Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire
By Nebula Star
Part 2: To Build an Army
Chapter 10: The Frozen Empire
“You'll have to do better than that, Midnight!” Sky called back flying through the air above Ponyville, then twisted around in the air in a maneuver that Midnight didn't have a hope of matching.
She laughed and did the best she could to follow anyway, Wind just behind her. They'd been trying to keep up with Sky for a little over an hour already and while neither of them were a match for Sky's agility, Midnight was surprised to find that she was already doing better than Wind. He really wasn't very agile.
“Come on, you two! I'm going easy on you!” Sky taunted then dove down between the houses, weaving through the streets of Ponyville.
Midnight had to slow down to make several tight turns, falling even further behind. Then Sky pulled up and twisted around so she was momentarily flying through the air backwards with her wings folded. “Here's an easy one!” She said then spun around again to resume flying. With a snap roll she changed direction turning at a right angle down an ally.
Midnight didn't have a hope of making that turn at the speed they were going. She pulled up instead and climbed above the rooftops cutting the corner. Wind followed her, knowing his own limits all to well.
It was then that Midnight spotted a particular pony walking along one of the roads near the edge of town that was nearly deserted. That alone wouldn't have been odd if it weren't for who it was: Scootaloo.
It had been a couple days since she'd seen Scootaloo, they hadn't really talked since the day Twilight, Rainbow and the others had left.
“Midnight? Hey, Midnight?” Sky called to get her attention as she flew back to where she was. “Why'd you stop?”
Midnight glanced at her. “Uh, I'm going to take a break for a few minutes, you guys keep going,” she said and without another word dived down, angling toward Scootaloo. As she drew close she saw that Scootaloo was wearing the necklace she had given her. “Hey, Scoots!” she called as she landed and quickly trotted up alongside her.
“Oh, hey, Midnight,” she said smiling.
“You alright?” Midnight asked concerned.
Scootaloo looked at her surprised; “Yeah, I'm fine,” she said a little too quickly and turned forward again as she walked.
Midnight raised an eyebrow. “It's not like you to just go for a walk.”
“Oh, well I...” she stammered refusing to meet her eyes.
Midnight frowned. “Scoots, maybe you shouldn't wear the necklace for now. It's just a reminder...”
“No, I want to get use to it,” Scootaloo said quickly. “That way it will be that much easier to learn once Rainbow gets back.”
Midnight looked at her a moment more then sighed. “I'm really sorry, Scoots. If I had known, I would have waited.”
“It's not your fault, Midnight. You have nothing to be sorry for,” she said and smiled sincerely. “This is the best gift I've ever been given. If I have to wait a few days to learn how to use it, then I'll wait. It's still a great gift,” she said then noticed the sheen of sweat on Midnight's coat for the first time and raised an eyebrow. “What have you been up to?”
“Oh so this is why you wanted to take a break!” Wind said as he landed alongside them. “Hey Scoots,” he added with a nod.
“Wind,” She said smiling in greeting. “You giving Midnight's new wings a workout?”
“Actually I've been giving both of them a workout.” Sky said landing on their other side. “Neither one of them can keep up though.”
Scootaloo grinned at that. “You couldn't keep up Wind? But you're the second fastest Pegasus alive!”
“But he can't corner to save his life,” Sky said with a smug grin at her brother.
Scootaloo laughed as Wind sighed heavily, unable to deny it. Then she grinned. “Well, maybe in a couple weeks I'll be able to join you sometimes.”
“Join us?” Sky echoed confused.
Scootaloo seemed surprised that she didn't know and looked to Midnight for an explanation.
“I haven't told them,” Midnight told her grinning.
“Told us what?” Sky asked, curious.
“You remember when Copper suggested I make a special gift for somepony to take my mind off of things?”
They both nodded and glanced at Scootaloo again, this time noticing the necklace she was wearing.
“Well I decided to make a gift for Scoots,” Midnight told them then looked at Scootaloo. “You want to show them?”
Scootaloo grinned and opened her wings activating the spell.
“Oh wow!” Sky exclaimed seeing Scootaloo's extended wings. “Do they work!?”
“Yeah, I almost took off on accident when I was riding my scooter right after Midnight gave it to me,” Scootaloo told her, folding her wings again.
“That's great, Scoots,” Wind said putting a wing around her in a hug. Though Scootaloo was a couple years older, she'd always been a friend to all of them. “You have somepony to teach you?” Wind asked.
