Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire

by Nebula Star


Chapter 18: Storm of Rage

Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire
By Nebula Star

Part 3: Equestria at War
***
Chapter 18: Storm of Rage.
***

Sky climbed back to her hooves, ears ringing from the twin explosions as she felt the ground shaking. Then the cliff began to give way and she along with the rest of the Pegasi took to the air as a portion of the ridge they stood upon began to slide down into the canyon. It was then that she saw that the shelf where the siege weapons had been was gone. Her heart froze. Copper!

Without another thought she dove down the path of the rock-slide searching for any sign of him, her heart pounding with the fear of what she might find. The collapse had been swift and already the slides were beginning to settle though thick clouds of dust hung in the air. The damage was done.

The front lines were broken and scattered. The wall they'd built to hold back the enemy had been buried under tons of loose stone and had collapsed under the weight forming rough but easily scalable ramps to either side of the canyon. And the ponies that had been defending that wall...

Tears filled Sky's eyes as she saw several sights that she would never be able to forget. The mangled bodies of those that hadn't gotten out of the way in time. Copper would have been right in the middle of it, she knew, with rock coming down from above him as more fell out from beneath his hooves. He would have been caught up in the slide, in the middle thousands of tons of grinding stone...

NO! She screamed at the dark thoughts that were invading her mind. He's alive, he has to be!

Sweeping along the base of the slide she continued her desperate search for the wonderful, kind, and generous earth pony.

More and more gruesome sights met her eyes as she glided over the rubble. She didn't see any survivors except those near the edge of the slide who were already being helped by the nearby earth ponies and unicorns. But Copper wouldn't have been near the edge. She shook her head and continued to search. She would not, could not, believe that he was dead. He was suppose to be the safest of all of us!

Fear was tearing at her heart, threatening to make her break down, to lose hope. She held it back, trying to stop the tears as she desperately searched for the one she loved. She knew that now.

Then Sky came across what was left of one of the trebuchets and there he was, wedged between the broken platform and one of the few beams still attached to the base. He was unconscious and looked battered and all-together worse for wear, but he seemed to be in one piece. She dove down to where he was and almost burst into tears, this time out of relief as she saw that he was breathing.

They were dangerously close to the front lines however, she had to get him out of there quickly. Carefully, trying not to cause him further injury, she picked him up in her hooves. She hadn't ever flown while carrying somepony Copper's size before, but in that moment he could have been twice the size and it wouldn't have mattered. She took off with him in her hooves and headed strait for the medic's tent at the far back of their forces, barely within the pass.

“Hang on, Copper! You're going to be alright!”

~~~

The only thing that kept Midnight from leaving her post once more to search for Copper herself was that she'd seen Sky dive down to search for him already. Seeing that however, she'd decided that, as general, she needed to worry about the army as a whole. She knew that there wasn't anything more she could do for Copper than Sky could.

She surveyed the destruction as much as she could through the dust cloud filling the canyon. Nearly half of the forward defensive wall had been buried under the slides and in the confusion many of their forces had been scattered. They wouldn't be able to hold. And the ponies that had been defending the wall to those sides...

“Light, how many did we lose?” Midnight breathed, knowing that dozens if not hundreds of their forces had been crushed under tons of stone.

“Too many.” Chrysalis whispered softly, pain clear in her voice.

Midnight looked over at her. “Were any changelings...?”

“No,” she answered then looked at Midnight seeming slightly offended. “Can I not feel sorry for the loss of pony lives? Do you think I'm incapable of compassion?”

“Sorry, I didn't mean it like that...” Midnight apologized. Just then she caught movement from the far side of the canyon and looked sharply. A moment later she smiled in relief as she saw Sky emerge from the dust cloud carrying the unmistakeable form of Copper Wire in her hooves, and heading toward the medic's tent. She just hoped Copper was alright.

“FALL BACK TO THE SECOND LINE!” The command from princess Celestia echoed through the canyon.

Midnight watched the lines below as they began to fall back, even as they did however, the enemy lines were charging forward blasting at the wall that remained while many began to climb over the rubble to either side. The front lines were scattered and there were still many injured in the slides that were lagging behind.

“Chrysalis! We need to give them cover while they retreat or they're not going to make it!”

She just nodded seeming to only be half paying attention. “Yes, Celestia just gave the same order; I'm assigning squads now.”

Midnight nodded feeling just a little useless now that Celestia had a way to pass orders directly to Chrysalis. She glanced back toward where the medic tent was. Perhaps she could afford to go check on Copper.

No! She told herself firmly. I have a responsibility to Equestria! Even if I'm not doing much, I have to stay at my post. She sighed. “But Copper, you'd better be alright.”

