• 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 9: Badlands and Frozen Jungles

Midnight Star: The Frozen Empire
By Nebula Star

Part 1: Shadows of the Past
***
Chapter 9: Badlands and Frozen Jungles
***

Going through her mental checklist one more time, Twilight stood on the platform of the last train of the day bound for Dodge City. She'd never use to rely on mental checklists. But when Midnight had gone on a streak of playfully hiding her checklists, she'd had little choice. She smiled remembering ten-year-old Midnight running off giggling with another stolen checklist in her magic. Twilight had never been able to bring herself to be angry with Midnight at the time, not after the first time anyway.

With a sigh, she brought herself back to the matter at hoof. She was fairly certain she'd packed everything she'd need and everypony was accounted for, so it seemed they were ready. They just had a few minutes to say goodbye before they needed to board the train.

Looking up she smiled at her family. Midnight watched from a little ways off. She still seemed worried. With her, of course, was Spike, who didn't like being left behind any more than Midnight did.

“Well, it's almost time,” She said, walking over to them.

Midnight nodded. The worry in her eyes was clear though, as she stepped forward and wrapped her foreleg's around Twilight in a hug. “Be careful, mom. Whatever is causing that blizzard, there has to be powerful magic behind it,” she said softly.

Twilight returned her daughter's embrace with one fore-leg and both wings. “I know, we're just going to check things out,” she said then stepped back and smiled. “It's just a little field research.”

Midnight smiled weakly then Twilight saw a look in her eye that she knew well.

She held up a hoof in a stopping gesture. “Midnight, I'd take you with if I thought you could handle the flight, but you can't.”

“I could try!” She objected, but Twilight just gave her an admonishing look.

“Midnight, you just got your wings. Don't be foolish,” she said firmly. “Besides, you know that's not the only reason I asked you to stay.”

“I know...”

Twilight gently pat her shoulder. “Don't worry, everything will be fine.”

She sighed. “I hope so...”

With a soft laugh Twilight hugged her once more. “It's not like I can't take care of myself, Midnight,” she said then gave her a wink. “You forget, you're the one who taught me how to reach my true potential.”

She couldn't help smiling. “I guess that's true.”

Twilight smiled. “I'll be fine, Midnight. Try not to worry,” she said then turned to Spike crouching down to give him a hug.

“Be safe, Twi,” he said simply and Twilight smiled.

“I will.”

“And come back as soon as you can; it's going to be pretty boring around here without you. I mean, what am I suppose to do without you to clean up after,” Spike told her grinning.

Twilight laughed. “Well you could help Midnight with chores around her place.”

Spike snorted. “Twi, Midnight actually cleans up after herself. Chores I could do around her place will take me ten minutes.”

Midnight giggled. “He's got a point, mom. If it weren't for Spike, the library would be a disaster area after only one or two days of your study habits.”

Twilight blushed. “Well that's why I need an assistant.”

“And who's your number one assistant?” Spike asked unable to resist inflating his pride a little.

“Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said without missing a beat.

Spike gave her an annoyed look folding his arms across his chest.

Finally Twilight gave in. “Alright, it's you,” she said with a grin, nudging him with her wing.

“That's right!” He said firmly.

Twilight smiled and took a deep breath. “Well, I better go say goodbye to my friends before it's too late. Be safe, both of you. And you keep an eye on Midnight, Spike.”

“I will.”