Scootaloo's smile faded a little. “Well, once Rainbow gets back I wanted her to teach me...”
“Back from where?” Wind asked.
“Oh, that's right, she went with Twilight, huh...” Sky said softly at the same time. “If you want, we could get you started on some basics for now,” she suggested kindly.
Scootaloo shook her head. “No, I want to wait for Rainbow,” she said but smiled gratefully all the same. “I just wish I knew where they went.” She glanced at Midnight, but didn't seem to think she would say.
Midnight, however, decided that she deserved to know. She'd actually considered telling Scootaloo a few times already. “It's not a big secret really. Mom just didn't want anypony spreading rumors. So if you promise not to tell anypony else...”
They all glanced at each other. “We promise,” Scootaloo said, clearly eager to know.
Midnight smiled and nodded. “Alright. Well from what mom said, we've lost contact with Saddle Arabia. So Celestia and Luna were going to go see if they could find out why. But then before they left, they received a plea for help from the zebra homeland that said their lands were being frozen by a mysterious blizzard. So they asked Twilight to go and investigate there while they went to Saddle Arabia.”
“So they're in the zebra homeland?” Scootaloo asked and Midnight nodded.
“A mysterious blizzard, huh? Sounds kind of like the Hearths Warming legend,” Sky said thoughtfully.
Midnight's eyes widened. “That's what it reminded me of! I can't believe I forgot!” She put a hoof to her forehead. “I knew there was something about that blizzard that sounded familiar!”
“But it couldn't be windigos,” Sky objected.
They all looked at her. “Why not?” Midnight asked.
“Well because windigos gain their power from hatred, right?” Sky went on sounding a little unsure. “The zebra have always been pretty friendly from what Zecora told me, so where would they get their power?”
“Yeah, that's true,” Midnight agreed reluctantly. “But what else other than windigos could create a storm like that in the middle of the summer?”
Sky shrugged. “Couldn't unicorns do it with magic.”
Midnight couldn't help laughing softly. “I've used magic to heat and cool things before; it takes a lot more energy than you'd think. I don't think I could freeze more than a quarter of Ponyville even with my power. It would take an army of powerful unicorns to freeze an entire jungle. And that's just changing the temperature, not creating a storm.” She shook her head. “It has to be some other kind of magic, unicorn magic just isn't made for weather manipulation."
“Oh, well I guess we'll just have to wait and find out when they get back...”
“Midnight!” The call, barely louder than normal speech was the equivalent of a shout considering who it was coming from.
They all turned around as Fluttershy flew up behind them and fluttered to the ground.
“Oh hey, Fluttershy, what's up?”
Fluttershy breathed deeply for a few moments before answering. “Midnight, Twilight sent me to find you.”
“What!?” It wasn't just Midnight that shouted in surprise, but all four of them, making Fluttershy step back startled.
“Twilight sent me to get you, if that's okay. She and Rainbow just got back and Twilight was injured.”
“What!?” Midnight shouted alone this time, eyes widening.
Fluttershy stepped back again. “Twilight, she... she was injured.”
Without another word Midnight took flight, flying straight toward the Library as fast as her wings could carry her.
“It wasn't bad though!” Fluttershy called after her but she was already well beyond earshot.
Wind, that was the first thing Twilight became aware of; wind rushing past her. The second was the pair of hooves she could feel around her. They were carrying her, she realized. Then came the pain.
Twilight moaned as she became aware of a throbbing headache pounding at the inside of her skull, followed closely by a terrible ache in her wing. She reached up to her head.
“Easy there, Twi. You're hard enough to carry as it is.”
That was a voice she recognized. She opened her eyes and found herself only few inches from Rainbow's face. “Rainbow? What?”
“You barely got out of that storm and crashed before we could get to you. You broke your wing in the crash and you've been unconscious ever since,” Rainbow explained quickly. She was short on breath.
“But, where are we?” She asked trying to look around without moving too much. She could feel now that her wing was bound to her side.
“We're almost to Ponyville.”
Twilight's eyes widened. “Ponyville!? How long have I been out!?” She exclaimed knowing it would take her nearly three days to fly that distance. And that was flying unburdened. She looked up at Rainbow and saw the sweat on her forehead and how exhausted she looked. “Have you been carrying me the whole way?”
