• 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 12: Half Frozen

Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire
By Nebula Star

Part 2: To Build an Army
***
Chapter 12: Half Frozen
***

“Princess Cadence!”

Everypony in the crystal throne room turned toward the doors, startled by the guard lieutenant's abrupt entrance. Many rulers would have seen such a lack of decorum as an insult; but it was Cadence's gentle nature, love for her ponies, and understanding that made her such a beloved ruler.

“What is the matter, lieutenant,” She asked calmly.

“Your highness, an unknown alicorn crash landed at the south gate!” He exclaimed.

Cadence exchanged glances with Shining Armor who was sitting next to her as usual.

“What do you mean 'unknown', lieutenant?” Shinning asked.

“None of the guard recognized her, Sir. She's not one of the Princesses, of course. She's purple with with a very dark star-field mane and tail. And she also seems to be a young alicorn.”

Cadence glanced at Shining again, then stood. “I'm sorry everypony, but court is adjourned for today,” she announced then started toward the lieutenant, Shining by her side. “Lead the way, lieutenant.”

He bowed deeply then turned and quickly lead them back out of the castle.

“What condition is she in?” Cadence asked when they had reached the street, several of her personal guard following in their wake.

“She was unconscious when we found her, and looked almost half frozen. I left right away to tell you however, so I'm afraid I don't know more.”

“That's alright, you were right to come tell us,” Cadence assured him. “Did you happen to see her cutie mark?”

“Uh, no, your highness... we, we were a little nervous to approach her in case she woke.”

“That's certainly understandable, lieutenant.”

They soon made their way along one of the main roads that radiated from the castle like spokes toward the south gate of the Empire. A crowd gathered around by now though they were still keeping their distance. The Crystal ponies parted quickly however when they saw the princess and her entourage approaching.

Cadence saw the purple alicorn then, still lying where she had crashed just south of the gate. Her dark star-field mane and tail were waving gently in a non-existent wind though they seemed thin and weak, but otherwise she was completely still. Her coat and feathers were both damp from snow that had melted now that she was within the protective magic of the Crystal Empire. Beyond the bubble of that magic, however, a powerful blizzard was raging and she had likely been caught in the middle of it.

Cadence hurried over, concern overriding caution. When she reached the young alicorn she crouched down and gently lifted her head so that she could see her face. Her eyes widened as she recognized Midnight and her eyes went to the alicorn's flank and saw what was indeed her niece’s cutie mark.

“Shining! It's Midnight!” Cadence exclaimed. Shining's eyes widened and he hurried over as well.

“Midnight? Midnight Star? Princess Twilight's daughter?” The guard captain that had accompanied them asked sounding surprised. Twilight and Midnight had visited often enough that she was known by the guard, but they knew her as a unicorn, with a normal mane and tail.

“Yes, oh, Shining, she's cold as ice,” Cadence said, taking off Midnight's saddlebags and setting them aside before lying down next to her and putting her wing over her. She was also wearing a metal neck-piece that looked like part of Twilight's regalia. The metal was ice cold as well and she quickly removed it and put it with her saddlebags, seeing that it was indeed Twilight's as she did.

“But, I was not aware Midnight Star was an alicorn now,” The captain said sounding confused.

“Neither were we,” Shining told him. “But that's Midnight alright.”

“Bring blankets quickly!” Cadence called, worried about how cold Midnight felt under her wing and against her side.

“I don't see any obvious injuries...” Shining said looking her over.

Cadence shook her head. “No, she just seems completely exhausted, her magic is practically gone too.” She glanced south seeing the storm beyond the protective bubble. “She must have tried to fly here and got caught in the blizzard. But why would she do something so reckless.”

“How could she fly anyway? She can't have been an alicorn for very long... When did she learn?” Shining asked not really expecting anypony to answer.

