• Published 6th Jun 2013
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The Witching Hour - Chaotic Ink



A new pony comes to Ponyville, but she's not all that she seems. Will the town accept Midnight Storm, or will Ponyville run her out like all the rest?

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Ch.11 - On Squeaky Wings

Sapphire awoke several days after Hearth’s Warming in her bed in Ponyville. She had returned from Cloudsdale the day before after spending the holiday with her parents to find Midnight back at work like there wasn’t a holiday. Before she left for home she had informed Princess Celestia that Midnight told her she was simply going to close the shop for the day and stay in. The princess had sent a letter inviting her to spend the holiday at the castle, but the kirin had kindly, yet flatly, refused. “I’ve spent the last three Hearth’s Warmings on my own; another won’t hurt” she had written back. Even this morning Sapphire had heard her get up at dawn like usual and head outside while she stayed in bed a bit longer.

She knew that a few months living together wouldn’t cause Midnight to open up like a floodgate; she knew that sometimes even married ponies wouldn’t fully open up and even take things to the grave. But for Midnight to want to be alone on a holiday celebrating friends and family and the bonds they shared… it made Sapphire wonder.

She had been better at Nightmare Night, hoofing out candy and even managing to scare a few foals, but near the end she’d retreated to her room and hadn’t come out until the next morning. Sapphire had seen some candle light and heard what sounded like soft singing, but when she asked about it the kirin had pretty much ignored her. Sapphire had become resigned to the fact that Midnight would most likely remain an enigma for as long as she knew her, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t try and, politely, poke through Midnight’s shell.

She let herself lay in bed for a few more minutes and enjoy her comforter before getting up and starting the day herself.

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For most of the day both mares hardly saw each other, let alone spoke. Midnight had a feeling Sapphire wanted to talk about her actions concerning the holiday but she didn’t want to. Sure, she’d heard that talking things out was better than bottling it all up inside, but Midnight didn’t care. That’s all her life had ever been; bottling up and hiding.

She pulled the ragged scarf she was wearing tighter as a cold blast of air hit her. She was almost done with cutting up the first tree of the day and when she was done with it she planned to at least get one more chopped down before heading back inside. The original plan she had made back during summer was that she’d be cutting very few trees by this time because by now she’d have enough wood to sell during the winter and because it would be too cold to work outside most of the time. But, she’d been bored to death after re-reading her novels to help pass the time. Three times. Each. And to be honest between her scarf and fire-breathing it wasn’t that cold out.

Just as she spilt the last piece of wood Sapphire came out the side door and flew over to her. “Midnight, Rainbow Dash just came by to let us know about the weather.”

“It’s cold and windy and there’s snow scheduled for tomorrow. What else is there to know?” the kirin responded a bit harshly. She knew it wasn’t right for her to snap, but she was still mad that Sapphire wouldn’t let the whole ‘staying home alone’ thing go.

“Well she told me that there’s a storm blowing in from the Everfree Forest and that the weather patrol is going to let it hit. So instead of several days of light snowfall there’s going to be a large, one-day blizzard. I just wanted to let you know in case you’re planning to go back out.”

Midnight nodded. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll just mark a tree then instead, then come back inside.” Sapphire nodded back.

“I’m going to make some hot coco; do you want any?”

“I’ll have some” Midnight said as she fixed her scarf again, “and while you’re at it pull out something for dinner; whatever is fine.” The blue mare nodded then went back inside, calling back “Be careful!” as she did so. With that Midnight headed back into the forest.

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The order in which Midnight cut trees down made a straight line, like a path, into the forest roughly as wide as she was long, and by now it went fairly deep in. By the time she made it to the end of the path and marked a tree, she could tell the storm Rainbow had told them about was going to be on her any minute. Once again pulling her scarf tight, she decided it would be faster to fly back then walk or even run. But just as she opened her wings she heard something that caused her to stop.

Having worked in the forest for nearly half a year, Midnight had become accustomed to the wildlife and the sounds they made. She’d even seen a pack of timber wolves. Well, seen and smelled them. The point being that she knew what was normal to hear in the forest and what wasn’t, and this wasn’t a normal noise. It almost sounded like… somepony crying. Like somepony was out here in the forest and was just blatantly crying as if they didn’t care who or what heard them. Part of Midnight wanted to leave the moron to their fate and head home to a warm cup of coco and a roaring fireplace, but she knew that she couldn’t just leave somepony out here without at least trying to help out. Besides, what if it was one of her charges? That would look real nice if she let one of the bearers freeze to death or get eaten by a forest inhabitant.

As she began walking into the trees she quickly marked them with her tail-blade, making a blaze* on each one that she could easily see. After about a minute she came around some bushes and into a clearing, and what she saw on the other side made her stop.