Rainbow shook her head. “We've been trading off carrying you, but you've been out for over a day and a half,” she said between deep breaths. “I was getting worried.”
“But why are we going to Ponyville? Why didn't you stop at Dodge? They have a hospital!”
Rainbow shook her head. “But they don't have doctors I'd trust with a wing injury.” Rainbow told her. “You don't want some untrained doctor to botch up your wing!”
That was true, Twilight had to admit. She knew that a badly healed wing could prevent a pony from flying ever again. “Who else is with us?”
“Just the Wonderbolts. I sent the rest of your guard to rejoin the others at the refugee camp. Now can we hold the rest of the questions for later; I'm a little tired right now, Twi.”
“Oh, right, sorry,” Twilight said then fell silent. It was strange being carried by her friend that was considerably smaller than her now, but she had other things to worry about. She was starting to remember what had happened; what she had sensed and seen. At the time she'd been too surprised to make the connection; but now that she had time to think, she realized who those ice unicorns had to be. And she realized that they were in trouble.
By the time they reached Ponyville and Rainbow went to fetch Twilight's royal doctor, Twilight was already making plans.
The entire way to the library, Midnight's mind was running wild with scenario after scenario of what could have happened to Twilight. Each worse than the last. So when she finally did reach the library and rushed past the guards as soon as they opened the door, the last thing she expected to find was Twilight standing at the table in the center of the library eating a daisy sandwich while looking over a map of Equestria. And to complete the shocking picture of normalcy, Spike was sitting at the writing desk, quill in claw, busily copying a document.
Midnight froze unable to process what she was seeing with what she'd been told. The only things that were really out of place in the library were the several pegasi of the Wonderbolts, including Rainbow Dash, sprawled out in front of the fireplace. And the fact that Twilight's wing was splinted and bound to her side.
Her abrupt entrance did cause several heads to turn her way, and it was then that Midnight saw Twilight's other injury, her horn was broken off only a couple inches from her forehead.
“There you are, Midnight,” Twilight said smiling at her confusion.
“Fluttershy said you were injured,” Midnight told her, more to explain her panicked entrance than anything else.
She nodded. “But it was just my wing and horn and the doctor has already been by to see me. He'll be back later to make sure my wing is splinted properly. So don't worry. It's nothing time won't mend,” Twilight assured her then her smile faded. “We have more important things to worry about.”
“What do you mean? What happened?” Midnight asked curiously.
“That's what I'd like to know,” Rainbow said joining them at the table.
Midnight looked at her raising and eyebrow. “But you were there...”
She shook her head. “Not when Twi was attacked, she tricked us and went off on her own.”
“You did what!?” Midnight exclaimed.
Twilight winced. “I admit, I wasn't as careful as I should have been...”
“You could have gotten yourself killed!” Rainbow growled.
“I'm very aware of that, Rainbow, and I'm sorry. I learned my lesson,” she said flicking her eyes upwards toward her broken horn.
“So what happened?”
She sighed. “Alright, you remember the howling we heard when we were in the storm?”
Rainbow nodded. “Wasn't quite howling though.”
“Whatever,” Twilight said waving a hoof dismissively. “I had an Idea of what it was, and what was causing the storm, but I wanted to make sure. You were all so tired though, I knew you couldn't go on... I was worried about you, so I teleported you back out of the storm.”
“You told us we were all leaving!”
“I know, and I'm sorry I lied, but our whole purpose in being there was to find out what was causing the storm. We were so close, and I just wanted to make sure,” Twilight said apologetically. “Once you all were safe, I flew up into the storm cloud itself. I could sense some kind of magic up there, a kind I'd never sensed before.
“It was like the clouds just opened up in the center and I found them. windigos, hundreds of them...”
“I knew it!” Midnight exclaimed interrupting Twilight, and all eyes turned to her, including those of the Wonderbolts resting by the fireplace. A little nervous Midnight decided to explain. “I thought the whole blizzard sounded familiar, but I didn't realize why until Sky mentioned the Hearth's Warming legend.”
“Midnight, you told your friends?” Twilight said sounding a little disappointed.
“It's not like you swore me to secrecy or anything!” Midnight objected defensively. “Besides, they can keep a secret!
“I shouldn't have to tell you to keep something secret, Midnight.”
“I didn't just go and tell them; I had reasons...”
Twilight waved her hoof dismissively. “We'll talk about this later.”