“I don't know. Let's get her back to the castle though,” Cadence said as one of the guards returned with several blankets. She took a few and, levitating Midnight carefully in her magic, wrapped her in them. Then, still levitating her, Cadence stood and headed back to the castle. Shining followed close by her side, clearly worried as well. She was family after all.

~~~

Warmth; it was warm. In fact, it was starting to get too warm. That was probably what had woken her. Midnight tried to move, and immediately groaned in pain as all her muscles complained at once.

“Just rest a little longer, Midnight,” A soft familiar voice said from somewhere nearby.

Midnight gladly did as she was told. Her body felt like one giant aching muscle, and she wasn't completely awake anyway.

Slowly she became aware of more than her aches and pains. She was lying in a soft bed, covered by thick quilts. They were tucked tightly around her, holding her wings against her sides. Her wings were the worst of her aches and pains, especially the flight muscles along her sides and chest. That seemed odd to her; what had she done to make her wings so sore? The voice had been familiar; wasn't she at home? No, she wasn't was she...

Midnight's eyes shot open as she remembered what had happened and she was suddenly fully awake. Just as quickly, though, she realized that she was too weak and sore to move.

“Midnight, relax; you need rest.”

Midnight opened her eyes and looked toward the sound of the voice. “Cadence?”

She smiled. “Yes. Just relax, you're safe.”

Midnight couldn't relax though, her mind was reeling as she remembered what was going on, what she'd set out to do, and the limited time she'd had. Time! How much had she lost?

“How long... how long was I out?”

Cadence seemed to sense Midngiht's worry. “You were found late in the evening where you crashed just beyond the south gate. You've been asleep ever since, almost twelve hours.”

“Twelve hours!” Midnight exclaimed. She'd lost half a day! Still better than being a pony pop-sickle, but it was time Equestria may not be able to afford. “You have to send word, stop the trains from leaving,” Midnight told her remembering Twilight's instructions. They'd need every train they could get to transport the guard and any volunteers as quickly as possible.

“The trains aren't running at the moment, Midnight,” Cadence told her then smiled wryly. “There's a blizzard outside the Empire.”

Midnight groaned, “Yeah, I kind of noticed. How long do storms like that last?” If she got stuck in the Crystal Empire because of a storm...

“Actually the storm is clearing up now, or so I'm told. It will be a few hours before the trains can start running again, though.”

“Make sure none leave,” Midnight told her tiredly.

She looked at Midnight a moment more then nodded. “Alright, I'll send word. But when I get back, you're going to have some questions to answer,” she warned then got up and started toward the door, but then she paused and looked back, smiling kindly. “I'll also bring you something to eat. I bet you could use a bite.”

As if on cue, Midnight became aware of her ravenous hunger. She hadn't eaten since morning the day before. “Thanks.”

Cadence gave her one more smile then turned and left the room.

Midnight laid her head down then to rest for a few more minutes while she waited. The room she was in was one of the guest rooms of the castle. She'd often stayed in these rooms when she'd come to visit with Twilight. Her saddlebags were set against the bedside table next to the bed and the neck-piece of Twilight's regalia was set on the table itself.

It was then she caught sight of a small point of light on the edge of her vision. She looked up to see that her mane had once again been transformed into its star-field form. Almost without thought she cut off the flow of magic and they changed back to normal.

She sighed heavily. Half a day wasted. It was probably not a problem. So long as she left by that afternoon, she should be able to reach the pass with at least two days to spare. Most the guard from the Crystal Empire could then follow and arrive perhaps a day behind.

The numbers were beginning to worry her though. She knew there were over three-hundred members of the guard in the Crystal Empire, and nearly as many in each of the major cities in Equestria. All together, including those from the various smaller towns and villages, she estimated the guard to be a little over three-thousand strong, with about a thousand each earth ponies, pegasi and unicorns. But Twilight had said the Frozen Empire's forces were thousands strong. She couldn't say for certain, but she had estimated at least five thousand, all unicorns.

It was no secret that unicorns held an advantage in battle. Pegasi had the advantage of flight, but that alone would not be enough to counter magic. Their forces were severely outmatched. Even if enough volunteers joined the defense to double their forces, it wouldn't be enough. They may gain the advantage in numbers, but magic wise they'd still be at a severe disadvantage. And then half their forces would be untrained for combat.

So long as they secured the pass, they'd at least have the advantage of terrain as Twilight had said, but would that alone be enough to tip the balance in their favor?

Midnight's eyes widened. She was forgetting the windigos! Windigos could fly, which meant they could counter whatever advantage the pegasi had, and the freezing cold of their hate fed magic could easily cripple Equestria's forces.

The more she thought about it, the worse and worse the situation seemed to become. How could they win short of marching half of Equestria into battle?

The door opened then as Cadence and Shining Armor entered, providing Midnight with a welcome distraction to keep her from losing hope completely.

Shining gave her a reassuring smile as he entered, levitating a tray behind him that held a bowl and plate though she couldn't see the contents.

