• 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 5: A World Without Love

Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire
By Nebula Star

Part 1: Shadows of the Past
***
Chapter 5: A World Without Love
***

Sitting in her throne, the empress of Equestria, Midnight Star, looked out through grand windows over the lands in her control. As far as the eye could see and far beyond as well, the world belonged to her. All the ponies, zebras, griffons, even the dragons of the world cowered under her rule; and she hated them all.

Her throne room was stark. Built from black stone, it was open and empty. There was only the raised platform that held her throne, and the enormous pillars behind it. Between the pillars were the windows that gave an unobstructed view of the desolate waste that was Equestria.

An expanse of dead lands surrounded the capitol. Cracked and dry, great fissures ran throughout the land for miles around, smokeless emerald flames often erupting from their depths. Nearer the city, the land had completely broken apart and the pieces were floating and slowly drifting, orbiting the castle. The city was now a collection of buildings, mostly ruins, that floated below, and the castle itself was suspended in the air high above the city by Midnight's chaos magic.

Her castle wasn't the original Canterlot Castle, it had been rebuilt by her slaves after she'd destroyed the original in her battle with Nightmare Moon and Discord, and she'd had them build it in a manner to inspire fear. She knew many of the ponies of Equestria had hoped that with Discord's defeat they would finally be able to rebuild and perhaps make Equestria the paradise that legend said it had once been. But there would be no happiness in Midnight's world; she would no allow it.

The ponies had quickly learned that they had been better off under Discord; for Midnight had no playful nature, no pity, no remorse. She existed to see to it that all ponies suffered. All good things end; that was the lesson she'd learned early on, and it was the lesson she now taught the world.

Not that many hadn't already learned it. She had caused greater suffering, but most had already been in a constant state of unrest and torment when she'd come to power. Most of the lands had been destroyed in the wars centuries past. Very little grew in Equestria, even many of the great forests had withered and died. Those that remained were the only source of food the ponies of Equestria had. But the forests had always been a haven for the monsters and great beasts of the world. The Ponies had to choose; either die slowly of starvation, or risk a sudden death as the meal of some monster in order to live where there was food. Most chose to live in the forests.

Some banded together forming small colonies that would work together to help each other survive. Every time Midnight heard of a colony doing exceptionally well though, she saw to it that the colony failed. She wouldn't kill anypony herself, she rarely killed unless the pony was well loved and their death would cause a great deal of suffering in others. Instead she would destroy their homes and chase them into the forests, scattering them into the wilds and then leaving them to mercy of the monsters.

Only a few colonies did she allow a continued existence, mainly so the population wouldn't die out completely. One of those colonies however was becoming too well established, growing too large. Word was spreading, and ponies from throughout the land were starting to flock to what was beginning to be seen as a safe haven.

It was her own fault. She'd left the colony untouched for far too long; she should have plucked it out like a weed long since. Even if it was the colony where she had grown up...

She heard hoof steps enter a few steps into her throne room behind her but paid it no mind, nopony could harm her.

“Great Empress, there is somepony... someone requesting an audience with you.”

They could however, annoy her.

Midnight clenched her jaw, but otherwise sat in silence a few moments while the slave waited for her response. The fool! He should know better than to interrupt me when I'm thinking! She thought angrily. All her slaves should know by now to always wait for her to speak first. Finally though, it was clear he wasn't going to realize his mistake.

“Send them in,” Midnight said softly, her voice cold. “And then go throw yourself off the highest waterfall.” She had no use for slaves that didn't know when to hold their tongues.

With her back turned to him she couldn't see his reaction, but she could imagine the look on his face by the tremor in his voice. “As you wish, Great Empress.”

Then she heard his hoof-steps leaving the throne room to do as she'd commanded. She had no doubt he would. Everypony new better than to disobey her orders.

A few moments later another set of hoof-steps entered the throne room. These, however were accompanied by an unusual magical aura, the likes of which Midnight had never felt before. It wasn't very strong though, and so no threat to her. She remained silent waiting to see if this visitor was as foolish as her slave. They stopped near the base of the platform though and waited. For several minutes Midnight let the silence drag on, just gazing out the window and giving no indication that she even knew the visitor was there.