There, huddled next to a bush shivering and crying, was a foal; a filly from how it sounded. Her coat was the color of cream, and her mane and tail were a bright orange with a white stripe down the left side of both. She also had some additional features that Midnight hadn’t seen on any other pony before. The most obvious ones were her wings. Her leathery wings. They didn’t have claws like hers, nor were they the same proportions, being closer to a pegasus. She also had fangs, but they were thinner and didn’t seem to retract. Finally, there were tuffs at the ends of her ears, which also seemed a bit longer than normal.

After a minute of taking in the filly’s appearance Midnight finally decided to do something. She cleared her throat and the filly looked up at her with yellow eyes that seemed the same shape as hers. However, before she could even get a single word out, the filly screamed like somepony just ripped off her wings and bolted into the forest like the forces of Tartarus themselves were after her. Midnight remained baffled for a second before running after her.

“Hey! Hold on a second! I’m trying to help you!” she called out as she ran.

If the filly heard her she made no indication. She kept going, ducking under logs and pushing off trees to quickly change direction in order to shake the kirin on her tail. It didn't work as Midnight was big enough that she could simply jump over whatever the filly went under and using trees to change direction quickly was an old trick the kirin.

After a few minutes the chase ended when the filly burst into another, smaller clearing and nearly face-planted into the rock wall on the other side. Midnight was in the clearing not a second after the filly, but she had seen the rock wall ahead of time and had slowed down enough that she stopped in the center. In her desperation to get away the filly flapped her wings and jumped in the air, trying to fly away. But each attempt ended with her belly-flopping back to the ground. After the fifth attempt failed she simply backed up to the rock face and curled up in a sobbing ball.

Only then did Midnight finally approach her, satisfied that she wasn’t going to lead her deeper into the forest. The filly stared up at Midnight like she was some horrible monster come to eat her and the look pained the kirin but she also knew she needed to get this filly out of the forest and inside where it was safe and warm.

“Hey there.” Midnight said gently as she sat down in front of the filly and opened her wings in order to block out the wind and now-falling snow. “What in the name of Faust was that all about?” Midnight reached out a hoof to pull the filly closer to hopefully start warming her up, but the foal flinched away from it. “It’s okay, I just want to help.” Undeterred, Midnight reached out again, and like before the filly flinched away, but this time the kirin was a bit more insistent.

As she pulled the filly up against herself, she was shocked at how cold the filly was. It was as if she had placed a fresh ice pack to her stomach. “What in the name of all the alicorns are you doing out here?” the kirin whispered. The filly simply stared back up at her, some of the fear, thankfully, having left her eyes. “We need to get you out of here and inside where it’s warm.” Midnight began to lean forward so that the filly could climb up on her back for the flight home, but before she could get low enough she caught a scent and her body went rigid. Bolting back up she told the filly “keep your back to the rock wall and stay behind me!” She whirled around into a battle pose; wings out, tail poised, mouth open in a defiant growl and fangs fully extended.

Out of the forest came five timber wolves, each one as big as her. Up until that point Midnight had never run into them, usually only seeing them from a distance through the trees and only when she was hauling out the last tree of the day. Now though they were up close, and those piercing yellow eyes looked hungry.

“BACK OFF!” With a roar Midnight let out a long stream of blue fire at the closest wolf. It dodged the main part of the blast, but its tail and one back leg caught on fire, and it ran behind the others yelping and rolling on the ground. A second one leapt forward and landed next to Midnight, but the kirin was ready for it. As soon as its wooden paws touched the ground she smacked it with her wing, her claw cutting and pulling out several twigs as it raked across the wolf’s leg. Distracted by the blow and sudden weakness of one leg it didn’t get out of the way in time of her second fire blast, which engulfed the wooden predator. It flailed about for a few seconds and tried to roll on the ground like its partner, but soon it stopped moving as the fire, now burning a normal orange, consumed it.

The remaining wolves now faltered. The speed at which two of the group had been taken out of the fight (the first one’s leg had fallen apart) now made them second guess this choice of prey. Using the distraction Midnight lowered her hindquarters and whispered “hop on!” The filly, however, remained where she was, eyes fixed on the new danger. “Look at me!” Midnight hissed, louder this time and with some anger mixed in. It had the desired effect as the filly’s eyes snapped to hers. “I know you’re scared; I am too, but I know we can get out of here. I just need you to get on my back, okay?” It took a second but the filly finally nodded and began moving towards her lowered flank.

Unfortunately, this did not go unnoticed by the timber wolves. Seeing their prey distracted they began to move forward again, and it was only by the sound of a wooden paw hitting a rock that she was alerted to the danger. Not even bothering to take aim Midnight whipped her head forward and let out a blast of fire in a long, sweeping arch. This had two effects. The first was that the wolves immediately backed off, but the second was that the sudden twist of her head made the filly believe her rescuer was taking off without her, causing her to leap forward and grasp on to the kirin, which Midnight took to mean that the filly was safely on board and took off with a sudden downward push of her wings.

