All the zebra gathered for this year’s Placement Trial. Each year all the young zebras who have yet to find their place in the tribe will gather for a ritual that places each one in a set of tests. Here they will find their inner most talents and earn their place amongst the tribe, not to mention their placement marks which will appear on their flank as soon as their talents are discovered. This day was the very day that the young Zecora had been waiting for her entire life. Every day she has counted down waiting for her chance to show her skills in magic, something that very few zebra of the northern tribe ever get to do.
As the young zebra finished lining up, the Zebra chief trotted up to the podium and announced, “Brothers! Sisters! Both young and old! Today we are gathered here for a very special ritual that will determine the talent and skills of the tribes young ones. And now, The Elder is here to pass her blessing and allow the luck of the ancestors to smile upon our youth.”
As the tribe chief stepped down, a very old zebra stepped forward and announced. “Today be a very important time for these foals. This rite of passage will determine the fate of each, and it will also give hope to those who step forward for next year’s placement Trial. May luck smile upon you all!”
Just then one of the ritual guides stepped toward the foals, “Will the young ones who wish to become warriors please step forward.”
Most of the colts took very confident steps forward and followed their guide to an arena where they would test their skills in becoming a warrior. The next guide stepped forward, “If magic be, the choice you see, then come forth and follow me.”
Zecora couldn’t believe it, there was another that spoke like her, Zecora stepped forward and replied, “Magic you teach? I'll volunteer, I'm prepared for this, I have no fear.”
The mage smiled and replied, “I see your talent, I see it well. I feel you only need to complete one spell.”
The zebra mage lead Zecora to a hut on the edge of the village, once they entered the scent of many different potions in the air only made Zecora cringe. The zebra lead her to a bubbling cauldron that sat in the middle of the hut.
When Zecora held her nose, the teacher got irritated, “You know not the value of all the scents, it can tell you the potion, what it represents. Inhale the brew, the smoke it plays, you can tell its been here for almost three days, within the time five minutes to be strait, add the ingredient, it mustn’t be late.”
Zecora was confused, “But how must I tell, what complete the spell?”
“You must use the smell, this will foretell. but time it right or it won’t end well.”
Zecora uncovered her nose and started thinking about the smell of the boiling brew. All of a sudden she knew what the brew needed next, she didn’t understand it but it was as if the name of the ingredient needed was handed to her on a piece of paper.
Zecora looked at the table with all the ingredients then she picked up what was needed, the hairs of a sunflower. As she looked at the flask, she started smelling the scent of the brew once again. Just like before the time to add the ingredient started to appear in her mind as if she was watching a timer. She waited for the precise moment to add the ingredient then she poured every hair into the brew all at once. At first, it didn’t seem to work, but then the grey murky potion started to glow, then its color started to change. First to a darken red, slowly changing to a light red, orange, then finely the colors stopped changing when the brew turned Yellow. The Mage smiled and continued, “Good job young one, but your time is not done. One more thing before you can rest, one final ingredient to pass the test.”
Zecora looked at the mage and replied, “One more you say, a different tune you play? but what you say is entirely true, I need one more ingredient to finish this brew. When I add this feather to the brew right now, it should change the weather, though I don’t know how.”
Zecora picked up a phoenix feather from the table of ingredients and dropped it into the cauldron. As soon as it hit the potion, the feather turned to ash and mixed amongst the ingredients. Almost immediately the cauldron made one big puff of yellow smoke that hung overhead like a cloud, then it started to shape itself into an emblem that looked like a spiral sun pictograph. As this pictograph hung, overhead it started to turn gray then it started to drop snow.
Zecora couldn’t believe her eyes, the cloud that was in that shape of a sun, was dropping snow inside the hut. She could only smile at the marvel she had just created. This was one of her very first spells and it was bringing all sorts of joy and wonder to her young heart. The mage smiled and spoke, “Congratulations young one, I'm proud of your task. You earned your place, in the tribe at last. But it’s not here you should stay though it’s only the start, you must meet your fate, for you have a part.”