She smiled once more then with one last wave she went over to where four of her friends were gathered. Rainbow of course was going with and had already said goodbye.

~~~

“Well there they go,” Midnight said softly then sighed as she and Spike watched the train slowly trundled down the tracks from the Ponyville station. They watched from the platform a moment more then, together, they left the station heading back into Ponyville.

“So, you going to crash at my place while mom is gone?” Midnight asked as they descended the steps from the train station. Spike had often stayed with Midnight when Twilight was away, mostly to avoid being lonely.

“If that's alright with you.”

Midnight smiled. “Of course. We can stop by the library on the way and get your things.”

“Okay,” he said clearly relieved that Midnight was willing to let him stay with her. He did tend to get lonely whenever it was just him. “So you have any plans tonight?”

Midnight grinned to herself. “Well I was thinking I'd chain you up in the basement of the library and then go on a rampage now that the only pony who could possibly stop me is gone.”

Spike froze mid step. “What...?” He gasped.

Midnight gave him a sly look over her shoulder, but then relented when she saw the fear coming to his eyes. “I'm kidding!” She said then couldn't help laughing.

“That's not funny!” He said, giving her an angry look.

“Spike, come on... It's a joke.”

“Maybe it would be funny if it hadn't really happened before,” he said still sounding angry as he started walking again. “But that was the worst night of my life!”

Midnight grinned as he caught up and she started walking again as well. “Really, even worse than when you found out Rarity was dating that unicorn professor from the school?”

“Okay, maybe second worst...”

“Or when she was dating one of the Wonderbolts?”

“That didn't last long though...”

“Or the unicorn from Canterlot?”

“That's not fair; I walked in on them kissing!”

“Or when she got engaged last week?”

“WHAT!?”

Midnight gave him another sly grin to show she was joking. Even so, it was almost an hour before he forgave her for the jest.

~~~

Rainbow looked out the window of the train at the landscape revealed by the light of early sunrise. It was one good sign at least. They always knew if Celestia and Luna were safe so long as the sun and moon continued to rise and set, each in their time. Especially since Princess Twilight, the only other pony who could manage the celestial orbs, was sleeping in.

At least she hadn't come out of the royal car yet. Rainbow looked back towards the door connecting the cars, debating whether to go wake her or not. It looked like they were getting close to their destination and she knew that Twilight wanted to be on their way as quickly as possible to where the refugee camp was already being set up.

They would be staying at the camp themselves for one night, then they'd be flying out from there the following morning. They could just fly out from Dodge and let the Unicorns and Earth ponies of the guard make their way to the camp on their own, but Twilight wanted to make sure the Refugee camp was well organized.

She looked out the window again, trying to guess how much longer they had until they arrived. Dodge City was barely more than a large town really; not all that much larger than Ponyville these days. In fact, Ponyville may have Dodge beat now.

Finally she decided she'd better make sure Twilight was up. Opening the door to a burst of typical train noise, she stepped across to the royal car and opened the door. While the rest of the sleeper cars only had small bunks in the rooms, the Royal car was almost half taken up by an alicorn sized bed. A bed that would make any normal sized pony look small, but for Twilight, it was just about right. She was curled up in the bed, still fast asleep.

Knowing she'd need time to get herself ready before they arrived, Rainbow decided she'd better wake her friend and stepped into the car. To her surprise, Twilight blinked open her eyes as soon as Rainbow stepped in and raised her head looking toward the door. “Rainbow? What are you doing?”

“How did you...?”

Twilight yawned widely before answering. “I put a security spell on the car to wake me if anypony came in,” she explained drowsily.

Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “Afraid of being attacked?”

She grinned. “With you in the next car? Don't think I've forgotten what you and Pinkie pulled last spring.”

The look on Twilight's face after that particular incident came to mind and Rainbow couldn't help grinning. “Twi, I wouldn't pull something like that on an important mission,” she objected though.

Twilight smiled. “I know, actually I just thought it would be better to wake up to a security spell than to somepony shaking me. I thought I might sleep in.”

“Well you have. We should be getting close to Dodge, so I came back to make sure you were awake.”

She yawned again. “Oh good, thanks.”

Rainbow hesitated a moment more in the doorway. “Why did you think you'd sleep in?”

“I was up late studying.”

“Studying? Studying what?”

She gestured to a book on a shelf by her flight bags. “Weather manipulation magic. There's surprisingly little available on the subject. It seems that ever since the founding of Equestria, the unicorns of our land just haven't bothered with weather magic. I mean, why should they when you pegasi can do just about everything concerning weather faster and better.”

“That's true,” Rainbow agreed. “Find anything that might help us?”

She shook her head. “I was hoping to see if I could find out what kind of magic it would take to make it cold enough to snow in the middle of the summer. But from what that book says, to do so would be nearly impossible with unicorn magic. You'd need thousands of unicorns to even have a chance of causing such a cold snap so quickly.”

“Thousands?”

Twilight nodded. “So whatever is causing it, it is either powerful or it possesses a power far different from normal pony magic, probably both.”

Powerful and unknown... “This could be dangerous then, we'll have to be careful,” Rainbow said in an uncommonly thoughtful tone for her.