It took not even a split second for her to realize it was a big mistake. Almost immediately the filly’s grip slipped with a scream and she was hanging onto Midnight’s tail with only her front hooves. The timber wolves, sensing that their prey was now in distress as well as preoccupied, immediately ran forward and began jumping up and snapping their jaws, waiting for dinner to fall right into their waiting teeth. Midnight pulled her tail up to try and let the filly slide down onto her back while at the same time blowing fire down at the wolves to hold them off.

By now the first wolf had joined its pack-mates under the kirin; however its destroyed back leg prevented it from jumping. It did not prevent one of the more clever of the group from getting an idea. Halting its own jumping this particular wolf ran behind its crippled friend then jumped on him. The surprised wolf did exactly what its compatriot wanted and bolted up in an effort to shake him off; giving him the extra boost he needed to jump high enough to reach the two ponies. Midnight spotted him right before they made contact. She twisted away, the movement whipping her tail and causing the filly to be launched upwards into the air.

Time slowed for Midnight. She dodged the wolf but its teeth caught hold of her scarf and its claws raked her flank and over her cutie mark. Ignoring the pain she yanked her head back to rip away the scarf while she let her wings go vertical, and she began to fall with the wolf. At the same time she twisted her head around and blasted it with fire, and continued the blast until it slammed into the wolves below as well. When she felt the heat from it touch her hooves she brought her wings down, catching the updraft from the blast and rocketing herself up from the inferno. The filly landed square on her back a second later. “Now let’s get out of here.”

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Sapphire stared out the kitchen window into the increasingly intense blizzard. Midnight should have been back by now, and the pegasus was beginning to get worried. She knew the kirin could handle herself, but if she was lost in the storm or a creature from the forest had found her first then she could be in real danger. She had begun pacing and staring up at the clock and out the window. If Midnight didn’t arrive back in ten minutes she’d write to the princess and hopefully get search parties going.

Nine minutes later she had the letter written and dragon-fire in hoof when she finally heard a sound outside, followed immediately by the side door slamming open and Midnight barging in. “Midnight! Thank Celestia you’re back!” But before she could say anymore the kirin bolted into the living room and a *fwoomph* sound could be heard, quickly followed by the crackling of a fire.

Sapphire hurried into the living room and saw Midnight slide something small and cream-and-orange-colored off her back while the fire in the fireplace was now roaring with a few blue flames licking at the edges. “Midnight, what is-?”

“No time! Get as many blankets and pillows out here as you can and then something hot to drink!” Hearing the panic in the kirin’s words Sapphire ran past her and into the kirin's room, pulling off the blankets and pillows and throwing them towards Midnight who began making a make-shift nest right there on the floor. When Midnight’s bed had been cleared, she ran upstairs and began pulling blankets and pillows out of the guest room. When she got back downstairs Midnight was already pulling a blanket over herself and the filly, which was now tucked under her wing. Midnight took the blankets and pillows from Sapphire and added them to the nest.

The filly’s shivers had lessened since they made it inside, but Sapphire noticed something Midnight had overlooked. “Midnight how long has she been out there!?”

“I don’t know; why!?”

“Her lips are blue!” Now that she wasn’t just trying to get the filly out of the cold Midnight could see that it wasn’t just her lips that were blue. The tips of her ears, nose, hooves, and wings were all a pale blue color. Pulling the filly closer into herself, Midnight breathed in as if she was going to breathe fire, but then seemed to swallow it. The effect was immediate, as the filly snuggled closer to her. “What did you do?”

“I swallowed some fire. It helps keep me warm and in turn makes me into a sort of oven.”

“Well, let me at least rub her wings to help start warming her up.” Sapphire made to reach out for the filly but Midnight’s wing knocked her hoof away.

“No! They’re blue because ice crystals have begun forming there! If you rub it you could damage the tissue! Warm water in a bowl would be better. Also, do we have any applesauce?”

“Um, I think so?”

“Then get some out and heat it up; she needs something warm on the inside as well.” Sapphire nodded and practically flew back into the kitchen. Applesauce was a good idea: solid enough that it would help fill her stomach, yet liquid enough to be easy to swallow.

Midnight tucked her wing around the filly again and swallowed some more fire. While flying back had been safer and probably faster, the direct exposure to freezing winds and driving snow hadn’t done the filly any favors. She could have flown her to the hospital but, as it was, her house was closer and her thoughts at the time were simply to get her inside and warm. Now that they were inside and it was Sapphire now doing the running around, Midnight could take better stock of the situation, as well as finally let questions start to pop up. Why had the filly been out there in the first place? How long had she been out there? Was she a run-away or was she abandoned? The questions halted temporarily when she noticed the filly was opening her eyes slightly; a good sign.