Midnight met Twilight's gaze for a moment in silence making it clear that she wasn't going to back down, that she was confident she'd made the right choice. “Who's feeding the windigos?” She asked finally to end the staring contest. Twilight seemed slightly surprised, but Midnight just went on. “Sky didn't think it could be windigos because they draw their power from hatred and she doubted there was enough hatred among the zebra.”
Twilight nodded. “Right, I was getting to that,” she said then continued her story. “After I saw the windigos, I knew somepony had to be providing them with hatred; and with how many windigos I saw, I knew it had to be a lot of them. But none of the zebra we'd talked to had ever seen anything except the storm. So there was only one explanation; whoever it was was using the storm for cover.
“There was just one problem, I couldn't sense anypony in the storm.” She shook her head. “Every living thing in this world has magic in them, they can't live without it. I couldn't sense anything but I knew they had to be there. The only explanation was that they were somehow hiding their magic from being sensed.
“Then I sensed a flicker of magic, so I went to investigate.” She shook her head. “I should have known better.”
“You took the bait?” Rainbow asked with a snort.
“Yes, but I wasn't completely stupid. I didn't fly straight to where it was. I landed a little ways off and went on hoof without any magic to give me away. But even so, I walked right into their ambush. There were thirteen of them I sensed and they had me surrounded. They attacked with such powerful spells that I had no choice but to dodge. I tried to teleport out, but they were somehow blocking my teleportation spell.
“I wasn't there to fight though, and I wasn't sure I could win against so many powerful unicorns, so I cast a wind blast spell to knock them all back in order to give me a chance to escape. When I did though I got a good look at one of them. They were ice unicorns.”
Twilight nodded and continued, “I was so surprised I hesitated too long and one of them hit my horn with a freezing spell. I used my energy cloud form in order to escape then. But before I could get out of the storm, my magic failed and I re-materialized as my horn cracked off completely. After that I was at the mercy of the storm...”
“And you were so exhausted by the time you got out that you crashed,” Rainbow finished for her. “So who are they then? You said they were ice unicorns?”
“It's the Frozen Empire,” Twilight said ominously. “Just before I escaped I sensed them, all of them. There's an army of thousands hiding in that storm.”
“Who the hay is the Frozen Empire? I've never heard of them,” Rainbow said looking to Midnight to see if she had, but Midnight just shook her head.
Twilight shook her head. “Few besides the Princesses know of them,” she explained. “And it actually goes back to the Hearth Warming legend. You remember the story of course, how the three kingdoms were overcome by a blizzard caused by the windigos? How they were forced to abandon their homes and seek out a new land?”
They all nodded, everypony in Equestria knew that story.
“Well not all the Unicorns of the ancient kingdom were willing to abandon their lands. Some stayed, determined to save their homes. The windigos were too strong though and the unicorns who remained weren't able to let go of their hatred; hatred that they then felt even for the other unicorns that had abandoned them.
“Unable to end the blizzard, or to escape the cold, they instead used their magic to adapt themselves to it. They made their bodies so they could survive even when they were as cold as ice and did the same for their crops as well. They let hatred thrive in their hearts; hatred for all other nations, all other races. For almost sixteen hundred years they have wallowed in their hatred. Their lands forever frozen by the windigos.
“They thrive off of hatred, and now it seems they've even tamed the windigos.” Twilight shook her head. “They're heading this way and I have no doubt that they don't mean well for Equestria. They hate us more than anypony else. They hate that we found such a wonderful land, that we've lived for centuries in such harmony while they've suffered...”
“If they knew about them, why didn't the princesses send them help?” Midnight asked.
Twilight shook her head again. “They tried, but every emissary they sent never returned. It seems they weren't willing to accept our help; they'd rather continue to hate us. After that the Princesses decided it would be best just to let them be and for centuries they've kept to themselves, never leaving their lands. Until now.”
“So you're saying we have an army of Frozen Empire unicorns that absolutely hate our guts marching toward our borders in the center of one of the worst blizzards I've ever seen?” Rainbow asked.
Twilight nodded. “And worse, it would seem they have spies already in Equestria because they clearly know a bit about us.”
“How do you figure that?”
“Like I said, when they ambushed me they were blocking my teleportation spell. Do you know how few ponies can cast a teleportation spell at all, let alone in the middle of a fight? Not only that but the spells they were casting were powerful enough together to kill Celestia three times over.” She shook her head. “They knew they were fighting me and they knew a great deal about my abilities.”