“Yes,” Twilight agreed; then she stretched her wings wide; almost touching the sides of the car. “Well, I'd better get ready. Is Valor already up?”

Rainbow grinned. “Of course. The big lug always manages to sleep like a rock even on too-small, hard-as-rock train cots.”

Twilight grinned. “You didn't keep him up?”

“Why do you think I said the cots were too small? They're fine for just sleeping...”

She rolled her eyes. “Well go make sure the rest of the guard and your Wonderbolts are ready to go when we arrive. I want to reach the camp as soon as possible.”

Rainbow threw her a salute. “You've got it, Princess,” she said then turned and left the car returning to the main sleeper car where she began rapping on the doors that housed the rest of the Wonderbolts. “Roll call in ten minutes!” She called each time until she reached her own cabin that she'd of course shared with Valor.

“I made sure Twilight was up,” She told her husband as she entered the small room. He'd already put up the cot and was doing his morning exorcises as best he could in the small space. At the moment he had his hind hooves up on the bench and was doing some standard push-ups.

“Good, I suppose I'd better go make sure the rest of the guard is up as well.” He said doing one last pushup. Then, getting to all fours, he gave Rainbow a quick kiss that made her wish they had time for more. The cots really were too small though.

“If we're still on time, we should be arriving in a half hour.” She told him and he nodded as he left the cabin. Once he was gone, Rainbow pulled down her pack and got out her armor.

Almost identical to the armor of the Royal guard; the armor the Wonderbolts were given only had two differences. First was the lack of a helm. The Wonderbolts specialized in fast and often dangerous flight maneuvers, even in combat; and so having unobstructed peripheral vision was vital. The second difference was that instead of a star in the center of their chest, the Wonderbolt's armor had two blue lightning bolts angling inward so the points came together at the bottom.

With a sigh, she began putting it on. The armor would weigh her down, but wearing it was still easier than carrying it. The rest of the Wonderbolts knew that they were to wear their armor today as well, even if they were just going as far as the Refugee camp.

~~~

“Does she have to stop and talk to every group?” Lightning Dust grumbled only loud enough for Rainbow to hear. After staying overnight at the refugee camp, Lightning had gotten more than her fill of the constantly rhyming zebra.

Rainbow glanced at her. “Twi doesn't like to see anypony suffer when she can help or at the least give comfort.”

“But we could have already crossed this forsaken desert by now, broken up their little blizzard and be on our way home.” Lightning growled impatiently. She didn't understand how Rainbow wasn't jumping out of her skin to be on their way as well. But then Rainbow had changed a lot since she'd gotten married, and honestly, Lightning wasn't sure if she liked the changes.

Of course, if it weren't for Rainbow, she wouldn't have the life she had now. It had been Rainbow that had gotten her a second chance to join the Wonderbolts after her recklessness had cost her the first. She'd learned her lesson, she knew she wasn't a good leader. Since joining the Wonderbolts she'd always flown as a wingpony and refused every chance she'd had to fly lead. She'd blown one chance already, she wasn't going to blow another. She knew she was still reckless at times, so it was better for her to not have the temptation of being in the lead.

Her refusal to take lead positions had earned her the nickname of the 'eternal wingpony.' She'd taken it in good humor, knowing it was for the best. Of course when Rainbow had offered to let her be her wingpony, she'd gladly accepted.

“It's not that simple, Dust. According to what the zebra said, when this storm swept in it went from sweltering summer heat to freezing in a couple of hours. This is no natural storm, and from what Twi told me it would take an army of unicorns to do that with magic.” Rainbow shook her head. “We'll have to be on our guard.”

“Still, we could at least be across this sand-blasted rock garden!”

Rainbow gave her a grin. “Now you know why the rest of the guard is jealous of us. They have to do this kind of thing on a regular basis.”

Lightning just grunted in response.

~~~

“No new information,” Twilight told Rainbow simply as she rejoined the rest of the group after talking with the leaders of the zebra caravan and offering what comfort she could. It was the sixth caravan they'd passed while crossing the badlands. “They have no idea what's causing the storm, but their homes weren't built for the cold.”

“So they had to run.” Rainbow nodded. “Same story... guess we'll find out for ourselves when we get there,” she said looking south to where the southern mountain range was nearing. That range separated the badlands from the zebra Homeland much like the northern range separated the badlands from Equestria. There was only one pass through each of the ranges, and one long winding road through the enormous rock formations of the badlands.

