• Published 1st Feb 2017
  • 5,970 Views, 800 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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Twilight and Darkness

Author's Note:

I wanted to release this yesterday, but sick.

The passage through the opening in time and space felt different for most of the ponies who went through it. Sunset and Trixie barely felt anything, as their concentration was entirely on Twilight Sparkle, and on focusing their determination to save her. Applejack got a headache, as her Eyes of Truth got glimpses of realities far beyond what she could comprehend, but she refused to close her eyes to the truth. Rarity focused on her armor, trying to see if the passage would harm it in some way, because she did not want to have the equipment of any of the Knights fail them at a critical time.

Fluttershy was still focused on the emotions of Sunset and Trixie, while Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were the only ones who were simply enjoying the ride for the kind of unique experience it was. That wasn't because they weren't serious about rescuing Twilight, but instead it was because the two understood very well that worrying about things unnecessarily would only wear them out, and would not help with rescuing their friend.

And it was really something to enjoy. The feeling of moving through space was slightly similar to moving through water, except that you did not need to hold your breath and there was always a sense of energy in the air. The sights were kaleidoscopic, a multitude of images mixing together in beautiful patterns that were ever changing. And the sounds weren't overshadowed by those sights, and they felt like a harmonic orchestra of natural sounds that came from all sorts of distances and instruments but managed to fit together neatly, and they gave off the idea of light and magic itself, not to mention the fact that they seemed to be slightly different for every listener, because it echoed with the sounds of their own being.

The time they passed in that crossing seemed to be at the same time very long and very short, as appropriate for a place bent around time. The ponies could remember taking in every single detail of the passage, which should have taken a while, but they also remembered that the whole crossing occurred in the short space of three breaths. Regardless, they finally reached their destination, which they were sure off because the place felt like Twilight.

The seven Knights appeared from thin air in an alley with buildings similar to Canterlot, walking out of the alley, they realized that the similarity was not mere coincidence, because they were in a city that was remarkably similar to Canterlot, but to Trixie's detail oriented eyes, it simply was not even close to being a passable imitation. Buildings were in wrong places and angles, some parts were too close or too far together, others simply did not exist in the original city in any form... And that was just the subtle stuff.

As for the things that truly brought home the fact that this wasn't anything like a real city, there was the fact that several parts seemed to be replicated multiple times in different locations, the fact that some buildings were only two dimensional cardboard cutouts, and most importantly, the fact that the space of the place bent in such a way that moving forward for a certain period of time would take you right back to where you started, but different from similar effects, there was no visible limiting line to the place, so one could look to the distance and see their own bodies in the distance in all directions, endlessly repeated, which meant that the many instances of the space were arranged like a honeycomb.

And that was only the space. Even more unsettling than it were the ponies.

Because of course there were ponies, except they did not seem any more real than the city itself. There were earth ponies, unicorns and pegasi, of varied colors and frequently wearing small articles of clothing in the Canterlot fashion. They walked (or flew) in and out of places and even traded words with each other... but they were off in many ways.

Again, Trixie could tell exactly everything that was wrong. And while it was harder to see than the problem with the buildings, it was no less problematic. The first point was that the ponies were somehow too homogeneous. The variation in their body types was limited, as were their colors, and even looking at many different cutie marks, you could not find one that did not have a simple design. They also walked together in an unconscious rhythm with very few deviations, and the words they spoke with each other were statements that were repeated by other ponies with the exact same cadence in different situations.

And then there were properties that the place and the ponies shared with each other. The most important was that both were intangible for the Knights. Neither simply touching nor using spells were they able to affect anything at all, and none of the ponies seemed to be able to perceive their existence. They were like ghosts haunting a place, except that the place and ponies they were haunting seemed more like the ghosts of the equation, due to their limited appearance of life.

After two minutes in which the Knights saw all of that, Trixie started talking.

"This place... Is mostly Canterlot, but there are lots of famous locations from other cities, and even some from Ponyville." She nodded "It seems like this city was made by Twilight's awareness and thoughts."

"Yeah." Sunset agreed "Look, there is the library." She pointed to a fairly good replica of the tree library where both she and Twilight lived.

"But if this whole thing is Twilight, then what about that villain you mentioned?" Rainbow Dash asked "He should be here, right?"

She had barely gotten the words out when the earth began to shake. She gave a sheepish look to the others, and then the seven prepared themselves for trouble.

It did not take long. Soon, a section of the "main street" erupted in light and was completely annihilated. From the center of the annihilation zone something like a portal emerged from the empty space left behind. And this portal swept across the area sideways, depositing a pony in the middle of the destruction.