“Well, you're looking better. Glad to see you're awake, Midnight. Before we bombard you with questions though, you should probably eat this,” Shining Armor said as he levitated the tray to the side of the bed. Lying on her stomach, she raised her head breathing deeply the aroma of hot tomato soup and fresh baked bread.

“Thanks...” Midnight said then looked up at them, not wanting to seem rude. “Have you eaten?”

“We had breakfast an hour ago,” Cadence told her with a smile. “We weren't sure when you would wake. Considering your condition when you were found, you're recovering very quickly.”

“Hurray for alicorn healing...” Midnight said with a weak grin, then gladly levitated the soup spoon and started eating. Cadence and Shining Armor politely waited while she ate, and didn't make any mention of the haste at which she devoured the food. She'd never thought tomato soup and a few slices of bread could ever taste so good.

When she was done though, Shining levitated the tray to the bedside table, out of the way. “So, now that you're done, I think the most obvious question we have for you is, when did you become an alicorn?”

Midnight, feeling much better now that she'd eaten, let out a small laugh. “That was about a week ago,” she told them with a smile. “Twilight wanted to make a public announcement, but the next day was when everything started happening.”

“What do you mean? What started happening?” Cadence asked.

Midnight took a deep breath. “Well... it's not good,” she said then set about telling them everything that had happened from when Twilight had first received the message from Celestia up until Midnight and Rainbow's departure from Ponyville. Near the end she took out the copies of the call-to-arms as well as the declaration of war and gave them to Cadence and Shining to examine.

“So you thought you could get word to us in time for us to mobilize our guard to help?” Cadence asked and Midnight nodded. “Midnight, it was still reckless to try and fly up here,” she said shaking her head.

“I wasn't just flying. I was teleporting as far as I could over and over along the way,” Midnight told her then sighed. “I probably would have been fine if it weren't for that blizzard.”

“So why were you wearing Twilight's Regalia?” Shining asked gesturing to it on the table.

Midnight took a deep breath. “Because mom is putting me in charge. She can't be there herself, so I'm going to be leading the army in her stead. She wanted me to wear it to show that I am acting with her authority.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “According to this, you don't need Twilight's authority to lead the army,” he said gesturing to the call-to-arms.

Midnight blinked. “What do you mean?” She hadn't read the documents herself.

“Well it says here that Twilight has granted you the title of General.”

“WHAT!?” She exclaimed, her eyes widening as she snatched the call-to-arms from Shining's magic with her own. It didn't take her long to find her name and the official declaration naming her as General of the Guard.

She put a hoof over her eyes and groaned in frustration. “Mom...”

“You didn't know?” Shining asked sounding amused.

“No, if I did... I would have told her not to...” She groaned again realizing that was precisely why Twilight hadn't told her. It was too late to change now, copies of the call-to-arms had likely already been distributed to every major city in Equestria. Likely thousands of ponies had known of her being appointed as General before she'd even woken up.

“So then why did Twilight want you to wear this?” Cadence said levitating over the piece of regalia.

Midnight looked at it a moment. She didn't need Twilight's authority if she was a general herself; Twilight would have known that. So why did she insist on Midnight wearing it? She sighed. “I think I know,” she said taking it in her own magic. She then used a couple quick spells to scan the regalia and found exactly what she suspected was there. “Yep, it's enchanted, with some very powerful defensive enchantments. Mom probably did them herself.”

Shining grinned. “That sounds like Twily; trying to protect you without you knowing it.”

Midnight sighed and nodded, smiling slightly. “Yeah.”

“What I'd like to know is why Twilight want's you leading the army anyway?” Shining said turning more serious. “Not to be rude, but you don't really have any experience in leadership at all, let alone leading an army in battle.”

Midnight nodded in agreement. “It's because I'm an alicorn,” she explained. “Mom is certain that a good portion of the army would lose hope if they didn't have an alicorn there leading them. Basically she wants me to be kind of a figurehead while leaving most of the actual decisions to the captains of the guard.”

“I suppose that makes sense...”

“That's actually the other reason I came here myself,” she went on. “I wanted to ask you to be my adviser, my second in command, I guess.”

Shining looked slightly surprised. “Me?”

She nodded. “You were Captain of the royal guard for years, you're well respected and well liked.” She sighed. “And I want... need somepony by my side that I can trust.”

Cadence and Shining exchanged a look that seemed to convey far more than Midnight would ever know and Cadence nodded. Then Shining turned back to Midnight. “Alright; I'll be your second.”

Midnight smiled. “Thanks, Shining,” she said sincerely. “We'll have to head out as soon as possible, along with the rest of the guard. Any volunteers will have to follow later. They may not make it in time, but we might get lucky. We'll have to take the trains to Dodge, but from there the guard will have to march. I'll get us to the pass a little quicker by teleporting us along the way...”

“Alright, alright, General,” Shining said grinning and holding up his hooves in a halting gesture. “We have a few hours to make plans before the trains can start running again. I'll send word and have the guard preparing to leave, but then we'll have a few days on the train to make additional plans.”