With a dazed looked the filly slowly took in her surroundings. First the roaring fire, then the fire place itself, then the living room, followed by the two entrances to the kitchen, then finally her head swung slowly back around to take in the pony she was curled up against. Thankfully there wasn’t any blood-curdling screams of terror this time, but the way the filly barely seemed to register she was there still worried Midnight. After swallowing some more fire, much to the filly’s liking, Midnight brought her head down and touched the tip of her snout to the filly’s. It was like touching an ice cube, but Midnight kept it there, gently snorting warm air on it to help warm it up.

After a few breaths Midnight noticed the filly was matching her breaths so that she was inhaling the warm air Midnight was exhaling. In an effort to help the filly, Midnight began inhaling with her mouth so as not to throw off the breathing rhythm they were now sharing. After about a minute of this, Sapphire came back into the room with a bowl of hot water held with her wings which were covered with oven mitts, and a wash cloth in her mouth. She placed the bowl next to the nest as close to the two huddling inside it as she could, then took the cloth and gave it to Midnight. “The apple sauce is heating up now. It shouldn’t take too long.”

Midnight nodded as she took the cloth and dunked it gently into the water. When she took it out she wrung it out then lifted the blanket covering the filly and exposed her wings, an act the filly frowned at while she squeezed herself against the kirin. Sapphire’s eyes widened as she got a better look at the filly, not being able to before thanks to gathering pillows and blankets.

Gently, Midnight opened the filly’s left wing and wrapped the warm cloth around it. The filly relaxed at the warmth enveloping her wing and Midnight allowed her to retract her wing back against herself. Sapphire quickly disappeared then reappeared with a towel that she laid close to the fire but also within reach of Midnight. With that she returned to the kitchen to check on the applesauce. While she was gone Midnight removed the cloth from her now-much-better-looking wing, heated the water with her fire, then repeated the steps for her other wing. It looked better even before the cloth was applied, most likely due to it being covered by Midnight’s warm side. After a minute she removed the cloth and was about to re-heat the water again when Sapphire came out with the applesauce in a bowl with a spoon sticking out.

“It should be fine to eat but I’d still blow on it if I were you.” She placed the bowl down next to the water then laid down on the opposite side of the filly outside the nest. Midnight nodded then wrapped one of the filly’s fore-hooves in the cloth. By now the scent of the mashed apples had reached the filly, and she squirmed a bit in an effort to get closer to it. Without a word Midnight scooped up a spoon-full of the mush, blew on it, and presented it to the foal who willingly opened her mouth to receive it. She held on to the spoon for a second, probably enjoying the warmth, then released it. Midnight made sure she swallowed the food before getting some more.

Silence reigned in the room while the filly ate. After every few bites of food Midnight would remove the cloth, heat the water, soak the cloth, wring it, then apply it to another body part. As Sapphire watched the two of them, she was struck at just how much they seemed almost like a mother and foal, but she told herself that was just because the filly was up against Midnight’s side to get warmed up and not for affection. By the time the bowl was half empty Midnight had wrapped up both tips of the filly’s ears in the cloth, and that was when the silence was finally broken.

“I’m surprised to find one of them out here.” Midnight’s eyes flicked from the filly to Sapphire. “I’ve only seen bat ponies up at the castle as Princess Luna’s guard.”

“Bat ponies?”

“They also go by thestrals. From what I’ve overheard it sounds like they only inhabit caves, not live in forests.”

“Do you think she wandered away?” Sapphire shrugged.

“She could be a runaway. Whatever the reason she’s not in any condition to tell us right now. The only other thing I can tell you is that her coat, mane, and tail colors are very different from what I’ve seen at the castle. All of the thestrals in the castle have very dark toned colors, while this filly has very bright colors.” Midnight only gave a half-hearted hum in reply. Silence returned for a few minutes while the kirin removed the cloth for the final time and dried off the filly’s ears. She wasn’t blue at all anymore and wasn’t cold to the touch, but both mares knew she had a while to go before she could be considered fully recovered.

“Sapphire, how long did Rainbow say the storm was going to last? She said a day but is that a full twenty-four hours or is the weather patrol going to handle it in the morning?” Sapphire shrugged and shook her head.

“She never gave specifics, only that it would be over by dinner tomorrow.” At the mention of a meal both of their stomachs growled. “I’ll make us some sandwiches.”