That was the pony that Sunset and Trixie had seen at a glance just before Twilight disappeared with him, the same earth pony stallion with a white mane and gray coat. But this time they could see a few more details:

The most pertinent was the fact that the stallion did not appear to have a cutie mark, but also his eyes seemed to be simple black pits that still managed to pass on an impression of menace. The seven Knights were alarmed by the sudden appearance of such an enemy, but their alarm did not last long, because their physical and magical senses told them that this new figure wasn't any more solid than any of the other ponies in the city, and the same way they could not affect the ponies, they were also unable to be affected by anything the "blank stallion" could do.

And of course, he did not seem to be able to see them, and instead began terrorizing the city. He could simply make a throwing motion and whatever was in the direction he was pointing exploded into light and was annihilated, like he was throwing some sort of invisible destruction spell. His movements were strange and jerky, seeming to pass through space regardless of how his legs were moving, and his "jumps" did not disturb the air, earth or space in any way, despite his speed of movement.

The "ponies" of the city reacted to the appearance of that monster, running away and screaming, still not being terribly convincing pony illusions, since their panicked movements looked far too smooth and the lack of variety in their sentences was highlighted by the situation. The Blank Stallion moved in a random pattern, apparently trying to cause as much destruction as he could with his powers. But he only remained unopposed for around ten seconds, because that was when Twilight appeared.

Stepping out from the library-home Sunset had pointed out earlier, came "Twilight Sparkle". That name deserved quotation marks because, despite looking a lot more detailed and real than any of the "civillian ponies" (to the point where anypony would be able to notice their fakeness by looking at one of them and her side by side), there was still a sense of shallowness to the pony that appeared, like it was an actress who could perfectly copy the appearance, voice and mannerisms of Twilight but missed the spirit of the character in some manner.

"You won't get away with this, you monster!" Twilight Sparkle shouted at the blank stallion, then she cast a spell at the ground under her feet.

The spell created a construct for Twilight to stand on, it was a gigantic paper airplane, and she released a pulse of magic to send it flying forward towards her opponent. The airplane flew fast through the air, and soon it was close enough for the two to attack each other.

Blank opened hostilities with another one of his invisible annihilation spells, but Twilight sensed it coming in some way and took a prodigious leap of the airplane before it was destroyed. At that point she was just above Blank, so it was her turn to attack, which she declared with a shout:

"Chaos Magic: Rain of Frogs!"

And with a burst of magic, the surrounding skies were filled with frogs that dropped towards Blank. He did a longer version of his earlier movements in order to leave the impact zone, and his decision was proven correct moments later, when the frogs started landing on the ground and exploding like bombs.

But it would not be that easy to avoid Twilight's attack, for the rain of frogs drifted to aim at Blank's new position, giving him only a few seconds to try and escape. Instead, the stallion waved both hooves, his annihilation spell hitting the closest frog and expanding in a sphere much bigger than any previous spell of his, that managed to block and annihilate all of the frogs that were falling towards him.

That gave him a moment to breathe, and he made full use of it, charging magic in both forehooves and slamming them together, creating a plane of light energy the size of a building and shaped like a disc that he threw at Twilight, who was still in the air, simply ignoring gravity, before appearing away from his previous position to evade the next round of frogs.

The disc flew and spun through the air, and Twilight looked at it with a face of extreme concentration, charging magic to prepare for her next move.

The next thing that happened was a magical exchange so fast it could be called instantaneous. The disc of light stopped in the air and Twilight threw a blast of pure magic at the center of it and moved behind the blast. The center of the plane of light was destroyed and Twilight moved right into the gap, and then the rest of the plane exploded into a huge sphere of annihilation, but Twilight's destruction of part of it had created a small empty space in the center of the sphere that Twilight took refuge in.

That had been an extremely precise movement, because the space of time between the plane of light stopping in the air and exploding was less than a second long, but it was something that was worth doing, because the explosion of the plane of light actually disturbed the surrounding space, in a way that would make it impossible to teleport or shift. And since Twilight's pocket of space wasn't affected by the explosion...

"Chaos Magic: Earthen Army!" She shouted, while the explosion started disappearing.

And just after the explosion vanished, but just before the spell was completed, Twilight shifted forward and appeared just above Blank. The spell sunk into the earth and started creating numerous creatures of varied description, but Twilight knew he would just run away again if that was it, so she actually attacked him physically, starting with a weird upside down mule kick.

Blank blocked, but Twilight followed up by pushing off of the ground with her forehooves and twisting as she went over his body and hitting his side with a leg.