Zecora was confused, but before she could ask about what the mage meant by fate, the village elder entered the hut and spoke, “Young one. I have waited many decades to see this day, though I thought it would happen long after my death. Please come with me, we have much to discuss.”
Zecora was now even more confused, but as she turned around, she noticed that her placement mark had appeared on her flank, it looked exactly like the sun that the cloud from the potion created at the top of the hut. This means that her true place among the tribe was a medicine mare. The elder zebra lead Zecora out of the hut and to another part of the village, this part was much older than the rest and this ground was considered sacred so very few zebra were allowed in this area. The village elder lead Zecora to the most sacred hut of all. This place was said to hold a treasure of the four tribes, though it was unknown what this rare treasure was. Any zebra who was bold enough to step onto this sacred ground was severely punished then exiled and never allowed entry into any of the four major tribes. Therefore, it was expected that Zecora hesitated when the elder asked her to enter the hut.
Inside the sacred hut, there were a large number of pillows and cushions all over the floor, and at the far end of the hut was a lone spear with phoenix feathers just below the blade. Something was telling Zecora that this spear held an unbelievable value to not only the four tribes, but all of Zebrica. The elder looked at Zecora and spoke, “I'm sure you know the story of this sacred spear, and its wielder?”
Zecora shook her head, “This spear holds value, of this I agree but what does all this, have to do with me?”
The elder smiled, sat on one of the cushions and spoke, “Centuries ago, before the peacetime, and before the unity of the nation, we the four tribes of the north, south, east and west were at war. it is still unknown as to who started this war, how it came about, or even why we fought it. but all four tribes brought death to one another. The Northern Tribes like today fought with great warriors, whose skills could never be matched. The east fought with advanced weapons, from which none could be reproduced. The south fought with superior tactics for none could be out done. While the west fought with superior magic and medicine, for which none could compete. However, with each tribe at its own advantage, they remained equally matched making victory for any individual tribe impossible.”
Zecora listened with great interest, “An equal match for an equal strive, but how could peace ever survive?”
The elder continued, “One day a stallion rose up from the western tribe and gathered the tribes chiefs for a meeting. He spoke of peace and unity among the tribes; he brought the idea that if we decided not to fight one another and establish trade, then rather than bringing death to our tribes, we could bring life instead. The stallion’s wisdom spread to all the borders of Zebrica, and brought peace to the entire nation. This great stallion’s name was Chief Jumb Rafi… but even though Zebrica was at peace, he still knew the rest of the world was still at war, so he took a small number of troops and set off on a quest to unify the world. He gathered friends from many nations, until one day he stumbled upon a messenger pony from the faraway kingdom of Equestria.”
“I know not of this place, or where it may be, so it must be a distance, too far to see.”
The elder nodded her head, “The messenger was in a great war this war would decide the fate of the land and its ponies.”
Zecora was confused, she didn’t understand, what exactly is a pony. Nevertheless, she didn’t want to interrupt again so she just paid attention to the rest of the story. “When the messenger asked for support for their war, Jumb Rafi decided to take roll in this war in hopes of creating an ally from the side he was to assist. While he was there, he met a great stallion who held a very special but powerful gift. However rather than using this power to attain riches of greed, he only used it to support his soldiers and his officers for whom he cared dearly for. However, for such a leader, fate favored his enemy. On the last battle of the war, his army and his heart fell into ruin when the mare he loved died in his arms. Upon his departure Jumb Rafi made a vow to his honored friend, that one day he would pay back their friendship, despite the declined offer to unify their nations. Chief Jumb Rafi only wanted to give his friend a chance at a new life. And soon that debt will be passed to you… however it is unknown when the chance to pay such a debt will arise.”
Zecora was now even more confused, “A debt to me? But how can this be?”
The elder smiled, “Haven’t you noticed out of the entire crossing out there, you were the only zebra to ask for magic as your place. Nevertheless, there is good reason for that. You are not of this tribe. On the days of Jumb Rafi’s end, he was faced with a terrible foe who wished to take the lives of his entire tribe. However, his wife and foal fled their village and took refuge in the Northern Tribe, where they were accepted as honored guests. Shortly after, one of his grandsons returned to rebuild the Western Tribes. His other grandson chose to stay here with the Northern Tribe and continue his life in happiness. The reason you are the only one who knows magic, is because you are really a zebra of the Western Tribes.”
