset said simply.

As Trixie walked towards the starting line, Marching Water went back to announcing "It appears that the Knights have chosen to send Knight Trixie to participate in this challenge. And on the side of the challengers, we have... Ground Tree!"

With that, the opponent also started making her way towards the starting line. She was a doe with a red coat and blue eyes, and she had a powerful build, being easily twice Trixie's size.

"Ground Tree should be known by many of you for being an expert in protection magic. She once defended an entire village from a flood all by herself!"

Both contestants got to the starting line and were given their necklaces as the crystal board lit up to show their names and head shots. Then the two started to charge some magic to prepare before the race started.

The doe was the first to finish, creating a shield magic that was shaped like a dome, leaving her back exposed. Trixie looked at her and charged for two more seconds before announcing her magic:

"Perfect Illusion: Detect Zone!"

And a pulse of magic was released from her body, expanding through the entire racing track and nearby before seemingly disappearing. And Trixie still wasn't done, she kept charging and casting spells of unknown purpose until Marching Water announced that the race was about to start, and then she focused on the track.

The announcement board lit up again, showing a countdown, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

"Start!" The announcement came, and both contestants immediately started running.

Ground Tree was fast. It wasn't at a ridiculous level, but she would be a pretty good contestant in a normal race. Trixie was also no slouch, combining her physical conditioning as a Knight with the use of telekinesis to force herself to go faster. At the beginning, the doe took the advantage, but the unicorn was only a little bit behind.

Of course, this was an obstacle race, and they soon reached the first obstacles. Ground Tree hit a spell that created a fast growing tree that tried to trap her... but simply barreled through it, her dome shield protecting her. Trixie hit a trap that caused several spears to rise up from the ground and try to skewer her. She used a spell to slightly shift their movements, passing through the gap resulting, but the effort caused her to slow down a bit, allowing her opponent to pull ahead.

Next, Ground Tree stepped on a freezing trap, that also didn't manage to affect her movements in any way, while Trixie stepped on an explosion trap, which she defended against by creating something like a board made of magic, that she used to ride on the energy of the explosion and actually end up slightly ahead of her opponent.

That set the pace for the next three minutes. Ground Tree kept up her level of speed unchangingly, none of the traps managing to get through her strong shield (none of the traps attacked her directly from behind, for some reason), while Trixie sped up or slowed down based on what traps she had to deal with, her needing to react quickly and use different methods for each of them. All in all, both of them remained pretty even, with the doe staying ahead slightly more often.

But they were almost reaching the finish line, and it was there that the cruelest trap showed itself.

It was actually Ground Tree who triggered it, but the trap had actually been set up so that it would be triggered no matter what. This was the true method that Marching Water had thought to prevent the Knights from winning. What that trap released didn't actually seem that bad from just appearance. It seemed like a sort of red mist that spread through the air and then just settled there, blocking the path forward. However, all those who were watching could see that the red mist was actually a lot more dangerous than it seemed, from the simple fact that the ground and air near it seemed to blacken and shrivel, like death itself was conceptualized on it.

Ground Tree understood how terrifying that thing was, and she turned her shields from a dome to a complete sphere, actually slowing down a bit to be able to reinforce her defences to the maximum possible. Trixie started casting all sorts of protection spells to the point where she began to shine just from the overlay of so many spells. Then they both plunged fearlessly into the mist.

A second passed, and then another. And a form emerged from within the mist. It took only a moment for her to be recognized as Ground Tree. All the deer who were watching immediately expected Trixie to emerge from the mist right after her. But it didn't happen. One, two, three seconds passed without the Knight appearing. And the doe managed to cross the finish line.

The reaction of the crowd was subdued, they couldn't believe what they were seeing, but that was the only subdued reaction. The crystal board immediately lit up to announce Ground Tree's victory, fireworks were shot into the air and formed figures of deer, colored lights formed patterns on the ground that also represented deer, and a victory music that was often heard in deer sporting events started to play.

As for Marching Water, he definitely wasn't subdued either.