“We should be able to just get through the pass by nightfall,” Twilight said thinking. “We'll make camp just the other side. From what this group said we should be able to see the storm from there. It's moving slowly, but they said it is coming this way...”

“So much for hoping it would just continue east.” Rainbow sighed. “Well let's get going, we'll want some time to set up camp before it gets dark.”

Twilight nodded in agreement and opening her wings, she gave the signal and Rainbow, along with the rest of the Wonderbolts and her pegasus guard took flight following her lead.

They didn't pass any more caravans on the way south and so they reached the pass well before sunset. After climbing up and over through the mountain pass, they descended down again towards the jungles of the zebra homeland. The sweltering heat they felt as they found a place to make camp was in stark contrast to what they saw to the south. Only a short flight's distance away, the green of the jungles gave way to the white of new-fallen snow. And there, looming over the whitened landscape were the dark clouds that were to blame. Just seeing it, Twilight knew that this was no natural storm.

~~~

“Well we're not going to see anything from here...” Rainbow said and Twilight nodded, but hovered a moment longer looking at the clouds and feeling like she should know what they were; what was causing them.

While they had left four behind to watch their camp, the Wonderbolts and the rest of her guard hovered nearby, waiting for her orders.

It wasn't going to be easy flying once they got into that storm. They'd all worn an extra layer of cloths to keep them warm, but by the looks of the storm, the cold was likely to be the least of their worries. Even where they hovered they could feel a shadow of the winds that raged within the blizzard. Such high winds would be dangerous enough to fly in. Let alone in the low visibility created by the swirling snow the winds carried.

“We'll, there's no other choice, we have to find out what's causing this...” Twilight said, resigning herself to some difficult flying. “Stay in close formation and don't get separated. I'll use my magic to shield us from the wind as much as possible, but if it gets too bad we'll go down to ground level.” With that, she led the way into the storm.

It wasn't bad at first. The wind picked up a bit as the cold air began to nip at the parts of her that weren't covered, but she created a shield to deflect most of the wind around them. It wasn't a difficult spell and the wind wasn't very strong so she wasn't straining her magic in the least. At first.

Ten minutes later the winds howled around them and even with her shield they struggled to maintain their course. So far there was still no sign of whatever was behind the strange weather.

“Lovely weather we're having!” Rainbow shouted sarcastically, but Twilight barely heard her over the wind.

She blinked furiously trying to keep the snow out of her eyes and belatedly wished she'd asked Midnight to make her a goggle enchant like she'd made for Sky. She wasn't sure how much further they could go, but she pressed on.

Another strong gust battered her shield and still managed to cause enough eddies around them to almost stop them as they struggled to maintain their formation. Twilight was breathing deeply from the double effort of difficult flying and maintaining her spell, but it wasn't too bad yet. Thanks to her larger size, she wasn't tossed around as easily as the other pegasi, but they were likely all in better shape than her.

'Something has to be causing this, and the most likely place that something will be is in the center of the storm,' Twilight thought to herself after another half hour fighting the wind. She could almost sense something, some kind of magic, ahead of them.

“Twi, I don't know how much more of this we can take!” Rainbow shouted over the howling of the wind.

She glanced over at Rainbow, expecting her friend to be flying along easily at her side.

She was there, but she wasn't flying easy. Rainbow looked about ready to drop and after a quick glance she saw the rest of the pegasi looked the same or worse. Twilight was stunned. She was tired, but not nearly that tired and she'd been casting the shield in addition to battling the winds the entire time as well. She knew as an alicorn she was stronger than normal ponies now, but she hadn't thought she would have that much greater of stamina as well.