Zecora was surprised that she just discovered this after believing she was from the Northern Tribes all along, “The Western tribes… it’s hard to believe, it’s as if my mind was utterly deceived.”
The elder looked at Zecora and spoke seriously, “You have a debt to pay, to a friend of your great ancestor. But I don’t know how… or when.”
“But how must I pay a debt on the very day, that is shrouded in mystery and left astray.”
The elder smiled, “You must meditate here at least once a day, and eventually your ancestor will give you the answer. Nevertheless, you must be prepared, for the day you leave. There is a chance that you may travel to a faraway land and have to survive on your own.”
Zecora didn’t like the idea of meditating everyday until her answer was received but she was still young and she knew that the responsibility that was being placed on her was too advanced for her to understand, so she replied, “I understand the challenge that’s planed, if we can help Chief Rafi, then we can fulfill my destiny?”
The elder nodded her head, “I wish I could tell you more… but even I don’t know the entirety of your quest. But I know that someday you will make us all proud and you will find your true happiness as your reward.”
Zecora thought about what this true happiness could be… could it be riches… knowledge… or could it be something to increase the power of her magic, she didn’t know ,but she did know that if this was her fate then she must follow its path. Zecora smiled and replied to the elder, my fate is clear though long it may be… I will do what my ancestor asks of me. Thank you elder, you are wise and I'll do, all that I can to help you.”
The elder nodded her head and replied, “No, you will be helping a legend… one that deserves to fulfill his long lost promise.”
Zecora tried to ask, “A promise be made? But what cou…”
“Quiet foal, its time you begin your first day of meditation. I'll be back when your time is up.”
As the elder left the tent Zecora looked back at the spear, “Could this really be… my destiny?”
Then Zecora balanced herself on one hoof and began clearing her mind for meditation. This action was repeated every day in hopes that the vision she needed to see would eventually come. Although this cycle repeated itself every day, it wasn’t a waste. Through her countless hours of meditation, Zecora found perfect balance in not only her spirituality, but her abilities in her magic.
Slowly the days continued to turn… first to weeks, then to months, and on into years. The young zebra foal turned slowly into a mare, who’s countless hours of meditation slowly built her mind into a force of wisdom that even outmatched the village elder. However, one day, in the final days of winter, the vision she was seeking finally came. The day seemed like any other, Zecora was approaching the sacred hut as the elder greeted her, “Good morning Zecora, I hope you are doing well.”
Zecora replied with a smile, “I'm doing fine this morning, and it’s nice I must say, to receive your greeting on this beautiful day.”
The village elder smiled, “You may enter the hut, and begin todays meditation, as for me I have duties to attend to, a blessed gift was born in the village so I must welcome the new foal to the world. I'll come for you when I'm finished.”
As the elder left, Zecora did the same thing she did for the past few years, she approached the spear and found position of balance,
this time on her head, then she closed her eyes and started to clear her mind. All of a sudden, there was a bright flash in front of her, when she opened her eyes she was no longer balanced on her head, but she was standing on her hooves at an unknown location. She looked around but all she could see was an endless abyss of white. The sky… the ground… everything was paper white. She looked at the ground she was standing on and scraped her hoof against it. it started to make a scrapping sound as if she was standing on white marble. Zecora wasn’t afraid of where she was nor was she concerned with how she would get home, the only thing that filled her mind was curiosity. She decided to take a step forward, all of a sudden she could hear cracking. She lifted her hoof to look at the ground she just stepped on, in its place the white floor had cracked revealing what looked like a wooden floor underneath.
Zecora swept away the broken floor to get better look at the wood under it then she stepped forward once again to see if the next step would react the same as the first. It did, only this time the crumbling floor started to float into the air and spread further than just where her hoof was planted. As the white floor started to crumble and turn to dust that floated in the air, it slowly revealed a wooden floor, which soon turned to the deck of a ship. After the railing of the ship was identifiable, the white on the ground outside the ship began to sink into an ocean as the horizon and sky also started to appear amongst the crumbling white scenery.