~~~

“Captain Dash!”

Rainbow turned in the air to the approaching pegasi. “What is it, Private?”

“Princess Luna's orders. We are to keep the windigos occupied, we can't let them harass the ground forces as they're retreating to the second line.”

“Do they need pegasi to help cover their retreat as well?” Rainbow asked looking down trying to see what was going on in the dust cloud that filled most the canyon.

The messenger shook his head. “Princess Luna said the changelings are going to handle that, but we have to keep the windigos off of them.”

Rainbow nodded then turned to her squadron. “Alright, you heard the order! Storm Rider, Flurry, spread the word to the captains and other squadron leaders; the rest of you, on me. We won't let even a single one of those beasts get past us!”

~~~

“Princess, Queen Chrysalis reports that she has assigned squads to cover the retreat as you asked,” the changeling squad leader, Captain Veriss, reported. “She also reports that Luna has ordered the pegasi to make sure the windigos don't harass the retreating lines.”

Good thinking Luna. Celestia thought approvingly. Though she didn't have nearly as much experience leading battles as her, Luna's instincts were sharp.

Celestia nodded to the changeling. “Thank you, captain. Was there anything else?”

“Just that my queen reports poor visibility in the canyon, even from above.”

“Yes, well right now that dust cloud is protecting my ponies from attack, so we'll let it be for the time being.”

He nodded, then gave her a salute before going to rejoin his squad. Celestia had to admit, though she was still somewhat uncomfortable having changelings nearby, they were turning out to be quite useful.

Just then Celestia felt a familiar touch of magic reaching toward her thoughts and let them connect.

Sister, I have ordered the pegasi to hold back the windigos so they cannot interfere with the retreat. Luna's voice came into her mind.

'Yes, Chrysalis just informed me. How long do you think the Pegasi can hold them on their own?' Celestia responded with her thoughts.

Now that they have weapons that can actually hurt the windigos, I'm fairly confident the pegasi can win against the beasts.

Celestia blinked in surprise. 'What weapons do you mean?'

Midnight Star made crystal weapons for the pegasi made of solidified love and hope. A slash from one of those is apparently excruciatingly painful for the windigos.

Crystals of love and hope? I suppose that would be quite effective against windigos, but they probably wouldn't hold up against flesh and blood unicorns in armor. She thought to herself. 'Excellent, but for now our primary goal has to be retreating to the second line. Just keep the windigos off of our ground troops.'

Of course, sister.

'And keep me informed of any developments.'

Yes, about that. Unfortunately my lieutenant in charge of communications fell in my defense and the communication circlet was destroyed. Until another can be brought up, I will have to contact you directly or send messages via the changelings.

'I heard there had been an attempt. Was it close?'

It might have been, but they never even got past the changelings. Commander Sallis and her squad are quite impressive fighters.

'Alright, that's good to hear. Anyway, just send one of your pegasi down for another circlet, we have spares. Until then go ahead and contact me directly, I'd rather keep links in communications to a minimum.'

Very well, stay safe, sister.

'You as well,' Celestia responded then felt Luna break the connection.

Returning to the overlook, Celestia looked down into the dust cloud that still filled the canyon. It was just now beginning to settle; it would likely be several minutes more before the air would be clear enough to see their enemy's lines again. Many of the retreating unicorns and earth ponies emerged hacking and coughing. She had considered using her magic to clear the dust away, but as it was, the cloud was blocking her ponies from view and so protecting them from attack. She was actually surprised the enemy hadn't cleared it away themselves, but so long as they didn't, she wasn't about to herself.

It wasn't stopping the unicorns from advancing, nor did it block Celestia from sensing them as she closed her eyes and focused. Most the ice unicorns were focusing on tearing down what remained of the first wall now that it's defenders had abandoned it. There were, however two large groups making their way over the rubble of the rock slides in an attempt to flank the retreating forces.