Concerned for the pegasi, she gestured downward. “Let's land a moment!”

Rainbow nodded in agreement and with a quick gesture, passed the command to the rest of the pegasi. Twilight dove down toward the ground hidden somewhere in the whiteness below them. They had to go slowly though; it was a jungle after all and they had to watch for trees.

A few minutes later, after maneuvering through the dense canopy; quite a trick in a blizzard, though it was made easier by the reduced wind below the treeline, they reached the ground. Twilight landed first, but soon all the others landed around her. Rainbow held her head down a moment breathing deeply. Then finally looked up at Twilight looking confused.

“What the hay, Twilight? Why aren't you as exhausted as the rest of us?” She asked finally over the wind howling through the trees.

Twilight could only shrug. “Alicorn?” She said making it clear she was only guessing and didn't know for sure.

Rainbow seemed to be sure however. “That's just not fair...” She gasped.

Just then there was a strange howling that wasn't the wind from above the trees. Twilight and all the rest looked up at once but there was nothing to see but the trees and the whiteness beyond.

“What was that!?” one of the Wonderbolts exclaimed.

“No... it couldn't be...” Twilight said softly.

Rainbow was close enough to hear and glanced her way. “What is it?”

“I have an idea, I just hope I'm wrong,” She said then took a deep breath. It was clear the pegasi couldn't handle going further. In fact, they'd have a hard time making it back out of the storm judging by the way they were breathing. They were so close though; not far ahead she could sense something, some kind of magic. It was faint but definitely there. She couldn't tell what it was however.

“Alright, I think I'd better teleport you all back to the edge of the storm,” she said finally. “I'm going to go on a little further...”

“Whoa whoa whoa.” Rainbow said jumping in front of her. “Oh no you don't, Princess; Valor made me promise I wouldn't let you do anything reckless. I'm not about to let you go off on your own in this!” She gestured vaguely to the storm all around them.

“We have to find out what's causing this, Rainbow.”

“You heard that howl, Twi, something's out there! Now it's our job to protect you, so you're not going anywhere without us!” She said firmly and got several approving nods from the other pegasi. “We'll go on hoof if we have to.”

Twilight shook her head. “No, you're all exhausted already...”

“Twilight! We're not leaving you!” Rainbow cut her off standing directly in front of her in a stance that said she wasn't going to give an inch on this. Twilight looked down at her, she'd for the most part gotten use to her height as she continued to grow into her alicorn stature, but it was times like these that she couldn't help thinking how strange it was to be looking down at her friends. Though Rainbow was trying to put on an air of command, she seemed almost like a stubborn filly mostly because of their difference in size now. Did Celestia and Luna feel this way at times about the ponies under their rule?

Rainbow was right though, it was their job to protect her and she knew they wouldn't leave her side for anything.

“Alright, you're right, Rainbow. Let's teleport back for now and get some rest. Then we'll try again later, even if we have to go on hoof.”

Rainbow nodded satisfied.

Twilight smiled. “Alright, everypony gather around!” She called to the others. “We're teleporting back to the edge of the storm.” Several of the pegasi looked relieved, they were all exhausted to varying degrees and clearly hadn't been looking forward to flying back out of the blizzard. They gathered close. Twilight had trained all her guard how to handle teleportation, but the Wonderbolts weren't typically part of her guard. Several of them looked a little nervous as they stepped closer with the others.

“Here goes!” She said and her horn flashed brightly as her magic enveloped them all in bright light.