As the last bit of white started to vanish revealing the moon above, Zecora could identify her surroundings clearly now. She was standing on a ship just off the coast of some far away land. The sky above was night but something was strange about it. The appearance of the alicorn that was usually on the moon wasn’t there. Zecora started looking around the top deck of this ship. It seemed very different from what she usually saw in naval vessels but when she looked around she saw a large number of Zebrican Warriors, all wearing an insignia of the Western Tribes. Then she saw something that caught her complete attention, she spotted a Zebra who carried the same spear as the one she had meditated by for years. This spears appearance was practically branded into her mind, so there was no doubt about it. This Zebra was Chief Jumb Rafi.
Zecora was very nervous, she didn’t know if she should approach him or wait to be approached, but before she made up her mind she saw something shoot into the sky in the distance. It was a pink fireball, she couldn’t tell where it came from but she could tell where it was going. The fireball flew until it colligated with the moon engulfing it into a red hue that scattered across the surface leaving scorchmarks in it that revealed the very alicorn that she was so used to seeing on it. After seeing that she looked back at Chief Rafi as a soldier spoke to him, “Brother, what was that?”
Chief Rafi Replied, “I don’t entirely know… but I think that this war is finally ove…”
Zecora looked in the direction that the Zebrican soldier was pointing and saw another pink fireball. This time it was slightly smaller but it flew just as fast and vanished into the dark depths of the night sky. Chief Rafi smiled and spoke, “The Star flies high, in flames of fear, but
it’s not over, not now nor here. I will help you in days, far off from now, though I don’t know when, or even how. Be at peace my friend, until one day soon, when we see the real end, of Nightmare Moon.”
Zecora was surprised to hear Chief Rafi say those words, this wasn’t the first time she heard them but it was entirely unknown where she heard them prior to this moment.
Chief Rafi looked over at Zecora and spoke, “It’s been centuries since I last said these words. But this promise was made so that you may help my dearest friend. And now Zecora, I pass this task onto you.”
Zecora replied, “Why to me, I must protest. I'm not worthy of such a quest.”
Chief Rafi smiled and replied, “Ah but you are worthy, my blood flows through your veins. It is the blood of one who wants nothing more than to help those in need. That same blood fought in a great war between the sun and moon, and even though we lost such a war… it was because I was deemed unworthy to fight under a leader like the great Commander Star Bolt. So now, I want you to go help him.”
Zecora was concerned, “Centuries have passed, and time took what’s told, but how can I help one who’s centuries old?”
Chief Rafi Replied, “Young Zecora, my dear friend is still alive and well, but he has been imprisoned for his actions as a leader, now he watches the world from the very stars he values so. However, he never looks down here anymore. He continues to watch over the Kingdom of Equestria, this is the place I want you to go. Travel by ship, across the great sea until you reach a land filled with stripe less Zebra, some with a horn, some with wings, some with neither, but all without stripes. These creatures are called ponies, though they seem odd they will help you if you ask for it. Seek out the tree of lightning in the forest of the Everfree. It is here, that you will eventually find him or a sign of his return. However, I feel he will be in great danger when he returns so please keep your eye open for anything out of the ordinary. He will return on the night before the summer solstice. So you must make haste. Luckily, this task will not go unrewarded. Upon completing this task, you will find true happiness, though it will be disguised at first, happiness will slowly make itself known.”
Zecora wanted to know more, “But Chief Rafi, still you must show, how I can help this pony, I need to know.”
Chief Rafi smiled and placed his hoof on her chest, “Use this and it will show you what you must do.”
Then with the smile still on his face, Chief Rafi gently pushed against Zecora. Though this push was gentle, for some strange reason Zecora completely lost her balance and fell to the ground. When she looked around, she was back in the sacred tent, lying on the ground as if she had lost her balance while meditating. Zecora picked herself off the ground and looked at the spear that sat at the back of the hut. As she admired the detail placed in preserving such a weapon when compared to what she saw in her vision, the elder entered the hut behind her, “Oh! You are finished already? It’s not like you to cut your time short, did something happen?”