She opened her mouth again for a moment as if she were going to say more but then decided against it and instead smiled. “Thanks, Shining, really. I know that I'm going to need your help once we get down there... I'm worried, this is the greatest threat Equestria has known in centuries.”

He nodded in understanding. “It's alright to be worried,” he assured her. “I never thought I'd see war, though I trained for it.” He shrugged. “Even the changeling attack was barely something you could call a battle, and it sure didn't last long,” he said giving his wife a grin and she smiled in return.

“Well, I'd best get the guard moving so we can go as soon as the rails are clear,” Shining said standing.

Cadence nodded. “Alright, in the meantime, Midnight, why don't you and I talk about more pleasant things?”

“Like what?”

“Well I would like to hear how you became an alicorn.”

Midnight winced, she'd been so caught up worrying about the war that she'd all but forgotten about her recent transformation and the return of her memories that had caused it. “Actually, Shining, you should hear this.” She said quickly just before he could leave.

He turned back curious. “You could tell me later, the guard is going to need time to prepare...”

“No, it would be best if I tell you now.”

He looked at her a moment, seeing that it was important. Then he nodded and sat back down next to Cadence.

Midnight took a deep breath. “Did you hear about the Hydra incident a few weeks back?”

They nodded together. “Twilight said you saved who knows how many lives by driving the beast back when you did,” Cadence said smiling.

She nodded. “For a few weeks after the incident, I started having nightmares. They were vague at first, all I could remember was there was a lot of suffering, and I was the one causing the suffering.”

Cadence and Shining glanced at each other seeming slightly nervous. Midnight went on knowing it would only get worse.

“Eventually the nightmares became clearer; I began dreaming about things that I had never seen before; that I shouldn't have been able to dream about. Then... then I had a nightmare where I was fighting Twilight, and I realized that they weren't just dreams. They were memories. And when I did, all of my memories, the memories Twilight had tried to lock away, they all came back,” She lowered her eyes in shame. “I remember everything, who I was, the horrible things I did. It all came back.”

The room was silent for a few moments as Cadence and Shining Armor stared at Midnight. She kept her eyes down, afraid of what their reactions would be. It was Shining who finally broke the silence.

“How are we suppose to trust you now?” He asked. His voice was calm, but it was clear he was angry. “How do we know you're not the pony you use to be? How do we know you won't betray us?”

Midnight looked up at him, tears filling her eyes. “Do you think I would just throw away my life? Everything Twilight has given me? That I would turn my back on my friends, my family!? Do you really think I would give up my happiness just because of some bad memories!?”

When they didn't respond right away she went on. “Twilight has done so much for me! She gave me a new life! A chance to be happy! I'd never betray her again! She saved me... she... she's my mom... she's the only mom I've ever known. I'd never hurt her.”

She looked down again. “When those memories came back, it was hard. I... I had to choose between the chaos of my past, and the harmony that Twilight had taught me. But I've chosen harmony.” Finally she looked up at them again. “My wings are the result of that choice. I've chosen harmony, and I would never betray you, my mom, or anypony else. I would never betray Equestria.”

Shining glanced at Cadence, then looked back at Midnight. Finally he took a deep breath and nodded. “Alright, we believe you.”

“We're sorry we even doubted you, Midnight. You did give us quite a scare back then, but we've watched you grow into a wonderful young mare,” Cadence said gently. “We know you'd never go back to the way you were before.”

Midnight lowered her eyes. “It was a near thing... I almost lost myself. I know I didn't deserve another chance. But my friends reminded me of all the good I've done since then... It's not enough to make up for all the terrible things I did, both here and in my own world, but I will continue to do all I can. Maybe... maybe one day it will be enough.”

“Midnight, Twilight told us about what you went through in your world,” Cadence told her, putting her hoof over Midnight's. “Don't blame yourself for what you did, you weren't in your right mind.”

She snorted. “Well, that's true. I was definitely cracked,” she agreed but then shook her head. “That's no excuse though. Twilight tried to help me, and I betrayed her anyway. I still have a lot to make up for.” She looked up smiling weakly. “I'm going to make up for it by being the best that I can be. Like my friends said, I have plenty of time...”

Cadence smiled and nodded. “You do at that, so don't push yourself. Just be yourself Midnight, that will be enough.”

Midnight smiled in thanks. “I also wanted to thank you both for letting Twilight give me a second chance and I'm sorry for what I did to you that night.”

“Well you just gave me a scare,” Cadence said dismissively. “It was Shining that had to limp for a few weeks afterwards.” She said giving her husband an nudge.

Shining shrugged. “I recovered just fine,” he said then gave Midnight's shoulder a soft jab. “You've proven often enough that Twilight made the right choice. We were glad to give you a second chance.”

“Thanks.”

Shining nodded then stood. “I'd better get the guard moving. You should get some more rest, Midnight.”

Cadence nodded. “Yes, you are still recovering after all, even if you are an alicorn.” She grinned. “I wish my alicorn healing was as strong as you ascended and full blood alicorns.”

“It's not?” Midnight asked surprised.

She shook her head as she stood as well. “No, not quite. I definitely heal faster than most ponies, but not quite as fast as you.” She turned to the door. “We'll keep you informed, General,” she said with a wink.

Midnight just groaned in response.