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The rest of the night drifted by quickly enough. The adults had some simple grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, and while they ate, the filly continued to rest next to Midnight. Occasionally she would look around or twitch an ear or wing, but for the most part she stayed curled up against the kirin. For the two mares if anything was unnerving about the filly it was her silence; she hadn’t made a peep the entire time she’d been inside. That changed when she let out a small *squeak* when she yawned and pulled the blanket over her head, allowing only an ear to stick out. “I’m going to move us onto the couch for the night. If you could just give me some of the pillows and blankets after I get us settled on there I’d really appreciate it.” Sapphire nodded, then Midnight scooped up the filly, blanket and all, with her wing and trotted over to the couch, climbing and resettling on it. The filly barely twitched at the sudden change in position. “One last thing Sapphire,” Midnight asked as she fixed the pillows and blankets the pegasus had given to her. “Before we ate I was going to ask that, as soon as this weather clears up tomorrow, please go to Ponyville Medical and bring back either a nurse or a doctor. She seems fine now, but I’d really like a professional’s opinion.” Sapphire agreed.

“The minute the last flake falls I’ll be out the door.”

“Thank you.” Sapphire nodded with a smile and went upstairs to her own bed. Once she was gone Midnight laid back against the couch’s back and swallowed another small bit of fire. There was a small hum of approval from the sleeping filly and Midnight let her eyes begin to close.

Before she let sleep take her, she noticed something. A feeling she was getting from the sensation of the filly sleeping next to her. The feel of her resting against her side, her small breaths causing her sides to press then relax against her own, the occasional twitch of a wing, hoof, or ear. It made Midnight want to curl around her more, be more protective of her. She allowed her wing and tail to do so, but kept her head up and against the back of the couch. She needed sleep if she was going to be of any use to the filly in the morning, as well as whoever Sapphire would be able to bring.

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For sleeping on a couch, Midnight woke up the next morning feeling very well rested. She had managed, somehow, to stay put all night. Her wings and legs ached from it, but that was her only compliant. It seemed the filly hadn’t been as still as her, as now her snout was sticking out from under the blankets and wing, and Midnight could feel the blanket under her wing was twisted into a bundle. Midnight actually had to fight the sudden urge to bend down and playfully nip the end of the filly’s snout; it was just too cute.

She snorted and looked up and out the window. It was close to mid-morning, evident by how the clouds looked in the light of the recently risen sun. There weren’t many of them this morning, with a lot more blue than white or grey visible from where the kirin was looking. The world had been covered in a blanket of white from the storm, and it looked like they’d gotten a significant amount of snowfall, based on how much the shed was buried. There was even a large drift that reached almost to its roof.

The sound of the side door opening caused the kirin to whip her head around the other way, and she saw Sapphire coming in with a shovel and dressed in winter gear. The pegasus didn’t notice the kirin staring at her until she had pulled off everything but her scarf. When she did see her she let a warm smile spread across her face and went over. “Good morning.”

“Mornin’. Why didn’t you wake me to help shovel?” Sapphire looked down at the still-sleeping filly then back up at Midnight. “Oh, right. How is it out there?”

“We got a lot of snow.” Sapphire sounded tired. “I got the front and side doors shoveled out, as well as a path between the two. I wanted to at least get those cleared before I went out to get somepony to look at her.” At that both mares looked down at the sleeping foal. “How’s she doing?”

“Breathing calm and steady and she doesn’t feel like an ice cube. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

“You still want a doctor or nurse, right?”

“Yes, I want a professional to give her the clean bill of health.”

“Good, then I’ll get to that after I get something warm in myself. Do you want anything?”

“If you can heat up a large bowl of applesauce again that’d be great; so I can share with her in case she gets up before you get back.”

“Sounds good.” With that Sapphire headed into the kitchen and Midnight allowed her head to lie back on the pillows. She must have nodded off for a bit because it seemed like she was back with the bowl of applesauce after only about a minute. “Alright, I won’t be gone for too long, hopefully.”

“I think when you tell them it’s a foal they’ll send somepony right away.”

“See you in a bit then.”

“See ya.” With that Sapphire was out the side door and in the air. Midnight turned to her food and scooped a spoonful into her mouth. It was nice and warm with a hint of cinnamon. She ate the food slowly and took time with each bite, partly to savor the taste and partly because she figured the filly would wake up anytime now. A few minutes later her hunch was born out as she felt a stirring under her wing and lifted it to reveal the foal waking up.

The filly’s eyes opened slowly and as they rose so did she, lifting herself into a sitting position. With that done she opened her mouth wide in another squeak-yawn, then noticed she was next to something. Following the body the filly looked up at Midnight and the kirin gave her what she hoped was a warm, comforting smile. “Good morning.” The filly tensed up. Midnight’s ears immediately flattened incase the filly screamed again but this time she actually spoke.

“Where am I!?” The filly’s voice had a squeaky sound to it like her yawn. Midnight lowered her wing again to help calm her down; she was looking around with fast head jerks and Midnight thought she might try and run again.

“You’re in my house and you’re safe here. What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Umm… I was… I was in the woods… and then something… I guess it was you, came after me and I couldn’t get away, and then wolves attacked and then…” her voice trailed off and she looked up at Midnight with a look of one whose is lost and had no idea how it happened.