Zecora nodded her head, “Chief Jumb Rafi, appeared to me. “
The elder smiled, “And did he reveal your quest?”
“That he did though I must make haste, I must go to Equestria, I’ve no time to waste.”
The elder nodded her head, “Then go home and prepare for your journey, tomorrow morning I'll have a guide to lead you to the port near the Western Tribes, from there you will board a ship to Equestria, but once you arrive, I cannot provide anymore help. I can only warn you, that the pony you will seek is well known as a traitor so you mustn’t tell anyzebra, or pony about your quest, or at least who your searching for.”
The elder escorted Zecora to her home in the village. The next morning, Zecora met with her guide and from there she was guided to the docks where she met the first pony she had ever seen.
The Earth pony looked at the curious Zebra and spoke, “I hear ye be on ya way to Equestria? Don’t worry bout a thing, She may be old, but Annabelle here has traveled all the seas, and nothing be faster nor safer than her. Not to mention ye be traveling with Captain Sail, and so long as ye don’t be making fun of me name, then we be getting along now won't we.”
Zecora hesitated at the strange earth pony before she smiled and answered, “Thank you captain what a fine ship this is. I believe in sailing you are a whiz. You have my trust there will be no trouble from me. I will follow your rules to this I will agree.”
The Captain looked at her and shook his head, “Wow, ye zebra seem to be talking funnier every time I meet ya. Well so long as ye be following the rules, than we have no problems.”
Zecora couldn’t help but smile at the comment about talking funny, but she nodded her head and boarded the ship.
For many days and nights, the ship traveled in the same direction, but even though the captain assured that they were making great time, Zecora couldn’t help but feel worried that she wouldn’t make it to Equestria on time. However the ship made it at least a month before the summer solstice so Zecora had plenty of time. as she stepped off the Annabelle, Captain Sail yelled to her, “It be a pleasure transportin ya across the sea little missy, now don’t be sad if the ponies don’t treat ya very friendly. Not many zebra ever come trottin through this kingdom. By the way, I don’t think ya mentioned where exactly ye be headin.”
Zecora turned and replied, “That reminds me, do you know of a tree? Its shrouded in lightning in the Forest Everfree.”
The old sea captain thought to himself for a second, “Hm… a lightning tree in the forest Everfree? Well I know of the Everfree forest but I don’t recollect any lightning trees? But I hear tale of a crater deep in the Everfree forest with a zap apple tree. Maybe that be what ya lookin fer. First ye need to travel north until ya reach a town called Ponyville, then after that ye will come across the Everfree forest. The tree will be a lot easier to find at night because it has a gloomy glow that scares the barnacles off an old sea dog like meself. But ye seem brave enough I'll be whishin ya luck on your journey little missy.”
Zecora smiled, “Thank you Captain, though my voyage is done, my journey still remains so I must move on.”
Zecora started traveling through the coastal city of New Foalreins, as she continued she couldn’t help but notice that the captain’s words were true. Almost everypony who saw her either ran and hide themselves or kept their distance from her. Because of this she decided to try her best at hiding herself. She went to the only store in the city that wouldn’t lock its doors and bought a cloak with a hood so she could hid her face while she finished her travels. Luckily, the elder gave her a number of gems to trade while she was in this unknown land. Shortly after she left New Foalreins she started traveling north until finally she reached Ponyville. As soon as she stepped into the city, an excitable Pink pony approached her, “AAAAHHH!!! A New Pony! You know what that means, A NEW FRIEND! HELLO FRIEND! AND WELCOME TO PONYV…”
After receiving such a warm welcome, Zecora put down the hood on her cloak, but as soon as the pony saw her face, she froze. The pink pony turned and vanished in a pink flash that bolted into the small country town. Zecora was very confused at the immediate change in the pony’s actions, but she knew that it was her appearance that scared the pink pony away. Zecora Put her hood back up and continued through the town. Nevertheless, word of her arrival had already reached the ears of all the ponies in town, so no matter where she went, the town seemed completely deserted. Zecora was hoping somepony would have the courage to greet her or at least trot the streets while she was there. Zecora tried to give them a chance to approach her by standing in place and scratching her hoof against the ground a few times, but when nopony came out of their homes, she decided to leave and continue north to the Everfree Forest.