~~~

Rainbow blinked furiously in the bright light of the sun as the magic from Twilight's teleportation spell faded. They were back on a ridge they'd seen just about a mile north of the storm. Rainbow knew Twilight's teleportation spell had a limited range and this had to be nearly at that limit.

The sun and the heat felt wonderful after the blizzard and she closed her eyes and opened her wings a little to absorb the sun's rays. She didn't get to enjoy it for long however.

“Where's the princess!?” Lightning shouted suddenly and Rainbow's eyes shot open again. A quick glance was all it took to see that Twilight wasn't among them. But Rainbow knew immediately where she must be...

She cursed under her breath and looked back toward the storm; “Dammit, Twi, what are you thinking!?”

~~~

“Sorry...” Twilight said softly as the light from the teleportation spell faded. She knew this probably wasn't a good idea, but they needed to know what was causing the storm. She had an idea, but it didn't seem possible.

Creating a shield around herself to protect her from the wind, she took off again. The smaller shield took a lot less effort than the larger one had and she was able to make it more effective so that flight wasn't much more difficult than normal. She climbed quickly, maneuvering through the jungle canopy and back into the swirling whiteness above. Howling filled the air around her, and not all from the wind.

There was something up there, in the clouds. She could sense their magic, but it definitely wasn't pony magic. It was a kind of magic she'd never sensed before.

Twilight climbed further into the clouds following what she could sense; she had to know for sure.

Suddenly the clouds opened up and there they were. Ghostly bodies in the form of horses, galloping through the air; eyes glowing with malice as their magic froze the world around them. It was as she feared: windigoes. Hundreds of them, all circling in what she knew had to be center of the storm.

Eyes wide, Twilight dove back into the cover of the clouds. It was impossible, windigoes drew their power from strife and hatred! The zebra may not be quite as harmonious as Equestria, but there was no way there was enough hatred among them to give so many windigoes this kind of power. Where were they getting their power? Who was feeding them with hatred?

She looked downward. There had to be something, somepony, providing the spirit beasts with hatred. But none of the zebra had ever seen anything, which meant that whoever it was, they were using the storm as cover to hide themselves.

Diving back down toward the ground she cast outward, searching for traces of magic that she may have missed before. Nothing.

That can't be. Something is feeding those Windigoes power. Twilight frowned. Could they somehow be hiding their magic? Who would even know how to do that?

Then she felt something. Only for a moment, but it was definitely there, below.

Twilight dove down toward where she'd sensed the glimmer of magic at first but then thought better of it and changed directions, landing a good distance away in what seemed to be a clearing. Releasing her shield spell she braced herself as the wind swept over her. Then keeping low she began making her way back toward where she'd sensed the flicker of magic.

After a short ways she saw the first mound. Curious, Twilight took a few steps toward it. It was one of the zebras' homes, she realized, collapsed from the weight of the snow they weren't built to withstand. Several other similar mounds were nearby. This was a village, she realized, and she was likely walking along one of the roads or paths. She moved slowly, keeping close to the mounds hoping they would allow her to stay hidden.

Then she ran out of mounds. There was an open area ahead, but she didn't sense anything and she was still a ways out from where she'd sensed the magic. She decided to just cross it quickly.

Magic. Twilight barely had time to cast a shield spell to absorb the decidedly hostile spell directed at her chest. Half a dozen more spells flared to life all around her. It was an ambush. She jumped back as the spells crossed through the air where she'd been standing. The spells were powerful; far too powerful. They would be deadly at a fraction of the strength she sensed. That many spells at that kind of power; they were meant to break through a magic barrier and still be strong enough to kill. But it was definitely unicorn magic.

She knew what she needed now. Time to go.

Dodging another volley of magic she drew on her own power and cast her teleportation spell.

Nothing happened.

Twilight's eyes widened. They were blocking her teleportation spell. Her mind spun as she was forced to dodge another wave of attacks. Teleportation was a rare ability; she only knew of a handful of Unicorns that could cast the spell at all, let alone under pressure. She'd taught most of them herself. That these unicorns not only knew how to block teleportation, let alone that they would bother to do so meant one of two things. Either they were extremely cautious, or they knew who they were fighting.

Diving out of the way of another volley of spells she had to assume it was the latter. Two of those spells would be enough to break through even Celestia's magic. Half a dozen... that was meant for her.

They can't keep casting such powerful spells for long though, she thought and as if on cue they changed tactics. Dozens of weaker but still dangerous spells began to crisscross through the air around her, many just above her head. They didn't want her taking off, she realized. That was her best chance for escape. unicorns couldn't follow her into the sky, so they were keeping her pinned down.

She was forced to shield herself as far too many spells blanketed the area. Far more than she could dodge. She had to get out of the middle of them. There seemed to be thirteen in all. She looked around but could only see flashes of light and faint shadows through the snow.

I'm not here to fight; no need to conserve energy... She thought to herself and without hesitation she cast two spells at once; one a shield that would protect her for a few moments, and the other... the other was something she'd seen once, at Sweet Apple Acres eleven years ago. It was the spell Midnight had cast to destroy the farm. She didn't need hers to be nearly as powerful though and it only took a moment to gather the energy needed. Then she released the spell.

The snow was blown back from her with a tremendous explosion of wind. They weren't prepared for the spell. As the snow was blasted away, so were they. The few she saw in front of her were thrown nearly a dozen paces through the air.

Twilight hesitated though as she saw them clearly for the first time. What she saw just didn't seem possible. Their coats seemed to be covered in a layer of frost and their bodies were encased in ice, like armor, that wasn't melting. It was as if their bodies were already frozen and held no warmth.

Her hesitation nearly cost her her life. One of the unicorns to the side of her had recovered quicker than the others and cast another spell. Twilight wasn't ready, and her shield had already been exhausted. His aim however, was high and instead of hitting her in the side of her head, the spell impacted on her horn. It was a freezing spell, she realized as she felt the pain of her horn freezing solid. In moments it was likely her horn would crack off and she'd lose her magic completely.

Panicked, Twilight did the first thing that came to mind. She exploded into a cloud of energy. Then with speed that even Rainbow Dash couldn't match, she zipped off through the blizzard hoping that her magic would last long enough for her to get away. As she did though she sensed what had been hidden before. The thirteen that had attacked her were but a small part. Now she sensed an army. Thousands; there were thousands of them. She had to escape, she had to warn Equestria! If she could just make it to the edge of the storm before her magic failed completely... Luck wasn't with her.

She felt herself rematerialize a few moments later as her magic failed her and even as she opened her eyes her horn cracked off completely. She estimated that at the speed she was going in her cloud form she had likely already made it more than halfway back. But without her magic she was completely at the mercy of the storm.

Rainbow had insisted that she take some courses on flying in hazardous conditions, but that had been years ago. Even so, she remembered some of it. She just hoped it was enough.