"Incredible! My brothers and sisters, we are seeing a historical event! This is the first time one of the challengers has managed to beat one of the Knights in the Challenge! This is a complete upheaval!" He announced in an exceedingly excited voice.

The crowd was still silent. They could not believe what they were seeing.

And it turned out they were right.

"Are you sure?" Trixie's voice resounded through the area.

All eyes were drawn to the origin of the voice, a few meters beyond where Ground Tree had stopped, an empty stretch of track. Suddenly, Trixie seemed to materialize from thin air.

"Because I thought the finish line was over here." She said in a mischievous voice.

And then, right next to the Knight, the finish line appeared exactly the same way Trixie had done. And at the same time, the finish line Ground Tree passed through disappeared like a soap bubble bursting, and the crystal board that had announced the doe as the victor returned to the same state it had been during the race. Finally, the triumphant music cut off with a shocking suddenness.

A few quicker-witted deer had recognized that the "finish line" Ground Tree passed through had been in the wrong location for being truly the finish line, and then Trixie walked across the end of the track with an impish swagger.

The following scene was almost like a repeat of what had happened previously. Fireworks were shot into the sky, multicolored lights formed patterns on the ground, triunphant music began to play, and the crystal board announced the winner. But the patterns in the sky and the ground were representing ponies, and Knights, and the Princesses. The triunphant music was a famous piece which was frequently used in pony sporting events, and the crystal board announced the name and face of Trixie.

It took two entire seconds for the crowd to react, but then the silence was replaced by a monumental cheer, as their emotions which had been played with during the whole race finally had a release. Trixie bowed to the crowd, and amplified her voice with magic to thank them for the appreciation. Then she walked towards Ground Tree, who was still trying to recover from the sudden change of situation.

Trixie reached up to put a hoof on the shoulder of the doe "Your ability is amazing. Thank you for helping make this a show to remember."

Ground Tree sighed and answered her "You're welcome. But how did you do it? You were behind me the whole time!"

"Ah, the answer for that is simple." Trixie grinned at her "That was just an illusion!"

-

"I don't get it. What even happened there?" Rainbow Dash asked the others.

"I... Think I know what she must have done, but it is difficult to be sure when I was watching from this far away." Sunset admitted "I'm sure Trixie's apprentices will be able to enlighten us, though."

Rarity nodded "Yes, it was a magnificent performance, as she would say." She smiled "She made great use of her armor."

Applejack decided to explain everything "Basically, she completely bypassed the plans of the deer. Her first spell was actually Illusion Switch, where she put a very realistic illusion on her place and made herself invisible and hard to detect." She paused for a moment "And then she simply got on top of Ground Tree like she was a mount, it was surreal to see. I think she used telekinesis to reduce her weight and let the illusion deal with the rest."

Rarity took over for her "And then she simply manipulated her illusion based on what was going on. Manipulating an illusion is easier than making one, and she has enough control that the magic she was using was hidden by her armor, to the point where Ground Tree couldn't detect it even though it was so close." She shook her head in bemusement "And then she let herself be carried through the whole thing, and protected by her own opponent, and then she activated pre-prepared illusions on the finish line, to make it seem like it was earlier than it should have been, and on the arena itself, so that it would change based on what Marching Water would expect to see if Ground Tree won."

Applejack finished things off as Rarity took a breath "And then she just sneaked to the finish line and disabled all her illusions."

There was a moment of silence as everypony else processed this.

"Wow." Fluttershy summed things up.

Twilight chuckled a little bit "That's our Trixie. For most magicians, knowing their tricks would make things less wonderful, but in her case, it only makes what she does even more amazing."

After that, they waited until Trixie finished speaking with the doe and walked back to them.

The Knights were now halfway done with the individual challenges.

Author's Note:

Well, another chapter. I initially was expecting to put in Rarity's challenge here, but I suddenly got an idea for Trixie's and the plans were changed.

Also, I'm preparing two surprises for my readers, can anyone guess what they are?

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