As Zecora continued her journey, she couldn’t help but feel bad about where she was. So far, Equestria was a terrible place. The ponies wanted nothing to do with her and it only made her feel like she was unwanted in their kingdom. Zecora mumbled to herself, “The ponies all hide, no matter where I roam, I'll complete my quest then I'll return home. If all they see, is a creature they’ll condemn, then I'll leave once I'm done… I don’t need them.”
Once Zecora reached the Everfree forest she decided to find a place to take refuge until the night, according to the captain, the Tree of Lighting could only be seen at night.
It took he a number of hours but she finally found a large hollowed out tree that was secluded and dry enough to convert into a home… though it wasn’t as comfortable as her old hut in Zebrica, it was still better than sleeping outside. She spent the rest of the day fixing up her new home, but after the sun went down, she went out to search for the Tree of lightning. Sadly enough she didn’t find the tree on the first night, nor the second or the third. During the day she would gather ingredients form the forest to practice her magic, but at night she would effortlessly search high and low for the Tree of lightning, but each and every night she came up with no sign of it, and with the summer solstice less than a week away, she was running out of time.
After the usual time she would put away to get some sleep, she decided to meditate hoping that she would receive a vision to help her in her journey. She spent the entire day and most of the night in deep meditation even depriving herself of food until finally as the sun rose the next morning, her vision came to her. This time she was standing in the ruins of an old castle. As Zecora looked around, she recognized this castle; she had passed it numerous times while searching for the tree of lighting. As she continued trotting through the ruins, they slowly started turning back into the pristine castle that it once was. Zecora looked around then she heard a great commotion in the other room.
Zecora raced into the throne room just as a small portion of the roof collapsed, then she heard a pony call out “COMMANDER STAR BOLT!”
In the middle of the room where two ponies who had both wings and a horn. Who were battling each other. As Zecora watched, the pony with the dark blue mane, who was shrouded in darkness was hit in the back by a pink beam that incased her in a magical barrier, then the pony with the rainbow mane started talking to the other. Zecora couldn’t hear what they were talking about but from what she could understand, The pony with the dark blue mane and the pony with the rainbow mane where both sisters. One called Nightmare Moon, and the other called Princess Celestia.
Then another pony climbed out of the rubble and joined in the ensuing events, this pony was called Commander Star Bolt, he was the commander of Nightmare Moons army… and the very pony that she was supposed to help. Zecora continued to watch the events until Nightmare Moon was turned into a ball of fire then sent to the moon to be imprisoned… followed closely by Commander Star Bolt who was imprisoned in the light of the stars. Then the images slowly disappeared as Chief Rafi trotted up behind Zecora, “This was the event that took place almost one thousand years ago. This was the pony who I once called brother, and this is the pony I want you to help.”
Zecora looked at Chief Rafi and spoke, “I cannot help for you see, I cannot locate the lightning tree.”
Chief Rafi replied, “From these ruins travel east and continue until you see the glow from the grounds. However, I also want to warn you, when you help him you need to bring some potions to heal wounds, and also when he asks for help tell him that nightmare moon will be here at this old castle. He will probably want to see the events that will unfold here. It could also lead to a choice that will decide the rest of his life. But never the less this castle holds the Elements of Harmony that imprisoned him, so this is where Nightmare Moon will go once she returns and discovers this knowledge.”
“But ancestor I wouldn’t presume, why would I need potions to heal a wound.”
Chief Rafi nodded his head, “Star Bolt is a great warrior and a fearless fighter, even knowing that his task is impossible, he will push himself forward with no regard for his own life. Therefore, I only want to make certain he survives his final fight against his true enemy. Please young Zecora, all you need to do, is save his life once then I can rest in peace.”
