• Published 29th Sep 2013
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Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire - Nebula Star



Midnight Star was given a second chance to be happy without the horrors of her memories; but those memories were never truly gone. They are only the beggining of her struggles however, Equestria is about to face a new threat; The Frozen Empire

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Chapter 11: Call-to-Arms

Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire
By Nebula Star

Part 2: To Build an Army
***
Chapter 11: Call-to-arms
***

“Two more jumps and we'll be over the city!” Midnight called over to Rainbow and then teleported them again, jumping as far as she could manage with the spell. Then one more jump and Canterlot was spread out below them.

“Well this is my stop!” Rainbow called back. “Good luck, kid. You be careful heading north!”

“I will, just make sure there's an army ready when we get down there!” She replied, then with another flash of her horn, she continued north, leaving Rainbow and Canterlot behind.

For the first hour she let herself glide for a time between each jump, giving her magic time to recover while still covering a considerable distance. It wasn't long before she spotted galloping gorge. Then, by the time the second hour was coming to a close she could see the Crystal Mountains on the horizon. They marked the edge of the frozen north. Once she past them, it was going to get very cold very quick.

The Crystal Empire train line used one of the only passes through the range. Once past the mountains it made a strait shot for the Crystal Empire over what was otherwise a featureless white wasteland. Midnight intended on following the tracks to ensure she didn't get herself lost, so once the mountains were in sight she began searching for the pass. She spotted it easily enough at the altitude she was flying and adjusted her flight path accordingly. Even so it was another half hour before she finally reached the pass.

It was like hitting a wall. On one side of the pass it was cool, but not unpleasant, but a few jumps later she felt as if her ears were going to freeze right off, not to mention her wing tips. It was time to really get going.

Taking a deep breath, she began teleporting rapidly. Jump after jump; she barely paused long enough between to orient herself and ensure she was still following the tracks. Then she hit the blizzard.

She'd been lucky on her journey north that there hadn't been any storms scheduled in Equestria, but in the frozen north pegasi didn't regulate the weather.

Between jumps Midnight found herself fighting the wind and struggling to spot the tracks which were almost completely buried by the snow. She had to fly low, which only made the wind more turbulent, and after a few jumps the tracks became almost impossible to see. It wasn't long before the cold and her fighting the wind started to take their toll. Finally she knew she couldn't afford to search for the tracks after every jump, and she also knew she didn't have to strength to get back south. Orienting herself in the direction the tracks were heading she climbed up to a safe altitude and began jumping rapidly again, as strait as she could, hoping it would be enough.

She had no idea how much further it was, how far she'd come. Ahead of her she could see no sign of the Crystal Empire; but then, she couldn't see very far. She kept teleporting, getting more worried, more desperate, with every jump.

Her magic was running low. Her endurance was nearing its limits. Every inch of her felt nearly frozen. Finally she began to realize she'd made a mistake. She'd been overconfident in her abilities. She couldn't give up though, she couldn't stop...

She focused all her thoughts on teleporting. There was nothing but the next jump. No aching muscles, no freezing limbs, no chance of failure. There was just her magic, and the next jump. But her magic was failing.

At last she made her final jump. Then, her magic gone, wings all but frozen, her body pushed far past the point of exhaustion, she dropped from the sky, barely able to keep her wings outstretched to slow her decent. Everything was already going dark when she felt herself crash into the ground. And as consciousness slipped away from her, the last half-formed thought to cross her mind was that at least she didn't feel cold anymore.

~~~

Rainbow glided down into Canterlot heading for the Castle. She needed to rally the guard and send out word to the rest of Equestria, then Twilight had asked that she make the announcement and call-to-arms in Canterlot herself. She was famous after all, and Twilight wasn't above using Rainbow's fame to their advantage. Not when the fate of Equestria was on the line.

She'd need to gather all the captains of the guard still in Canterlot. When was the last time the war room was actually used for matters of war? Rainbow wondered as she landed in one of the small training yards near the castle barracks.

The yard was fairly quite, but then Rainbow already knew that nearly a third of the guard was gone. The only sounds came from a squad of unicorn guards practicing with pole-arms nearby, led by a young lieutenant that was overseeing their efforts. They hadn't noticed her arrival, but she quickly changed that.

“Lieutenant!” Rainbow called to get his attention as she walked over to him.

He turned and his eyes widened slightly in surprise seeing who had addressed him. “Well if it isn't Rainbow Dash, Captain of the Wonderfoals.”

Rainbow's eyes narrowed; he had to be one of those... She decided to ignore the insult this once in the interest of time. “Lieutenant, send word to all captains of the guard that they are to report to the war room immediately.”

“Whoa, I'm not one of your pretty pegasi. What makes you think you can give me orders?”

Rainbow just fixed him with a cold glare, one Valor had taught her. “What is my rank, Lieutenant?” She asked dangerously.

“You're captain of the Wonderfoals,” He said with a sneer.

“And the Wonderbolts are?” She asked emphasizing the name.

He shrugged. “They're a...” He trailed off as the realization hit him.

“A specialized flight division of the royal guard,” Rainbow supplied. “Which makes me...?”

“C-captain of the royal guard,” he stammered all too aware that he'd just insulted a superior officer.

“Now would you like to try that again?”

“Sir, yes sir!” He said with a salute.

“Good, now stop wasting my time and alert the captains,” Rainbow told him coldly. Then she turned her back on him in dismissal and headed to the war room herself.