Finally she decided she'd waited long enough. “You are either wise, or my slaves warned you not to speak until spoken to. I'm inclined to believe the latter.” She said, then stood from her throne stepping around it to face her visitor. When she did see her however, she raised an eyebrow in surprise. “What pit of Tartarus did you crawl out of?”

It wasn't a pony standing at the foot of her throne; her hide was black and leathery, in some places it looked almost like an insect carapace. Her mane and tail were a sickly looking blue and ragged. She had both a horn and wings like an Alicorn, but her wings were transparent and like an insect's, and her horn was bent and twisted. She was thin and appeared underfed. Her entire body in fact, had a generally unhealthy appearance. Even her hooves looked like they were rotting away with holes that appeared as if something had eaten all the way through them.

Her insult was not lost on the visitor. With some difficulty it seemed, she managed to maintain her composure. “Empress Midnight Star,” She started with obviously forced respect. “I am Queen Chrysalis of the changelings...”

Midnight snorted, cutting her off. “You dare to name yourself a Queen in my presence?” She stepped closer letting her magic fill the air threateningly. Being on a raised platform gave her the advantage of height despite Chrysalis being twice her size. “This world is mine and every living thing in it is under my rule. You are my subject and nothing more unless I say you are.”

The changeling shrank back; even the least attuned magic wielder would be able to feel the amount of magic Midnight was giving off. “Forgive me!” She begged, bowing deeply.

Midnight just sneered at her cowardice. “What do you want?” She demanded, just wanting to be rid of the wretched creature.

“I; I...” she stammered, thrown off by Midnight's rapid shifts in demeanor. She took a deep breath seeming to brace herself. “I came to ask if you would let the ponies of Equestria be for a time, your majesty.” She stumbled over the last as she clearly was not use to speaking to another as her superior.

“What?” Midnight growled as if she couldn't believe what she'd heard.

“Please, give them a chance, they've suffered for so long. They've all but forgotten how to love,” Chrysalis begged.

“And why do you even care?”

She was taken back. “Well, because we changelings, we feed off of love; but there hasn't been enough these past few years. We can eat normal foods when necessary as a supplement, but we still need to feed off of love to survive... we're starving.” She lowered her eyes looking pitiful. It was too bad Midnight was incapable of pity.

Midnight burst out laughing, taking twisted amusement in the changeling's plight. “Oh, I'm so sorry!” She exclaimed mockingly, still laughing. “Did I kill your food?”

Chrysalis looked up at her in disbelief, but Midnight just continued to laugh. “I'm just asking you to let them be; you don't have to do anything.” She pleaded.

“Why should I stop my fun?” Midnight asked as if what she was requesting were completely unreasonable.

“Please, the changelings; they're my family... my children,” she said as if revealing a great secret. “They're starving, many have died already... They're my children, I'll do anything,” She begged, tears coming to her eyes.

Midnight just grinned wickedly down at her. “Why should I care if all your wretched kind starve and die?” She snorted a laugh. “I say good riddance!”

Chrysalis stared up at her trembling with the rage of a mother that would do anything to save her children. She couldn't hold it back. With a cry she leaped into the air and her horn glowed brightly as she cast her most powerful spell.

Midnight looked up at her with contempt as her own horn glowed; a fraction of her power was more than enough to block the changeling's magic. Then she cast a counter-attack that hit Chrysalis with enough force to throw her across the throne room to slam into the wall and then fall to the floor. She laid there gasping for a moment as Midnight slowly crossed the throne room toward her; amused by her foolishness.

As she approached, the changeling's gasping breaths changed to sobs. She was crying, but that only satisfied Midnight further. She heard Midnight's steps approaching and looked up at her, tears falling from her eyes. She wasn't afraid for herself, but for her children; they'd suffered so much already, she feared for their future. “How can you be so cruel?” She whispered, knowing Midnight wasn't going to kill her; she knew Midnight wanted her to suffer.

“The world is cruel, Chrysalis,” Midnight said coldly, standing over her. “All good things end. It is time you accepted that truth.” She turned her back on the changeling then and returned to her throne. “Now get out, and if I ever see your wretched hide again, I will make you watch as I disembowel every one of your remaining offspring.”