~~~

Rainbow paced back and forth in front of the rest of the Pegasi watching the storm clouds like a hawk. They wanted to get in there; to find Twilight, but they had no way to do so. With the limited visibility they could fly past her within a hundred paces and never know it. So they were stuck waiting.

“Twilight, what were you thinking...” She said softly to herself for the hundredth time.

“What are your orders, Captain?” Lightning asked stepping up to her. It had been nearly an hour since Twilight had teleported them out to the ridge.

“Nothing to do but wait,” Rainbow said heavily as she continued pacing.

“Don't worry too much, Rainbow. She is a princess, and Twilight's the most powerful alicorn right?”

Rainbow sighed looking back at her. “Yeah... but still.”

“I see her!” One of the guards shouted suddenly and Rainbow snapped her eyes back to the cloud. She saw Twilight immediately and not long after she realized her friend was in trouble. She seemed to be struggling to stay aloft.

Rainbow jumped into action immediately, launching herself at high speed to help her friend. Even her speed wasn't enough to get her to Twilight in time. Twilight crashed to the ground not far from the edge of the storm, tumbling several paces before finally coming to a stop where she laid terrifyingly still. Rainbow put on another burst of speed, breaking the sound barrier in an explosion of color.

Twilight still hadn't moved when Rainbow reached her. Landing at a full gallop she skidded to a stop at Twilight's side. “Twi!”

She was unconscious but her injuries were all too obvious. Her horn was gone, and the stump that remained was frosted at the broken end. In addition one of her wings was bent oddly just past the first joint.

The other Wonderbolts were the first to reach them, and landed in nearly as much haste as Rainbow herself had.

“Her wing's broken,” one of them unnecessarily announced. Any pegasi could recognize a broken wing when they saw one.

“Who has the first aid kit!?” Rainbow shouted. “We need to splint this!”

“I've got it.”

It only took them a few minutes to splint Twilight's wing and bind it to her side.

“Rainbow, she still needs a doctor.” Lightning said softly.

“I know!” Rainbow shouted in worry then cursed under her breath. While they all had basic training in first aid, they hadn't brought any trained field medics. In fact the only real medic in Twilight's guard was one of the unicorns they'd left at the refugee camp, and Rainbow knew for a fact he wasn't trained to handle wing injuries.

The closest hospitals were in Apple Loosa or Dodge; but neither town had many pegasi and so they didn't have doctors trained to deal with wing injuries either. After that the nearest town... was Ponyville.

She glanced at the other Wonderbolts and pegasi of the guard. The Wonderbolts were of course known for speed, and every one of them was a strong enough flier to carry even an alicorn like Twilight while flying. Even at their speeds though it would take almost two days hard flying, and they'd have to trade off carrying Twilight. It would be difficult, but it was the best option they had.

“Alright, here's what we're going to do...”

~~~

Rainbow looked down at Twilight as she carried her back through the pass, the Wonderbolts following close on either side. “Hang on, Twi,” she said softly to her unconscious friend. “You'll be alright, just hang on.”