~~~

Rainbow looked up from the map table in the war room as the last of the captains entered the room. There were five, three unicorns, and two earth ponies. The two pegasi captains normally stationed in Canterlot having gone with Celestia and Luna to Saddle Arabia.

“Well it is a rare pleasure to see you in armor, Captain Rainbow Dash. But at the same time I'm almost afraid to ask the reason for it...” Captain Crimson Flare, the last to arrive and ranking Captain of the Royal Guard, said as he approached the map table. A unicorn, he was an old friend of Valor's and had always been a friend to Rainbow as well.

Rainbow shook her head. “It's not good,” she confirmed then gestured for them to gather around the map table. “Now that we're all here, let's get started.”

Once they were all standing at the table, Rainbow began. “Alright, like I said, I'm not here with good news. First of all, two days ago, Princess Twilight was ambushed while investigating a mysterious blizzard that has frozen most of the zebra homeland.”

“Was the princess injured?” One of the captains asked while the rest just looked shocked.

“One of the culprits landed a hit on Twilight's horn with a freezing spell. She managed to escape with the last few seconds she had her magic, but didn't get out of the storm before her magic failed. She then exhausted herself fighting the winds to get out and ended up crashing and breaking her wing before we could get to her. Myself and the rest of the Wonderbolts then carried her back to Ponyville for medical care.”

“And what of the culprits?”

“Twilight has informed me that they were ice unicorns of the Frozen Empire, and that the group that attacked her were just the tip of the ice-burg. She sensed an army of thousands hiding in that blizzard. An army that is heading this way.

“What's more, Twilight believes that they knew exactly who it was they were fighting when they ambushed her. So it is clear that they are hostile toward Equestria,” Rainbow told them then took one of the documents out of her saddlebags and placed it on the table for them to see. “As of today, Princess Twilight Sparkle, has declared war on the Frozen Empire.”

“Equestria hasn't gone to war in almost three hundred years!” One of the captains gasped in disbelief.

“Just who are they, this Frozen Empire?” Crimson asked.

“According to Twilight, they're the remnants of what was the ancient unicorn kingdom that existed before the founding of Equestria,” Rainbow answered. “They adapted themselves to the cold of the windigos that had driven out the three tribes, and have lived their lives in constant hatred ever since.”

“But that was over sixteen hundred years ago, why would they attack us now?”

She shook her head. “We don't know. What we do know is that they hate all other nations, but us especially. In the end the reasons don't matter; what matters is that they're on their way and we have less than a week to mobilize our forces and set up a defense.”

With her wing, Rainbow pointed to the badlands on the map table. “They are likely starting across the badlands as we speak. Princess Twilight believes that our best chance to stop them will be at the northern pass.” She gestured to it. “The terrain there will give us a great advantage as they will be bottle-necked entering the pass.”

“And how much of the guard does Princess Twilight intend to mobilize against this threat?”

“All of them. We are to send word to every city, all divisions of the guard, with orders to make for the pass as quickly as possible. But Twilight doesn't believe the guard alone will be enough, so she has issued a call-to-arms. Nopony will be forced, but all able-bodied ponies are encouraged to volunteer in order to defend their homes.”

“A call-to-arms? Is the situation really so dire?”

Rainbow nodded. “I'm afraid so.”

“Captain Dash, we have not had word from Princess Celestia or Princess Luna since they left for Saddle Arabia. As they have not returned, is Princess Twilight going to lead the defense herself?”

“No,” Rainbow said shaking her head. “As I said, Twilight was injured in the ambush and without her magic and being unable to fly, she believes she would just be a distraction if she were to be there.”

“Then who will be leading the army.”

Rainbow took a deep breath. “We will be under the command of the newly ascended alicorn, Midnight Star.”

“Midnight Star? The princess's daughter?”

“Newly ascended?”

Rainbow nodded affirmative to both questions. “Yes, Midnight ascended to an alicorn just last week, and for those that don't know, she shares Twilight's talent for magic. She will be leading the army in Twilight's stead unless Princesses Celestia and Luna return in time for the battle.”

“Do you think she's up to the task?” Crimson asked.