Even as she watched with her mind's eye, those forces were intercepted by the changelings and the dust cloud began to flash with the multi-colored light of magical attacks. The changelings seemed to be constantly moving as they engaged the enemy; using the low visibility to their advantage. It was a smart move, that was certain. They were greatly outnumbered and a direct confrontation would likely end in disaster. As it was they didn't need to hold the line, just slow the enemy's advance.

Opening her eyes once more she turned to Captain Crimson. “The changelings have engaged the enemy on both fronts, how long is the retreat going to take?”

“At least another fifteen minutes, princess, likely more; many were injured in the slides. It's taking some time to evacuate them.”

Celestia nodded. “Do what you can to speed the process, captain, the changelings cannot hold forever.” He saluted and Celestia dismissed him with a gesture, then looked down toward the battlefield once more. If they didn't get those ponies out quickly enough she may have to intervene herself. It was the last thing she wanted to do, to use her power like that. Last time she'd fought in a battle in defense of her ponies, many of the ponies she'd been fighting for had come away fearing her. She just hoped the changelings could hold them.

Thought of the changelings as usual caused her to look up at the ridge where their queen could be seen watching over the battle. More prominent on the ridge now was Midnight Star, who was standing on the very edge of the cliffs.

Then again, I may not have to intervene myself... She thought frowning. Judging by her posture, it was pretty clear to Celestia that the young alicorn was having a hard time restraining herself. If she jumps in, it may be just as bad if not worse for her. The ponies of Equestria have known me a long time and know I would never do anything to harm them, even if they may forget it for a time in fear. Midnight doesn't have that advantage. If she causes anypony to fear her, it will take a great deal of time for her to regain their trust.

Flashes from within the dust cloud called her attention back to the battlefield. With how things were going so far, they may not have much choice. Perhaps it would be better for one of them to intervene in this battle, even if it meant difficult times for them in the years to come. She was certain she could help Midnight deal with the repercussions. Truth be told, it would probably be even worse for Luna. Though it had been nearly fifteen years, if her sister were to fight, ponies would undoubtedly be reminded of Nightmare Moon.

She shook her head. What am I thinking, even we can't fight their entire army on our own. The most we could do would be to take out their leaders, and for that we'd have to know where they are... One glance at the battlefield was all it took to see that a good portion of their army was still hidden by the snowfall, though it was lessening as the day wore on.

“Princess Celestia!”

Celestia turned to see a young officer galloping toward her and the captains from the direction of the camps.

“Princess, an advance scout from the Crystal Empire just arrived. He reports the Empire's volunteer forces are on their way and should be arriving within two hours.”

Celestia sighed heavily. “Well that's better than we expected. Hopefully it will still be in time to help.” She looked back at the battlefield. But with how quickly they broke through the first line, it may not be. She added to herself. She knew their enemy would not let the battle drag on for long, they couldn't afford it. They had to win quickly and decisively if they were to have a chance of conquering the rest of Equestria before desperation and fear forced the rest of her ponies to action.

Please let it be that it doesn't come to that.

~~~

“Watch out!”

Lightning twisted her wings, throwing herself into a spiral, evading the windigo's freezing breath and closing in for a swift strike; her sword biting deep into the spirit beasts neck. She was rewarded with a blood curdling howl of agony as the windigo burst into mist and retreated back into the storm like all the others.

She smiled with pride; now that they'd run out of surprises, the pegasi of the guard had the windigos locked down, the civilian squadrons hadn't even had to get involved yet. The ground forces weren't faring nearly as well.