“Can you tell me why you ran away from me like that?”

“Well… I kinda thought you were the grim reaper or something…” Midnight looked away and snorted. ‘Peachy. Just bucking fantastic’ she silently fumed. “You don’t look that way now though,” The filly added, “Now you look kinda like a dragon.” The filly was surprised when Midnight actually chuckled instead of giving her another angry or exasperated look.

“Well I am half dragon, so I’m what’s known as a Kirin. Now you,” Midnight gently booped her, inciting a small giggle, “are known as a bat pony, or thestral, correct?” The filly gave a slow nod.

“I’ve heard us called both names; I don’t know which one is right.”

“That’s okay for now. I think the more important question at the moment is your name.” The filly hesitated for a second.

“My name’s ‘Squeaky Wings’.” Midnight smiled down at her.

“Well Miss Wings, it’s nice to meet you. My name is ‘Midnight Storm’, however ‘Midnight’ is just fine.”

“Okay. Midnight, could you call me ‘Squeaky’ instead?” The kirin nodded.

“How does ‘Squeaks’ sound? It just seems to roll off the tongue better.” ‘Squeaks’ nodded. “Good. Now that we know each other, how about some breakfast?” Midnight motioned to the bowl next to her.

“Is that applesauce?” Midnight nodded. “There’s a lot of it!”

“Well it’s for the both of us, and I’d say I’m just a little bigger than you are.” Midnight chuckled again. Little was an understatement. Squeaks was already slightly smaller than Dinky or Pinchy, and even those two could stand almost straight up while standing underneath her. With a squeaky laugh of her own Squeaks moved towards the bowl, only to flop down once she got on all fours.

“My legs feel weird,” Squeaks said as she tried to get up again, only for Midnight’s wing to gently push her back down.

“You’re still recovering from hypothermia so you’re bound to still be weak. Here,” Midnight picked up the second spoon still in the bowl with her free wing-claw and blew on the mash that came up with it. “I’ll feed you for now if that’s alright.” Squeaks nodded and let Midnight put the spoonful of food in her mouth. After she swallowed Squeaks licked her lips.

“This tastes really good!”

“Well I think Sapphire put some cinnamon in it. I take it you like it?” Squeaks nodded, and Midnight fed her another spoonful.

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Squeaks ate only a quarter of the bowl before she was finished. Midnight quickly downed the rest, then, after placing the bowl on the floor and off to the side, laid back against the pillows. “So, what do we do now?” Squeaks asked.

“Now? We rest some more. My friend Sapphire is already out trying to get a nurse or doctor to come look at you.” She let out a yawn. “And I think that storm took some out of me too.” Squeaks shrank back a bit.

“Do… do I really need a doctor?” Midnight smiled.

“You were in pretty bad shape when I got you here, and while you may look and feel alright I’d still like somepony who knows what they’re doing to look at you. Try not to think about it.” Midnight laid her wing over the filly again like she had over-night, leaving only her face exposed. “Besides, a little extra sleep never hurt anypony.” Squeaks nodded and snuggled down next to her and the same feelings of protectiveness washed over Midnight. The kirin let out a soft snort and let her wing close around the filly a little more.

To be honest Midnight was anything but tired. Her left wing and all four legs were practically demanding movement and within a few minutes boredom had set in, and she wasn’t the only one to feel its effects. Just like any other child, Squeaks was fidgeting under Midnight’s wing. Midnight could tell she was trying to be discrete about it so as to not bother the older pony, but with them laying next to each other it was impossible not to feel all the moving and hear the occasional sigh. They could talk to help pass the time, but all the questions Midnight had in mind were ones the pony Sapphire was bringing would want to know as well, so she felt it was better to wait and only ask them once.

After a half hour, that felt more like three, had gone by Midnight finally heard voices outside. Squeaks apparently heard them as well because she sat up and out from under Midnight’s wing and her ears were swiveling in the direction of the side door. Midnight looked up from the filly as the door opened.

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Sapphire was all too happy to be back at the house. While the sun was out and there was barely a cloud in the sky, the wind was going at a steady and freezing clip, even by pegasus standards. Nurse Redheart had fared little better. While she wasn’t up in the air to be hit by the wind, she did have to wade through the snow almost all the way from the hospital to the house. Despite that Redheart barely made a compliant. The minute Sapphire had entered and said she had a foal at home suffering from hypothermia she’d grabbed her saddle bags, stuffed them full of supplies, and told the nearest doctor she’d be making a house-call.