The next few seconds were extremely hard to follow. Twilight kept jumping and twisting all around while raining blows on Blank and charging magic, which prevented him from simply appearing away, so he had to contend both with Twilight's continuous attacks and also the earth golems, which forced him to divert magic to his blows to destroy them as they came and avoid being overwhelmed.

And then he changed tactics, forcefully bringing out enough energy to make Twilight and the closest golems retreat a step, he drove a spear of annihilation into the ground, which he actually manipulated to cause an explosion instead of simply removing things from existence. He used the power of the explosion to fling himself upwards and out of reach of the golems.

But Twilight would not let him escape so easily, she jumped along with the explosion to move side by side with Blank, and then revealed the other reason why she had been charging magic.

"Hunger Sign: Devouring Mist!" She shouted, casting the most powerful spell of the fight.

And her body released a pulse of black mist, something that usually wouldn't be inclined to pulsing, but chaos magic did weird things. The black mist covered everything around, including Blank, showing that it had a higher thickness than normal mist and was somewhat "swampy".

"GROAAAAARGHHHHHHHH!" Blank roared in pain.

A sphere of light ripped itself out of the mist, and its screams showed that it should be Blank himself, despite the fact that the sphere was smaller than even his head had been. The sphere flew all the way back to the point where Blank had appeared and vanished in a quickly appearing portal.

The black mist dissipated, and Twilight reappeared. She charged magic again and released a pulse of magic that restored the city to its previous state, before Blank had appeared. Nodding, she flew back into her home, and a few seconds later, the civillian ponies came out from where they had hid and then simply went back to their normal routines as if nothing had happened.

The Knights looked at each other.

"Okay, thoughts on what we have just seen?" Trixie asked.

"I think Twilight and that guy are still fighting somehow, and that was a representation of that." Rainbow Dash said, in a rare thoughtful manner.

"That guy... Do any of ya know who he is? Because he is a construct... Though Ah can see he is somehow different from the others... Ah don't understand how." Applejack said.

"I know a lot about old heroes and villains, but I can't think of anypony with similar powers and description." Sunset said.

Fluttershy waited to see if any of the others had anything else to say, before calling their attention with a cough.

"Twilight is here." She said, and immediately the others got more focused "I can feel her heart in every one of the ponies in the city, except that stallion... But I can't feel where her soul is. She could be inside any of them."

There was a moment of silence as they considered that.

"This place, and time magic... Is just weird." Rarity said.

The group spent a few more minutes talking about specifics of what they had found out and deciding what they should do to try and save Twilight, but they were surprised by a familiar shaking of the earth. The seven stopped and watched as the blank stallion appeared again, attacked the town again and was fought off by Twilight again, in the exact same manner as before.

"A time loop..." Sunset muttered after it was over "So that's how she has trapped him."

"And what does that mean for out plans?" Rarity decided to be practical.

"Nothing much, but I have a few ideas about how this place works that I need to test." Sunset answered.

More details didn't seem to be forthcoming, so the seven returned to their previous discussion and decided what they were going to do, and split up to do it.

Trixie started walking through the streets, trying to figure out how the spatial lines worked, Applejack started looking around to see if she could tease some more information via the use of her Eyes of Truth, Rarity checked the buildings with her magic, Fluttershy approached the ponies and tried to feel their emotions, Rainbow Dash flew off in a random direction hoping to find something by luck, and Pinkie and Sunset went off to one side to make a few tests using their magical specialties.

And so it went. Time was extremely subjective on that place but it felt to the seven like they spent a few hours doing their work before Sunset sent a signal upwards to gather everypony back towards her.

"So, anything important to report?" Sunset asked.

"Actually, there was something..." Trixie started "The fight has happened dozens of times, and while it seemed like it was always the same in the beginning, it has actually been slowly changing." She sighed "Blank is now surviving the devouring mist and attacking back, forcing Twilight to use Heat Mirage to take him out."

"Blank is getting stronger. But Twilight is not." Applejack said simply "If this keeps going, she will eventually be overcome, and that would be bad."

The others revealed what they had figured out about the place and the situation, but for most of them, there was nothing particularly noteworthy to report. But then Sunset started talking:

"I discovered why we haven't been able to affect this place."

The others (except Pinkie, who already knew) became attentive instantly.

"This place is a time loop, and it works as a different level of existence separated from us. But Pinkie and I worked out that we are slowly starting to get dragged into the level of the loop. This means that we are beginning to become able to affect things, but if it goes on for long enough, we may become just as trapped in this loop of time as Twilight and Blank." Sunset said grimly.

There was a moment of silence before Trixie said what they were all thinking.

"It's just one thing after another, isn't it?"

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