Sweeping back and around following Rainbow as their squadron regrouped for another pass, she took the opportunity to look down to see how the retreat was going.

There wasn't much to see still, the dust kicked up by the rock-slides was only just now beginning to settle in the canyon. But even so she could make out most of the Equestrian forces as they were retreating over the second line of defense using temporary ramps that would be collapsed as soon as their forces had all made it to safety.

She was just about to look away when she noticed a group of thirty or so Equestrians a ways further down the pass than the rest of the unicorns and earth ponies. It was clear they were trying to retreat as ordered, but it was just as clear that some of them were injured and their progress was slow. And they were about to be overtaken.

A group of ice unicorns had broken through the lower wall not far from the group of stragglers and were swiftly making their way to flank them. It wasn't a large force of ice unicorns, but enough to outnumber the Equestrians.

Lightning knew the changelings were supposed to be covering the retreat, but there weren't any to be found. The enemy was almost upon the Equestrian ponies. Lightning didn't hesitate.

Diving at them from above and making full use of her impressive speed, she was only dimly aware of somepony calling her name. She wasn't about to leave those ponies to be slaughtered. She intercepted the ice unicorn's easily and was upon them before they even knew she was coming.

Knowing they would not hesitate to kill her, she didn't hold back. She pulled out of her dive just above the ground and her sword flashed through the air as she flew through the midst of the ice unicorns aiming the blade for their unprotected necks. She felt the tug of the blade each time it connected, signaling another kill. She tried not to think about it, about what she was doing. They were the enemy and it had to be done. She was protecting the innocent ponies of Equestria; they were the ones that had come for violence, they had brought this on themselves.

Her momentum spent, she skidded to a stop and changed direction, using her wings as much as her legs to leap at one ice unicorn after another, striking so quickly they didn't have a chance to defend themselves. Spells flew past her as she took full advantage of her agility, moving from unicorn to unicorn and striking each one with a deadly blow always aiming for the gaps in their ice bound armor. Then she leaped toward another, intending to make him another victim of her blade, but he was ready and a spell leaped from his horn toward her.

Her eyes widened in surprise, but no more than his did when there was a flash of orange light and his spell was blocked. A quick swipe of her sword removed the unicorn's head and she leaped up and away to evade more magical attacks.

So that's what that new enchant does. She grinned realizing what had saved her. Then with new confidence born of a sense of invulnerability, she dove back into the fray with reckless abandon. One after another she struck the unicorns down, singlehoovedly holding back the enemy's advance; on one front at least.

Then her sword fell to the ground.