As both mares entered and shook themselves off Sapphire looked into the living room. She expected to see Midnight sleeping, Midnight awake and relived, or, in the worst case scenario, Midnight looking panicked. Her second guess was right but she hadn’t expected to see a second, smaller face staring at her with wide, yellow eyes the same shape as Midnight’s. As Sapphire led Redheart inside the filly’s head ducked back under Midnight’s wing. “Alright, let me see her.”

Midnight raised her wing and exposed the filly to Redheart. When the wing came up the filly wriggled back against Midnight’s side more. “It’s alright Squeaks; this is nurse Redheart and she’s here to make sure you’re alright.” At the sight of Squeaks, Redheart paused slightly but then began digging into her bags.

“’Squeaks’?” Sapphire asked.

“Her name’s ‘Squeaky Wings’, but ‘Squeaks’ just rolls out easier.” Sapphire was again struck with how maternal Midnight seemed to be with the filly; already calling her by a nickname and comforting her. The pegasus shrugged it off as Redheart reemerged from her bags.

“Dang thing fell all the way to the bottom. Okay, let’s just put this under your tongue.” But as Redheart brought the thermometer forward Squeaks shrank back from it like it was a needle.

“It’s alright Squeaks. It’s just a thermometer.” The look of utter confusion she gave Midnight made all three adults look at each other with some concern. “You… do know what a thermometer is, right?” Squeaks simply shook her head. Now Midnight was worried. Did they not have doctors in the bat colonies? Sapphire did say that they lived apart from other ponies and had been doing so for at least a millennia, so it was probably natural for some things to be lost to them, but to not even know what a thermometer was… Midnight was at a loss. “Well, it takes your temperature and helps tell Nurse Redheart if you’re sick or not. It doesn’t hurt I promise. Here, I’ll show you.”

Midnight looked up at Redheart and the earth pony pulled out another thermometer and stuck it in her mouth. After seeing Midnight take it like it was nothing Squeaks slid forward a bit and opened her mouth. Redheart stuck the original thermometer in, a little roughly in Squeaks opinion, then quickly retracted her hoof. Midnight and Sapphire had noted that Redheart had been eyeing the filly warily ever since she first saw her. “What kind of pony is she again?” Redheart asked as she pulled a clipboard out.

“A bat pony; they also go by thestral.” Sapphire said and Redheart jotted the information down.

“So they really do exist.”

“Princess Luna uses them as guards, so yes they do.” All Redheart said was “hmmm” as she continued to write things down. When she finished she pulled both thermometers out.

“Huh” she said after looking at them and writing them down.

“What is it?” Midnight asked warily.

“She’s colder than she should be, which is indicative of hypothermia, but from what Sapphire told me on the way here she should be worse off. Truth be told I didn’t expect her to be active at all.”

“Well, she has been up against me the entire time she’s been here, and I have been swallowing fire. I get it from my dragon side” she explained when Redheart looked at her funny. “I can swallow fire instead of breathing it and it warms me, and in this case her, up.”

“Well, that explains your temperature.” All three adults smiled slightly.

“We’ve also been feeding her warm applesauce and last night we used a wet rag to warm up the places she was blue.”

“You didn’t try rubbing?” Redheart asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I got hold of a medical book once and I read that rubbing can actually cause harm. Was it wrong?”

“No, actually it was spot on. I’m just surprised somepony knew that.” Redheart took down a few more notes. “Well, it seems you’ve done everything right. Got her out of the cold, got her warm, and kept her that way and even got some food into her. Was she ever seemingly in a daze at all?” Midnight and Sapphire nodded.

“Last night she ate and looked around but didn’t seem to register anything.” She scribbled away again.

“And how long has she been asleep for?” Midnight looked over to Sapphire.

“What time did we turn in?”

“Right after she did, so about eight? I left around nine, so…”

“Thirteen hours.” Midnight shook her head. She’d never been asleep so long in her life. Had she somehow been in sync with Squeaks?

“Sounds about right” Redheart said after writing that down as well. “Hypothermia patients tend to sleep for long periods during recovery and sleep often. At this point I’d say she’s recovering from a mild case and should be right as rain in a few days. Now, however,” the two other adults looked at her, “I’d like to know how she got into the forest in the first place and how long she’s been there.” With that she began pulling out some other equipment. “I think I should also do a quick physical just to make sure nothing else is wrong.” Midnight looked down at Squeaks, who had been silent the entire time.

“Can you tell us how you got into the forest?” Squeaks’ ears flattened against the back of her head and she laid down on the couch like she did something wrong. A knot formed in Midnight’s chest. What had happened to cause this filly to be so scared of telling them what happened? “Squeaks, I promise you we’re asking only so we can help you.” Squeaks looked up at Midnight and the kirin could see her eyes were becoming wet. Without a word, she brought her wing down and pulled the filly against herself. Bending her head over she whispered “I know it must have been very scary being alone in those woods, but you’re here now and nothing is going to hurt you, I promise.” This time she let the protective feelings rule her and she nuzzled Squeaks, an act the filly returned all too readily. When she felt Squeaks was okay she pulled back to see the other mares giving her strange looks. Midnight coughed and made it look like she was inspecting her wing until Squeaks finally spoke.