~~~

Rainbow banked sharply and landed just outside the tent where the other captains were gathered. She'd just arrived at the front with the volunteer forces from Canterlot. It had taken them two days to gather volunteers and organized them for the journey south. And then another two days traveling. There had been a surprising number of volunteers from Canterlot, almost five hundred total. She hoped it would be enough. Having seen the storm the enemy was using for cover herself, she wasn't about to underestimate them.

They were now being organized into squads under lieutenants of the guard. The civilian volunteers would be held in reserve from what Rainbow had been told. She knew it was for the best, but she really wondered if any of them would be able to avoid fighting.

The guards outside the tent let her pass without question. They knew her rank even if a fair number of the guard conveniently forgot it from time to time. Several of the captains looked up as she entered, one in particular smiled and turned to greet her. One she was very glad to see.

“Glad you finally made it back, Captain Rainbow Dash.” He said smiling.

“Reporting from Canterlot. I brought in a volunteer force five hundred strong from the city. They are being organized, outfitted and armed as we speak. Captain Valor Spellbound.” It was all she could do not to tackle him right then and there.

He smiled and stepped close giving her a kiss that she returned fervently. Then he gave her a smile. “It's good to see you.”

“You too, Valor,” She said returning his smile, then turned to the other captains present. There were nearly thirty captains of the guard in the large tent, gathered in a circle around a portable map table one of the unicorns must have brought. The surface of the table had been reshaped magically into a surprisingly accurate representation of the pass and the northernmost parts of the badlands.