She barely had time to wonder what had happened when a spell hit her in the side, sending her sprawling to the ground as well. After that, all she knew was pain.

~~~

“Lightning!” Rainbow screamed seeing her friend fall. She'd tried to follow Lightning almost immediately, but a group of windigos had gotten in her way. By the time she and the other Wonderbolts had dealt with them and she had chased after Lightning it had already been too late. Putting on a burst of speed, she covered the remaining distance in a flash, leaving a rainbow contrail in her wake. She scooped up Lightning in her fore-hooves, barely slowing down as she did and took off as fast as she could toward the medic tent.

Lightning was in bad shape, Rainbow could feel her friend's blood soaking her coat. She pushed herself to her limit, reaching the medic tent in moments. Beating her wings against her flight angle to kill her momentum, she landed at the entrance to the tent.

“Medic!” She called hearing all too clearly how desperate she sounded and not caring. Immediately two unicorn assistants took Lightning and levitated her to a surgeons table. Rainbow stayed close, Lightning was still breathing, but that wound...

“Captain?” her voice was weak.

“I'm right here, Lightning. You're going to be alright, just stay with me.” Rainbow said moving close as one of the medics came to the other side of the table and began examining the wound.

Lightning smiled despite the pain she was in. “I got them pretty good... didn't I...”

Rainbow smiled back as tears filled her eyes. She sniffed. “Yeah, you sure did,” she agreed softly.

“I... I think I found my limit though...”

“No! No! You're going to be alright!” Rainbow all but shouted, ignoring the medic who was sadly shaking his head.

Lightning looked up at Rainbow one last time and smiled a truly grateful smile. “Thanks, for everything, Rainbow.” Then she closed her eyes and let her body relax. She took one last shuddering breath; a breath that was released as a soft sigh and then she was still.

“Lightning!?” Rainbow whimpered, not wanting to believe what she'd just seen, wanting nothing more than to deny the reality of that moment. “LIGHTNING!”

Rainbow felt a hoof on her shoulder and looked up at the medic who was looking back at her with sympathy. “She's gone, I'm sorry.”

Anger like she'd never felt before began to fill Rainbow's heart as she looked down at Lightning one last time. They'd taken one of her friends. She clenched her teeth and closed her eyes, her entire body trembling with rage. At that moment, all her thoughts were spiraling around one simple desire. Revenge.

Unable to stay a moment longer, Rainbow spun and dashed out of the medic tent. Her wings snapped open and she launched herself skyward. She didn't even notice a changeling calling her name. In moments she was higher than the clouds. She drew her sword as reached the apex of her climb and began to dive back down toward the battlefield, rapidly picking up speed. The pegasi were engaged with the windigos again and she aimed for the center of the fighting.

“GET OUT OF THE WAY!” She screamed as she continued to gain speed. Several pegasi looked up and, realizing what was about to happen, dove out of the way, confusing their ghostly foes.

Rainbow passed through the center of the windigos in an explosion of sound and color, the shock-wave of the sonic rainboom sending many of the spirit beasts tumbling through the air, easy prey for the agile pegasi. Rainbow didn't look back and didn't care what happened. Her focus was ahead of her, the ice unicorns that had started the war. That had taken Lightning. She would make them pay.

~~~

Midnight stared for a moment in shock when a rainboom erupted in the center of the windigo forces and watched as the rainbow trail continued toward the ground. “Rainbow...” she whispered.

The multi-hued contrail leveled off just above the ground then wove between the ice unicorn ranks in a display of agility only Rainbow Dash was capable of. It would have been beautiful, had it not been for the sprays of crimson mist that erupted all along the path.

“By the stars, I'm glad I never pushed her so far,” Chrysalis said softly stepping to Midnight's side.

“What happened? Was your messenger able to find out?” Midnight had seen Rainbow fly to the medic's tent carrying somepony and had asked Chrysalis to send a messenger to find out what had happened.

“Rainbow Dash didn't stop to talk, but he was able to find out from other ponies in the medic tents that her wingpony was killed. Somepony named Lightning Dust they said.”

Midnight gasped. “Lightning!?”

She nodded. “Did you know her?”

“Not extremely well, but I did know her,” she answered softly looking back toward the battlefield. It was easy to spot Rainbow even in the midst of the enemy forces. Her rainbow trail zipped from one unicorn to another with astounding speed and each time she struck, another unicorn would fall.

Midnight knew the anger Rainbow had to be feeling; she knew what it was like to lose somepony close to her. The all consuming rage and desire for revenge. It had been the source of her hatred in her previous life, the cause of her corruption. Rainbow however had never experienced such a feeling before. She didn't know how to contain it, to control it; she'd given in to her anger.

She watched as Rainbow's fury drove her to recklessness, flashes of red hued light were evidence of the enchantments on her armor protecting her from magical attacks, but her magic wouldn't last forever. At this rate it would run out very soon, and then...