She heard the changeling get to her hooves and then slow, uneven steps as she limped toward the door; but then she stopped in the doorway and looked back over her shoulder. “You're a monster,” she said softly, and then she was gone.

~~~

With a gasp Midnight woke from the nightmare, her entire body trembling. She'd called her a monster. The changeling queen had called her a monster! Panic began to set in and she started to hyperventilate causing herself to become lightheaded. She put her hooves to her forehead and stayed like that for several long minutes as she tried to get her breathing under control and calm down. “It was just a nightmare,” she told herself softly again and again but to no avail. It had seemed far to real to be just a nightmare.

But if it wasn't... she felt sick thinking of all she had done in the dream. Even if it was the same changeling queen as the one that had attacked Canterlot in this world, she had come to Midnight begging for help. As a mother she'd just wanted to ensure her children's welfare and Midnight had laughed at her suffering, then threatened her children besides. And the slave...

“It was just a nightmare,” she told herself once more, but her voice was as weak and hollow as the words themselves.

How could it be just a nightmare? How could she have dreamed of the changeling queen? She'd heard the story before of course; but she'd never even seen a changeling before, let alone the queen. How could she know what the queen looked like to dream of her? And she was certain that she'd never heard the queen's name before. But if it wasn't just a dream then what was it?

Midnight could only think of one explanation... a memory.

A memory of her past, but not as Twilight had made it out to be. Twilight had made it sound as if she'd been a victim. She'd been brought to this world along with an evil spirit from her world, and Twilight had defeated that spirit, saving her in the process... She wasn't the victim in this memory, if that was what it was; no, she was the villain. Could it be that she wasn't brought with an evil spirit? That she was the evil spirit?

“NO!” She cried in defiance. “It was just a Nightmare!” She told herself; “I'm not evil... I'm not a villain!” Wind's words from the week before came to mind.

'You're not a villain Midnight; you never have been, and you never will be.'

But what if he was wrong... what if she had been a villain?

Rolling over, she buried her face in her pillow and cried. On and on she cried wondering just who she was, and what other horrors had she committed in her past life.

~~~

Twilight smiled as she put away the spell-book she'd been working on. It was an instructional text on simple transfiguration spells. The books the school currently used just weren't adequate as far as she was concerned, and so she'd started writing her own to fill the need.

It was Tuesday though, and that meant her afternoon was fully booked and her work on the text would have to wait for another day. Today, she was spending time with her daughter.

Midnight had shown her the enchantment she was working on the last time they'd gotten together and Twilight had been quite impressed. Especially when Midnight had told her of the uses she'd already found for the new technique. She was looking forward to helping Midnight try to figure out how to transfer control of a more complex spell to the wearer. They'd had no luck the week before.

Spike was busy in the kitchen making lunch for when Midnight arrived while Twilight finished cleaning the main room. She'd gotten out a surprising number of books on magic while working on her text, and she'd never been very good at keeping track of where they all belonged.

Midnight didn't show up right at noon like she normally did though, so Twilight had time to finish putting the books away and begin to wonder where Midnight was when there was finally a knock on the door.

Twilight answered it quickly and smiled as she saw it was her daughter at the door.

Midnight had been looking down, but looked up and smiled seeming relieved as she saw Twilight standing there. “Hi, mom.”

She'd smiled and tried to look cheerful, but Twilight immediately knew something was wrong. “Midnight? You look troubled.” She said gently as she let her in.

“I... I've still been having nightmares,” she said softly.

“You want to talk about it?”

Midnight shook her head then looked up and smiled, clearly wanting to just put it out of mind for now. “I brought my things,” she said nodding back to her saddle bags.

Twilight smiled; she was still concerned about Midnight, but she was more than willing to help her daughter forget her troubles for a few hours. “Well Spike's made us some lunch, so let's go eat and then we'll get to work.”

A few hours later it was clear that Midnight was having a hard time putting whatever was troubling her out of mind. Twilight didn't say anything, she really was trying to help distract her daughter from her thoughts; but when Midnight realized that she'd tried the exact same enchantment three times in a row without even the slightest variation, her frustration got the better of her. With a curse she tossed her saddle bags across the room, scattering the necklaces she'd been using to test the enchantments.

“Midnight,” Twilight scolded gently. They were lying side by side on large cushions in the center of the library's main floor.