Rainbow considered the question for a moment before answering. “Midnight is both intelligent and powerful, but I do not doubt she will need help to lead this battle. However that is what we're here for,” she said and then lifted her saddlebags up onto the table. “Now we have a lot to do and only a few days to do it, so let's get to work. I have copies of both the call-to-arms and the declaration of war that are to be sent to all the major cities, and I will personally make the announcement and call for volunteers here in Canterlot as soon as a public assembly can be organized.”

Crimson nodded in agreement. “Alright, thank you, captain,” he said then turned to the others. “You heard her captains, lets get to work.”

~~~

“What do you think is going on?” Sky asked Wind as they waited in the town square of Ponyville. Most of the town was gathered including the students from the branch of Celestia's school.

“I don't know, but I bet it has something to do with how Twilight got injured,” Wind told her.

After Fluttershy had told Midnight that Twilight was back and that she'd been injured, Midnight had flown off without another word and with two of the Wonderbolts standing guard at the Library, they hadn't been able to find out more. It had been almost an hour later that they'd seen Midnight flying off with Rainbow Dash. Wind had tried to catch them to ask what was going on but then they'd disappeared with a flash. A little after that they'd received word that a town meeting had been called by Twilight herself.

Ponyville had grown far too large for such town meetings to be held in the town hall itself and so were always held in the square now. Unfortunately the larger size of the town also meant that it took longer for everypony to gather for such meetings. Wind shifted his wings impatiently, he didn't like standing still for so long.

“Hey! Sky, Wind!”

Wind looked over his shoulder to see Copper making his way through the crowd. “Hey, Copper.”

“Any Idea what this is all about? And where's Midnight?” Copper asked as he joined them, standing next to Sky. She gave him a brief look then seemed to decide he didn't exist.

Wind shook his head. “All we know is that Twilight was injured somehow and Midnight flew off with Rainbow Dash a little before Twilight called the meeting.”

“Twilight was injured?”

“Yeah, but Fluttershy told us it wasn't that bad.” Wind assured him.

“But who could possibly even injure Princess Twilight?” he asked, understandingly confused. They were all close enough to Midnight that they knew well how powerful Twilight was.

“I guess we'll find out. I'm actually a little surprised they flew all the way back here if Twilight was injured though. Considering where they were.”

Copper looked over at him curious. “Where were they?”

Wind leaned closer to Copper and spoke softly so only he would hear. “Midnight said to keep it quiet but that they were down in the Zebra homeland trying to help them with some mysterious blizzard.”

“The zebra homeland? That's south of the badlands right?”

Wind nodded.

“Yeah... why didn't they stop in Dodge then?”

He shrugged. “Whatever's going on, it must be big though. The wonderbolts are all in armor and seem to be acting as Twilight's guard. Even Rainbow was in armor when she and Midnight left, and I'm not sure, but I think Midnight was wearing part of Twilight's royal regalia.”

“That does sound serious,” Copper agreed then thought a moment. “If Twilight was injured, do you think she lost the rest of her guard?”

Wind grimaced. “I hope not...” The families of several of Twilight's guards were already in the square. Wind could see a few from where they were. The families were huddled together, looking worried. The Wonderbolts had been seen flying into town carrying Twilight. By now rumors had spread throughout the town, and those families were likely wondering why none of the rest of her guard had returned with Twilight.

A few minutes later a hush fell over the crowd and all eyes turned toward Twilight as she made her way to the stand. She was flanked by two of the Wonderbolts who were in armor, acting as her personal guard for the time being. Many looked on stunned and whispered to their neighbors when they saw Twilight's broken horn. Though such injuries happened and always healed in time, seeing a princess without her horn was an unsettling experience. Wind remembered similar reactions when Princess Celestia had lost her horn in the incident eleven years before. That Twilight's wing was also in a sling only added to the worry that was spreading through the square.

A respectful silence fell over the crowd again as Twilight took the stand and looked over the gathering.

“Thank you all for coming,” Twilight said in a gentle tone but with enough volume so that all could hear. “First of all, let me assure you that nopony else was injured; the members of the guard who went with me remained behind to make preparations.”

There was a collective sigh of relief from the families and friends of the guard, but Wind hadn't missed the last part. Make preparations for what? He wondered.

Twilight smiled sadly at their relief in hearing that their loved ones were safe. “But I'm afraid that's where the good news ends.”

Everypony's eyes were on Twilight again and worry began to spread through the square once more as she continued.

“While investigating a mysterious blizzard in the zebra homeland, I foolishly left my guard behind and was ambushed by a group of ice unicorns of the Frozen Empire. Through their actions I am certain that they knew who I was and so have shown themselves to be hostile to Equestria. And though I escaped them, it was not without injury as you can see.

“The group that attacked me however was only a small part of the force that is marching toward our borders even as we speak. The Frozen Empire has, through their aggressive actions, declared war on Equestria. And we must respond in kind,” Twilight told them. “As of today, I have declared Equestria at war with the Frozen Empire.”