“Glad you could make it,” Captain Crimson Flare said, smiling slightly at Rainbow and Valor's reunion. “It's good to hear that so many in Canterlot volunteered for the cause.” He'd left with the guard the same day that Rainbow had arrived in the city. He gestured toward the map. “Join us so we can bring you up to date on our preparations. The rest of the Wonderbolts arrived yesterday with the Ponyville volunteers.”

Rainbow nodded. “What about those that stayed behind as Twilight's guard? We need all the forces we can get, but we can't leave the princess unguarded,” she said then grinned slightly imagining what Twilight would think of that.

“I already dispatched several pegasi of Twilight's personal guard to relieve your Wonderbolts,” Valor assured her. “They should have arrived while you were in Canterlot I believe.”

“And we've also dispatched pegasi to patrol the southern border, watching for the princesses' return.” Crimson added. “So lets get to the matter at hoof.”

“What of this General Midnight Star? Has there been any word from her?” One of the captains that Rainbow wasn't familiar with asked. Rainbow wasn't surprised by the title, though it was still strange hearing it. Twilight had told her before they'd left for Canterlot that she was appointing Midnight as general, though she had said not to tell Midnight at the time.

“Last I saw her she was headed to the Crystal Empire to make sure they received word on time. If everything went according to plan, she should be less than a day behind me.”

“And how exactly was she going to manage that? The Crystal Empire is at least two days round trip from Canterlot.”

“She was going to manage it by flying and teleporting herself repeatedly along the way.”

Even Valor was surprised by that, but it was one of the other unicorns who's eyes went wide with his mouth agape. “Teleporting? She'd have to teleport hundreds of times to cover that much distance. There's no way she could have that much magic, could she? I don't think even Celestia could teleport that many times without rest.”

“Midnight Star can,” Rainbow told him. “All of you need to understand, now that she's an alicorn, Midnight is likely more powerful than both Celestia and Luna. She doesn't have the experience of the royal sisters, but in raw power, only Twilight is stronger.”

~~~

“General Midnight, we're about ten minutes from the Dodge station.”

Midnight groaned, looking up from where she was relaxing in her private quarters on the train. “Shining, will you please not call me that?”

Shining Armor smiled and stepped inside, closing to door. “Midnight, I was thinking about why Twilight made you general, what you said about being a figurehead. I think she made the right choice.”

She looked up at him and smiled. “Thanks.”

“But for it to work, you need to play the part,” Shining went on in a firmer tone. “That means you need to be confident. You need to accept your title and not keep rejecting it. You need to provide an inspiring presence, and you need to give the appearance of leadership even if you leave most the decisions up to me and the other captains.”

Midnight winced slightly. “I guess you're right...” She sighed heavily. She knew Twilight was expecting more of her than just being there. She may be an alicorn, but the ponies needed an alicorn to lead them, not just to be there with them.

Shining smiled and gave her shoulder a little jab. “I'll be by your side to help you, but you need to give the appearance of being in command. Remember, as General you outrank everypony but the princesses in times of war, so don't let anypony talk back to you. Listen to advice when it is given, but once you give an order, then they should carry it out without question.”

She grimaced. “What if I make a mistake.”

“You're not allowed to make mistakes,” he told her with a wry grin.

“But...!”

“That's why I said you should take advice. Listen to what the other captains and I have to say and use that to make your decisions. Just once you give the order, there should be no more discussion.”

Midnight sighed and nodded. “I'm still nervous.”

He smiled understandingly. “I was too when I was given my first command as captain of the guard. That was before I was promoted to the royal guard. 'Course, that's not quite the same as being made General in a time of war, but you're strong, Midnight. You'll do fine.”

“I just hope the princesses get back in time,” she told him heavily.

“So do I,” he replied with a grin.

She snorted and rolled her eyes. “Thanks a lot.”

He smiled. “Well they do have thousands of years more experience and while Celestia especially hates the idea of killing for any reason, she has dealt with wars before.”

“Good point...” Midnight sighed again and looked out the window a moment. “I hope we can find a way to win.”

“We will,” Shining said with confidence. “Never underestimate the ponies of Equestria.”

She shook her head. “Confidence is great, Shining, but we need to be realistic. Numbers wise we may have an advantage, we won't know for certain until we get there and see how many showed up. But as far as magic goes we are terribly outmatched. The Frozen Empire's forces are likely all trained for combative magic, whereas we only have about a thousand unicorns trained for combat. Our pegasi and earth ponies will be almost helpless against the unicorns... unless...”

“Unless what?” Shining asked curious.

She smiled. “Maybe I can help even the odds. I developed a method of enchanting recently that allows the enchanted item to draw magic from the pony wearing it to power the spell. I could put a defensive enchantment on everypony's armor to at least protect them from magical attacks.”

“An enchantment that draws power from the pony wearing it? Even earth ponies and pegasi?”

She nodded. “Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to give the pony wearing the item control of the spell or else I could also give them some offensive magic. The spells have to be reactive or triggered by a key word or gesture.”

“Even so, that would definitely help,” Shining said sounding impressed. “How difficult is the enchantment?”

“Not very. It doesn't take a lot of energy, but it is rather complex.”

“Does it take you long?”

She shook her head. “It's only takes a moment to cast. Why?”

“Well, if you can, it would be better for you to have somepony else do it. You may not have time yourself, and it would be best for you to not wear yourself out.”

“I could do the spell a thousand times and not wear myself out,” she said with a bit of a laugh. “But yeah, I see your point. I'll have to see if any of the unicorns can learn the spell.”

He nodded, then stood up turning to go. “Perhaps I can recommend a few once we arrive. It shouldn't be too much longer to Dodge in any case. Remember what I said about playing the part though, Midnight.”

“I will...” she said then a thought occurred to her. “Oh, Shining, what is your rank now? So I know how to address you.”

He smiled. “I still hold the rank of captain of the royal guard despite being a prince by marriage.”

“Alright, you're dismissed, captain,” Midnight said with a grin.

He laughed then opened the door. “General,” he said giving her a salute and then left.