Midnight snapped her wings open, leaping of the cliff without another thought. She wouldn't let Rainbow die!

~~~

Planting her hooves against the ice unicorn's side, Rainbow wrenched her sword out of him, tossing it into the air and catching it with her magic even as she threw herself at another. She didn't even care when his cold blood sprayed across her coat.

The next unicorn in her sites, a mare with brilliant blue eyes, stumbled back in fear. Desperately she raised her own sword; she'd never been very strong with magic. Rainbow would always remember those eyes, and the terror they held as their sword's clashed.

To both their surprise, Rainbow's sword was sent flying away as her magical grip on it failed. She didn't give the unicorn time to take the advantage however. A vicious swing of her hoof connected with the unicorn's horn snapping it clean off. With her magic lost, she was no match for Rainbow, and she was sent flying by a back-hoofed swing, landing unconscious several yards away.

Rainbow then tried to retrieve her sword, but found her magic could no longer lift the blade. She was far from done though. Even without the weapon she leaped at another of the remaining unicorns. She'd nearly taken out the rest of the small force that Lightning had tried to hold back; there were only about a dozen or so left.

The unicorn stepped back, avoiding an attempted swipe at his horn. Then his horn flared and the next instant Rainbow was thrown back by a shock-wave. It wasn't a powerful spell, rather it was a spell cast in desperation merely to get her off of him.

Dazed, Rainbow began to get back to her hooves only to find herself surrounded by what remained of the unicorns, many charging spells to finish her. There was a flash, and then darkness...

Darkness that seemed to be flowing around her with countless stars sparkling in its midst.

Getting to her hooves she looked around realizing she was surrounded by a swirling cloud of ethereal energy, energy that she had seen before.

“You alright?” Midnight asked as she materialized out of the cloud, her mane and tail continuing to flow into the protective barrier around them.

“No!” Rainbow spat with tears filling her eyes once more. “They killed Lightning!”

Midnight looked down. “I know,” she said sadly.

“I'm going to make them pay!” She declared opening her wings again.

Midnight quickly restrained her with her magic. “You already have. You've done enough Rainbow,” she said gently.

“No... I'll...” she cut off as Midnight stepped forward and put a hoof around her neck, hugging her tightly.

“Lightning didn't die so that you would get yourself killed in a rage.”

For a moment, Rainbow considered trying to break free and continuing her vengeance. But then she realized the truth of what Midnight was saying. With a whimper, she let go of her anger and let the grief and pain that it had been holding back overcome her. “Why... why Lightning? Why did it have to be her?” She cried softly returning Midnight's embrace.

“I don't know, Rainbow,” Midnight told her softly. “But we can't stay here.” She stepped back and pat Rainbow's shoulder giving her a comforting smile. “Report to Valor. I'll cover your retreat.”

Rainbow sniffed one last time and nodded. Then she took off, flying swiftly back towards where Celestia and the ranking captains of the guard continued to direct the battle.

~~~

Midnight watched Rainbow go for a moment, very aware of the dozen or so unicorns that remained of the force Lightning and then Rainbow had decimated. They had surrounded the cloud of energy that was her mane and tail. Several had shot spells into them experimentally that her magic had simply absorbed. They didn't possess enough magic to break through Midnight's defenses.

Lightning was gone. Though Midnight hadn't known her well, she had known her. She felt the loss far more keenly than any of the others that had fallen. And Rainbow... Next to Twilight, Lightning had been Rainbow's closest friend. The pain she must be feeling. Midnight knew that pain all to well.

She felt it then, the anger, the hatred, memories of a lifetime's worth of pain. She sensed the unicorn's around her. They had caused her friend pain.

The energy cloud of her mane and tail lashed out, grabbing all the remaining unicorns and lifting them into the air. She clenched her teeth, letting her hatred fuel her magic, tightening the grip around their necks. They flailed their limbs uselessly, trying in vain to free themselves. She didn't care, she wanted them to suffer, she wanted them to die in agony. More and more Midnight tightened her grip until their was a loud crack.

With a start Midnight realized what she was doing, that she was giving in to her anger, her hatred, allowing it to control her, to make her do terrible things.

She released the unicorns, letting them fall to the ground. But it was already too late for them; not one of the unicorns she had attacked was still breathing.

Shaken by what she'd just done, what she'd just felt; Midnight took off flying back to Equestria's lines. Of the entire force of Unicorns that had broken through the wall, only one remained alive. A young mare with a broken horn and brilliant blue eyes, though her eyes were closed and she wasn't moving.