Rainbow's eyes widened. “But if that's true then they would know about Celestia and Luna as well! We have to warn them!”
Twilight shook her head. “There's no time, that army is on its way here. They were less than a day from the southern pass into the badlands and from there it could only take them as little as week to reach our borders. You said I was out for a day and a half. So that means they may already have reached the badlands.”
She pointed to the map. “The best place to stop them would be at the northern pass. That means we have less than a week...” She closed her eyes and a pained expression crossed her face.
“To do what?”
“To do something Equestria hasn't had to do for centuries.” She looked up and the worry in her eyes was clear. “We have less than a week to raise an army.”
“What about the guard?” Midnight asked.
“The guard alone won't be enough, and if they have spies here then they know that.” Twilight said shaking her head. “I'm sending out a call to arms to all the major cities.”
“I take it that's what these are for?” Spike asked joining them with a stack of papers. Midnight saw the top one bore Twilight's royal seal.
“Yes, thank you, Spike.” Twilight said as he set them on the table, then she turned to Rainbow. “Are you up to another flight?”
Rainbow rustled her wings. “Maybe, how long a flight we talkin'?”
“Canterlot, we need to spread the word as fast as we can. From Canterlot you can send out pegasi to most the major cities to mobilize the guard by the end of the day. Then they can take a day or two to gather volunteers and still get them south in time. Manehattan and Vanhoover will be cutting it close, but they should be able to make it. The Crystal Empire is too far though. We'll send word, but I doubt they'll make it in time.”
Rainbow sighed. “Canterlot huh, I don't know, Twi...”
“I'll get you there,” Midnight spoke up. “I'll teleport us along the way. That way we could get there in less than twenty minutes.”
Rainbow looked at her surprised but then grinned. “Yeah, I could handle that long, definitely. Just don't singe me”
“I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to do more than that, Midnight,” Twilight said softly.
Midnight looked at her, more than willing to help. “What do you need me to do?” She wasn't expecting what came next.
Twilight sighed, “Midnight, I can't fly, and I can't use my magic. If I was there I'd just be a liability. Many of the guard would go out of their way to protect me and in a battle like this we can't afford such distractions. But with Celestia and Luna gone even if we raise an army somepony has to lead them...”
Midnight stared at her a moment not understanding at first, but then her eyes went wide. “You want me to lead the army!?”
“Unless Celestia and Luna return in time,” Twilight said with a solemn nod.
“Mom! I'm no leader! I'm not a Princess!”
“Twi, I have to agree with Midnight,” Rainbow said shaking her head. “She's not a leader...”
Twilight held up a hoof in a silencing gesture. “I am very aware of that,” she said understandingly before going on. “But I am also very aware of the mentality of the ponies of Equestria. There's a reason that Celestia and Luna have always been so revered, why alicorns are automatically seen as princesses.
“Alicorns possess the best traits of all three pony races. Strength and endurance greater than any earth pony, the ability to fly and control the weather like the pegasi. But probably most importantly, we are much more powerful magically than most unicorns. So much more so, in fact, that with our immortality as well; there are some ponies that believe alicorns to be something akin to gods and goddesses.”
Midnight snorted at the thought.
“You think it's funny, but it's true. There are many, even in the guard, who would likely lose hope if they were to march into battle without an alicorn leading them. Now I'm not asking you to lead the battle by yourself or even at all. The captains of the guard can lead the battle, what I'm asking of you is simply to be a figure-head. If Celestia and Luna return in time, then of course you would turn leadership over to them; but until then, they will need another alicorn to lead them.”
“But they don't know me!” Midnight objected weakly.
“We'll spread word about your ascension along with the call-to-arms,” Twilight said waving the matter aside. “It may actually work in our favor. A powerful new alicorn appearing when Equestria needs her most; some will think it was meant to be.”
“But... I...” Midnight started but couldn't think of what else to say. Twilight was right. Equestrians were conditioned to look to alicorns for leadership. The members of the guard might be alright. But by sending out a call-to-arms, a good portion, possibly even most of the army, would be civilians who would definitely feel uneasy without one of the Princesses or even an alicorn leading them.
“Midnight, I wouldn't ask you to do something I didn't think you were ready for.” Twilight said gently and touched her shoulder reassuringly. “And hopefully you won't have to do more than provide a reassuring presence until Celestia and Luna get back. Even if you do have to lead during the battle though, I'm sure you'll do fine with the captains' help.”