~~~

“That looks like the camp ahead,” Shining said looking out over the foothills toward the pass.

Midnight nodded. “I should be able to make that in one more jump,” she said confidently, spotting a convenient ridge that appeared completely empty. “Brace yourself.”

He nodded, he was use to being teleported by now. Midnight cast her spell and light flashed around them. The next instant they were standing on the ridge looking down into the camp. Their appearance didn't go unnoticed. Many eyes turned toward them having seen the flash.

Midnight spread her wings wide and lit her horn, making it obvious who she was. A moment later a cheer ran through the camp making Midnight smile. It did seem Twilight was right about the ponies of Equestria looking to alicorns for leadership.

Shining grinned. “Good, now remember; you're in command, general.”

Midnight nodded and then headed down the slope toward the camp. Several guard ponies wearing armor that identified them as lieutenants hurried forward to meet them.

“General Midnight Star?” One of them asked as they drew close.

“Yes. Captain Shining Armor and I need to get to the command tent,” Midnight told him doing her best to sound confident.

He nodded giving her a salute, that she was an alicorn was apparently enough proof of who she was to him. “Of course, right this way,” he said turning to lead the way. The rest of the lieutenants saluted as they passed.

As they made their way through the camp it seemed everypony stopped whatever they were doing to watch, many of them giving salutes when they realized who she was. Midnight held her wings open the entire way, Twilight's words concerning the ponies of Equestria looking to alicorns for leadership as well as comfort seemed more true than ever as she saw the reactions of those they passed.

Eventually though they reached a large tent that was under guard on a hill in the center of the camp. The guards eyes widened when they saw her and they saluted letting her pass by and enter the tent. Several of the captains in the tent looked up as she entered.

“There you are, General,” Rainbow said with a grin being one of the captains present. “We've been expecting you since yesterday.”

“Yes; unfortunately a blizzard caused a bit of a delay in the Crystal Empire,” Midnight told them walking up to the map table and looking over the detailed representation of the pass. “Now why don't you bring me up to date on where we stand and let's see what we can do to improve the situation.”