Wind stared at Twilight, barely aware of the rest of the crowd's shocked reactions. War; it was something that hadn't been seen in Equestria in centuries. The last real war had been the Griffon war nearly four centuries before he'd even been born. Now, with no warning at all a hostile force was marching on their lands.

“Know that difficult times lay ahead. I have already sent to have the rest of the guard mobilized to our defense, but the guard alone is not going to be enough to face this threat. I am issuing a call-to-arms; all those in good health are encouraged to volunteer to help defend our home. I will not force anypony. And I also feel I must warn you. If you do volunteer, you will most likely be required to kill in defense of Equestria.”

“Kill!? Surely you don't mean that, Twi!” The voice of Applejack called from the crowd.

Twilight looked down at her friend sadly. “I'm afraid I do.”

The ponies of the town looked around at each other nervously. To kill for any reason was such a foreign concept to them.

“I understand your unease. Equestria has been sheltered from such violence for so long; few have ever dared challenge Celestia, as she watched over this land and so we've been spared from the wars that other nations endure.

“But the Frozen Empire is not going to back down; they have shown that they do not fear the power of alicorns. They are coming and the princesses cannot fight them alone. There is naught but hatred in their hearts and they let it feed the windigos that drove our ancestors from their lands. They have let their hearts become frozen in hate and have even bent the windigos to their will. Now they have turned that hatred on us.

“Make no mistake, they do not intend to simply rule over us. I have no doubt that their intent is our destruction. They hate us above all others because of the happiness and harmony we found while they have suffered for centuries.”

“Who are they?” Somepony asked.

Twilight sighed heavily. “They are the remnant of the ancient unicorn kingdom spoken of in the hearth's warming legend. Rather than follow our ancestors they chose to stay behind and try to save their kingdom. But they could not let go of their hate and the windigos continued to freeze their lands. Then, since they couldn't escape the cold, they adapted themselves to it using their magic. They made their bodies so that they could survive, even when they were as cold as ice. They became ice unicorns.

“I'm afraid there will be no negotiating with them. We must prepare to defend our lands at all costs, even if it means we must fight to the death.” She looked over the gathered ponies. “As I said, the guard will not be enough; we need volunteers. But think it over well before you make your choice. You have two days to decide, then those that volunteer will be heading south to the badlands pass, where we will make our stand.”

“Will you, princess, princess Celestia and princess Luna be joining the defense?”

Twilight winced slightly, almost unnoticeable, but Wind saw it. “Princesses Celestia and Luna are currently in Saddle Arabia. Some of the pegasi of my guard are keeping watch on the southern border and will inform them of the situation immediately on their return. Hopefully they will return before the Frozen Empire reaches our borders. As for myself; I am crippled for now without my magic or the ability to fly. I would only be a liability on the battlefield so I'm afraid I cannot afford to be there.

“However, many of you have heard by now of my daughter, Midnight's ascension. As an alicorn, she is both powerful and clever. She has learned well all I can teach her. And in this time of need she has proven both ready and willing. Therefore, I am granting her a title that has not been used since the Griffon wars almost four centuries ago: the title of General.”

Twilight looked out over the crowd gauging their reaction. If she noticed Wing, Sky and Copper's wide eyed expressions, she gave no indication of it. “And as the title may suggest, General Midnight Star will be leading the army in my stead until such time as Celestia and Luna return. I do not doubt that she will do well.

“Now, those who wish to volunteer should report here, to the town hall. You will be given instructions on what you will need and assigned to a train. If you have any weapons or armor of any kind, bring them, they will be needed.”

She paused a moment then finally said softly; “dark times lay ahead, everypony. But always remember light and harmony are on our side. So long as we remember that, we will not fall.”

Finished, Twilight stepped down from the stand and began making her way back through the crowd flanked once again by two of the wonderbolts. The crowd parted respectfully for her in silence as she passed.

Only then did Wind look over at his friend and sister. “Midnight's a general...” He breathed, still stunned by the revelation.

“And she's leading Equestria's forces into battle,” Sky added, equally stunned.

Copper shook his head. “This is crazy, why Midnight?”

They all thought about it a moment in silence, until Sky finally thought of an answer.

“It's probably mainly because she's an alicorn. And well...” She leaned close. “Remember? Midnight's been in battles before. I bet Twilight is took that into consideration.”

“She's been in fights, not battles,” Wind corrected. “She only ever fought on her own, she's never led an army before. At least as far as we know.”

“Twilight must have good reason though to put Midnight in charge, even if it is only until Celestia and Luna return.”

Wind nodded in agreement. “I know one thing for certain though, I'm not letting Midnight go into battle alone,” he said resolutely and got two nods of agreement in return.