Midnight looked down a moment then shook her head. “If I'm going to do this, I'll need somepony by my side. One of the captains, somepony I can trust.”
“Well I'm a captain,” Rainbow said with a shrug. “But I wouldn't be the best choice for leading a battle like this. Valor is already down there though.”
“Valor would be good but...” she thought for a moment then looked up at Twilight. “What about Shining Armor. He's well known and well liked, and known to be a good captain as well.”
Twilight frowned, “I'm afraid it would take too long to send word. Pegasi can't fly to the Crystal Empire and it would take almost two days to send word by train. Even if Shining left as soon as word reached them, he still may not even make it in time for the battle.”
“Then I'll go myself,” Midnight told her. “I could get word to them by the end of the day.”
Twilight looked up at her raising an eyebrow. “How? You can't fly there...”
“The same way I'll get Rainbow to Canterlot; by teleporting over and over along the way. That way I'll only have to deal with the cold for maybe an hour at most.”
Twilight considered the idea for a moment in silence, then looked at Midnight seeming concerned. “Are you sure you can handle it? It will still be a long flight, and you'll be exhausting yourself quickly by casting the teleport spell over and over.”
“I can handle it,” Midnight said confidently. “Then we can travel together south and I'll get us from Dodge to the pass quickly as well. It would take four days at most. And then the rest of the Crystal Empire would have time to get their forces south as well. From what you said, it sounds like we could use them.”
Twilight nodded slowly, still looking worried. “We do need them... But are you sure you can handle it? You're talking about teleporting hundreds of times in a row without rest.”
“Mom, I know it will be difficult, but we need the Crystal Empire forces. And if I'm going to lead the army, I'd feel a lot better having Shining by my side.”
Taking a deep breath, Twilight reluctantly nodded. “Alright, but be careful and conserve as much energy as you can until you reach the north. I don't want you exhausting yourself in that cold waste.” The deep worry in Twilight's voice made it clear she didn't want Midnight to attempt it at all, but she knew they needed the Crystal Empire's forces. “In any case, I'm not letting you go right this moment. You look like you've already been out flying this morning.”
“No, take an hour to rest,” she said firmly then turned to Rainbow. “No offense, Rainbow, but you might want to get cleaned up before you head on to Canterlot. With Midnight teleporting you, you'll be getting there sooner than I had thought anyway.”
Rainbow blushed. “Yeah, I guess it has been a couple days since I took a shower.”
Rainbow toweled herself dry. She'd long since gotten use to the unicorn and earth pony style showers, though she still preferred a good pegasus rain shower instead. But one did tend to make a lot of compromises in marriage. Even with the cloud-walking spell Twilight had taught him, it would be difficult at best for Valor to live in a cloud home.
Being clean, she did feel better though. As usual she merely brushed her mane and tail a few times to straighten them, then left them to air dry. Knowing she may not have a chance to stop at Ponyville on the way back south, she went ahead and put her armor back on. Besides, she was going to Canterlot on royal business as a member of the guard; she should look the part.
Once she had her armor back on, she headed down to the library. Twilight and Midnight were talking while Midnight rested, across the room from the Wonderbolts. From what she heard as she came down the stairs, Twilight was telling her a little about the various captains of the guard. They both looked up when Rainbow reached the bottom of the stairs.
“You look a lot better,” Twilight said with a smile. “Go ahead and rest for a bit, Midnight and I have a few more things to discuss.”
Rainbow nodded and went over to join the rest of the Wonderbolts, lying down by Lightning to rest.
“Captain, aren't you going to talk her out of this?” Lightning asked softly.
Rainbow looked over at her. “You don't have to always call me captain, Lightning.”
“I know, Captain.” She said with a slight grin. “But aren't you going to talk your friend out of this foalishness?”
“What do you mean?”
“She's putting her daughter in charge of an army just because she's an alicorn,” Lightning hissed.
“You heard her reasons,” Rainbow told her softly, though in truth she had some doubts of her own. She was going to trust Twilight on this though.
“But if she's going to get word to the Crystal Empire in time, then couldn't she ask Princess Cadence to lead the army? She's got experience as a leader at least, and she's a princess.”
Rainbow shook her head. “Midnight is better qualified than Cadence.”
“How do you figure that?”