“Me and… my daddy… we were flying over the forest on our way to see Princess Luna. There was thunder and lightning…” at this Squeaks curled up a bit more. “Then I was falling and landed in a tree. I… I think there was a hole I hid in…” she shook her head and Midnight’s wing laid down over her. “That’s all I remember.”

“Do you remember how many days ago that was?” Redheart asked in a soft tone.

“Um…” Squeaks scrunched up her face in concentration. “I think… six? Maybe five…” she trailed off and shook her head.

“I’ll round it up to a week.” Redheart made the note and put the clipboard down. “Now Squeaky, I’d like to take a few measurements and ask some more questions while I do them, okay?” Squeaks looked up at Midnight and the kirin nodded.

“She still seems a bit weak in the legs.” Midnight told the nurse.

“Well, I was hoping to weigh her, if you have a scale.” Midnight shook her head.

“Never cared enough about my weight to have one. Besides, being bigger than other ponies tends to make you heavier by default.” Redheart nodded.

“Then perhaps she can lay on my back? I won’t get an exact number, but I can tell you if she’s underweight or not.” Midnight nodded, then nodded at Squeaks when she looked up at her. With some help from Midnight, Squeaks made it onto Redheart’s back. Once the filly was safely aboard the white-ish earth pony Midnight took the opportunity to finally stand up and stretch. Her body never ached so much in her life and the cracking of joints that hadn’t moved in more than half a day signified the welcome relief she was feeling. She stretched forwards and back on her legs, extended her right wing, and even straightened out her tail in relief. With a slight wobble she hopped off the couch and onto the floor.

“Feeling better?” Sapphire asked with a grin.

“Just never stayed still for so long.” The only thing she really wanted to do now was some running and flying, but that would have to wait.

“Hmmm… a little light but you are smaller than other fillies your age.” Then she remembered something. “Squeaky, how old are you?”

“Seven?” she said nervously.

“And are other seven-year-olds the same size as you?” Squeaks shook her head.

“I never played with other foals. I wasn’t allowed to go outside.” The adults looked at each other again.

“Why weren’t you allowed outside?” Squeaks simply curled up and didn’t say anything.

“I think we should get the physical done.” Midnight said after a full minute of silence. Redheart went through the whole gambit from checking Squeaks’ heart and breathing rate to even her blood pressure.

“A clean bill of health is all I can say, which is amazing considering she was alone in the forest for about a week.”

“I did find some fruit trees.” Squeaks piped up from Midnight’s back, where she’d been shifted to after her impromptu weigh-in.

“Well you can thank Celestia you found them, because they probably saved you from starving.” Redheart began to pack her bags. “I’d say keep her warm and well fed like you’ve been doing. Keep her in bed until tomorrow, then have her exercise her legs and wings for a bit so she can get used to them again. If there’s anything special bat ponies eat I suggest she tells you because that might help speed things up.

“Oh, and one last thing” Redheart said as she pulled on her bags. “Hypothermia patients usually end up with a cold after they recover, so if she does start showing signs of getting sick just swing by and tell me and I’ll get you a prescription for a medicine made especially for cases like this one.” Midnight and Sapphire thanked her for her time, and with that Redheart went out the side door.

“I’m going to have some breakfast.” Sapphire said wearily after a minute and headed into the kitchen. Midnight had a feeling the pegasus was doing the same thing she was: mulling over what Squeaks had said. Why hadn’t she been let outside? For Midnight it was because she didn’t want anypony to discover her, and it was more her decision than her mother’s. And why hadn’t they heard about a search and rescue? A foal gone missing before Hearth’s Warming HAD to stir up some alarm. She was pulled out of her thoughts by Squeaks pulling gently on her mane. When she turned her head around Squeaks had an embarrassed look on her face.

“I need to go to the bathroom.”

Author's Note:

* - a blaze was originally what the white mark on a horses head was called, but when settlers came to the Americas they had no trails to go by, so explorers would carve "blazes" on trees to mark paths. This is where the word "trailblazer" comes from. Thank you History Channel and America's Secret Slang!

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I present to you: Squeaky Wings! You may now daw.
I was going t have this as one VERY big chapter, but when I noticed how big it was already I decided to chop it here. Unlike Midnight, Squeaks' full backstory will be covered in the next chapter. Until then feel free to guess.

I don't think I mentioned this with Sapphire, but her and Squeaks had the most changes in apperence, name, and even back story, even right up until their intro chapters were written.

I also hope I got the hypothermia part down at least mostly right. I took a course on first aid and that was covered, but that was back in like, '04.