“I'm sorry, mom,” she moaned. “I just...”

Twilight just reached her wing around Midnight and hugged her reassuringly; then, using her magic she gathered all the scattered necklaces as well as Midnight's saddle bags and began to put them away. As she did though, she saw one of the necklaces was different from the rest. It wasn't a cheap everyday necklace. This one was far nicer and looked fairly expensive.

It was a gold chain attached to a pair of open wings that spread out from a large oval amethyst of an unusually light purple. When worn the amethyst would be in the center of the pony's chest, with the golden wings wrapping up and almost halfway around their neck to where they attached to the chain.

“What's this?” She asked holding up the fine necklace in her magic for Midnight to see.

She looked up, “Oh, that's for a gift I was making...” She said with a sigh. “I haven't had a chance to work on it though.”

“That's a pretty nice gift,” Twilight said putting the necklace in the saddle bags with the others, then gave Midnight a squeeze. “You're always so generous.”

She snorted derisively making Twilight look at her in surprise.

“Midnight, what's wrong?” She asked hoping that she would finally tell her. Instead Midnight looked away, laying her head down in silence. Twilight sighed and pulled her against her side, then gently nuzzled her neck trying to offer whatever comfort she could. “Midnight, I want to help you... why won't you let me?” She asked softly.

For a few minutes there was no answer.

“What was the changeling queen like?” She asked finally and Twilight blinked in surprise.

“The changeling queen? She was vile and cunning. She deceived all of us, even Shining, into believing she was Cadence. Even I didn't realize she was an impostor. I just knew that she was evil. Even once I found the real Cadence and she showed her true self, her plans proved to be too much for us. It was only Shining and Cadence's love for each other that saved us,” Twilight told her. “Why do you ask?”

She didn't answer. “What did she look like? The changeling queen?”

“Well she was... well here;” Why try to explain when she could just show her with a bit of magic. Calling the memory to mind she cast a spell that would project her memory as an image in the air in front of them. “That's her.” She said gesturing to the changeling queen as she taunted them that Twilight had been suspicious of her all along but the rest of them had been too caught up in their wedding planning to realize she was right.

Midnight looked at the vision of the memory with an expression as if she'd just been shown that something she was afraid of was true. Then slowly looked down. “What was her name?”

Twilight let the vision of her memory end. “Her name? She never said, and after Shining and Cadence blasted her and all the changelings halfway across Equestria, we couldn't exactly ask.”

She looked up. “Nopony knows her name?”

Twilight shook her head. “As far as I know. They may not even have names...” She shrugged then watched Midnight for a moment concerned. “Midnight, why the sudden interest in the changeling queen?”

Midnight looked down a moment before finally answering. “I had a nightmare about her...” she said softly.

“You did?”

She nodded. “She looked weaker, underfed, but otherwise she looked exactly the same as your memory. Except I've never seen her before! How could I dream about somepony I've never seen!?”

Twilight stared at Midnight a moment not knowing how to answer as her mind spun with possibilities. Finally though she shook her head. “I don't know, Midnight...” She said softly.

Midnight sniffed then got to her hooves and levitated her saddle bags onto her back. “I need to get home... I'm not feeling well.” She said with tears in her eyes.

Twilight got to her hooves as well hurrying to catch her. “Midnight, please! Tell me what's wrong! Let me help you!”

She shook her head. “I just... need to get home.” She said stepping past Twilight to the door. Twilight watched her tears coming to her own eyes terrified of what she was seeing. Not wanting anypony's help when she was clearly suffering: She'd seen such behavior in Midnight before, long ago.

The door shut and Twilight was left staring at it. There was only one way she could think of that Midnight could have dreamed about the changeling queen. She didn't know if Midnight had ever met her in her own world, but that was the only explanation. And if that were the case, then the nightmare Midnight had had wasn't just a nightmare. After eleven years, somehow it seemed Midnight's memories were coming back.

Twilight didn't know what to do. If Midnight lost control... if she went back to the way she was before. Twilight didn't think she could bear it; and she certainly could never fight her daughter, let alone banish her. She hadn't been able to bring herself to banish her even then. There was nopony else that could even stand a chance against her though.

All she could do was wait, watch, and hope. Hope that Midnight was strong enough now to overcome the horrors of her past.