“There's more to Midnight than you know; and while Cadence is an alicorn, she's only a partial blood alicorn. Her magic is barely more powerful than the average unicorn, and is very focused besides. Midnight on the other hoof shares Twilight's talent for magic. I don't know for certain, but now that she's an alicorn there's a good chance she's even more powerful than Princess Celestia.”
“Are you serious!?” Lightning hissed.
Rainbow glanced at her. “You know that Twilight is more powerful than Celestia don't you?”
She shifted a little. “Well, yeah... I mean, I heard rumors.”
“Do you know how much more powerful?”
She shrugged. “No, I just heard she was.”
Rainbow glanced at Twilight to make sure she wasn't listening. “It's not something she brags about but she did tell me once that her magical strength is roughly six times that of Princess Celestia.”
“Six!?” Lightning hissed loud enough that Rainbow glanced at Twilight again to make sure she hadn't heard.
“Yeah, Twi's pretty awesome, and Midnight has the same potential as Twilight.” And now she has the memories of how to use that potential, Rainbow added to herself. She just hoped Midnight never used her potential how she had in those memories.
Lightning stared at her a few moments in silence before she finally found her voice. “Midnight's really that powerful?”
She nodded. “She may not be the best leader, but she's probably the alicorn best suited for battle. Like Twilight said, the captains can handle leading the army. But if at some point we need an alicorn's strength, were far better off with Midnight than Cadence.”
“I guess, I still don't like it though.”
Rainbow nodded in acceptance. “We'll just have to trust Twilight on this.” She said then relaxed to get as much rest as she could since it didn't look like they'd have many chances to rest in the foreseeable future.
“One last thing, Midnight,” Twilight said turning to her after giving Rainbow some final instructions. Then she looked up toward bedroom, "Drat, one moment," she said then went up to the bedroom herself. A moment later she returned with the neck-piece of her royal regalia. “I want you to wear this.”
Midnight's eyes widened. “Mom, I told you, I'm not going to be a princess!”
“I know, but this is to show you are acting under my authority,” Twilight explained with a tolerant smile.
She looked at the neck-piece a moment more then reluctantly nodded. Lowering her head, she let Twilight place the regalia on her. It was a little too large for her, but didn't cause any discomfort, nor did it interfere with her movement.
Twilight smiled as Midnight looked up again. Then she saw a glimmer of tears in her mother's eyes. “Mom?”
“Be careful...” Was all she could say before her voice failed her, she'd just realized that this may be the last time they'd see each other. Midnight stepped forward then and put her fore-hooves around her mother to comfort her but found that she needed the comfort as much as Twilight. Tears came to her eyes as well as she embraced her mother.
“I'll be alright. I'm just going as a figure-head after all. It's not like I'm fighting the battle myself...” She said softly feeling Twilight wrap her wings around her as well.
“I know... I know. I just... I wish it was me.”
Midnight squeezed her gently. “I'd still insist on going...”
With a sniff, Twilight nodded. “I know you would,” she said then finally released her and stepped back. “Well, you'd better get going.”
“You be safe too, Rainbow,” Twilight said looking over at her long time friend.
“You don't have to worry about me, Twi.”
“I know you better than that. You tend to be a little reckless.” Behind them Lightning snorted. Twilight glanced back at her and smiled. She knew well enough Lightning's story; having been, at least in part, involved herself. “Well compared to most ponies,” She amended.
“I do know when to take things seriously. I'll be careful,” Rainbow told her then turned to Midnight. “Well let's get going, kid.”
She nodded and turned to follow as Rainbow stepped outside; but then she turned back, overcome by the realization that she may never come back. She threw her fore-hooves around Twilight once more. “I love you, mom,” She said softly.
Twilight embraced her daughter one last time. “I love you too, Midnight.”
Then, with a deep breath, Midnight turned and followed Rainbow outside, closing the door behind her.
“...Why are you going to Canterlot!?”
Midnight looked up hearing Scootaloo's voice and saw her and Rainbow a little ways away. Scootaloo looked rather upset.
“I have to, Scoots.”
“But, when will you be back this time!?”
Rainbow shook her head. “I don't know.”
Scootaloo glanced at Midnight seeming to hope she would have an answer, but she just lowered her eyes sadly.
“What's going on!?” She cried, frustrated with all the secrets. “Please, tell me!”
Rainbow sighed. “Twilight's going to make the announcement soon, but... as of today, Equestria is at war.”