With that said Zecora opened her eyes and once again fell to the ground by losing her balance. Since she had meditated for the entire day, she decided to get some sleep before continuing her search for the tree she has sought since her journey began. On the next night, she traveled to the ruins of the old castle and explored them, she couldn’t believe that these old ruins used to be a pristine castle that once held the fate of the sunrise in its walls. After venturing through the castle she stated traveling east as she was instructed until finally she started to see a bluish glow in the forest. As she traveled closer and closer to her destination, she started to notice that the air started to feel like a static charge. It was as if she was standing on a place that was recently struck by lightning, but it got stronger and stronger as she continued. Finally she reached the great tree that she searched all this time for. When she saw this tree it was sitting in the center of a crater with arcs of electricity jumping every few seconds to its branches.
Out of curiosity, Zecora put her hood down and trotted around this tree numerous times examining every part of it and the crater around it, but never once did she step into this crater. She knew that the ground was charged and anyzebra wouldn’t survive long in the center of this bluish gape of electrified land. After analyzing the area for a bit, she closed her eyes and mumbled some sacred words that were usually said by her culture to honor fallen warriors. But while she said these words, she couldn’t help but feel that somepony was watching her. So looked up in the direction that she felt she was being watched from… but all she saw were stars in the sky. Then she remembered that Chief Rafi had told her that Commander Bolt was imprisoned in those very stars, so she just assumed that he was watching her. Therefore, she smiled, put her hood back on and returned to her home to get some rest, with the summer solstice just twenty-four hours away, she thought it would be best to have her potion ready, and plenty of rest.
The next night as the sun went down Zecora left to wait at the tree for any signs; she didn’t want to fail her ancestor, not to mention she was curious, about both what she would encounter, and the true happiness that would follow. Therefore, she went to the tree and waited; she waited and waited and waited until finally her waiting paid off. As Zecora looked at the moon, she saw four stars make contact with it and vanish into thin air. Along with the image of the alicorn. Shortly after though it was very faint and hard to see, she saw two black fireballs fall from the sky and land on the outside of the forest. Zecora knew that this was the sign she was waiting on and she had to reach it before it was too late. Zecora galloped as fast as she could through the forest until finally she reached the tree line.
As Zecora looked into the field, she saw Both Nightmare Moon and Commander Star Bolt in the clearing. Nightmare Moon had him by his throat with a spear pointed at his head and even though they were a good distance from her, she could hear his words plain as day, “Nightmare Moon. I want you to kill me... right here and right now. I don’t care if it’s slow and painful or quick and painless; I only want you to kill me.”
Nightmare Moon replied, “Is that your decision then? To die here and now instead of serving me?”
“Yes, I have caused the pain and suffering that was the Nightmare Crusade. So it is only fair that I pay the ultimate price for the actions I'm responsible for.”
Nightmare Moon sighed, “Very well if you want to die than I have no choice but to answer your plea”
Zecora tried to quickly think of a way to save him but she couldn’t, “He wishes to die, this cannot be so, But how can I save him… I wish to know.”
As Zecora watched, she could tell very easily that Nightmare Moon didn’t want to kill him… that something inside of her was stopping her from committing this act. Nightmare Moon flew up into the air carrying Commander Bolt and the spear, and then she tossed him through the air into the forest. Zecora tried as hard as she could to keep up with the airborne pony but she finally lost track of where he landed, all she could do was wander in his direction until she found him.
After about ten minutes of searching, she finally found him lying on the ground beneath a large tree. When she saw the spear stuck through both his shoulder and shield, she galloped as fast as she could to his side. As the wounded pony looked at her, she spoke calmly to him as she reached into her saddlebag, “Hold on my friend this isn’t you fate, I won’t let you die, I'm not too late, My name is Zecora, I'm a friend and that’s true. Now lay back, relax, I'm here to help you.”
Commander Star Bolt looked back at her and replied, “B-but how did you f-find me… there is n-no… way you coul…”
Then Commander Bolt fainted under his blood loss.
Zecora knew that she needed to do more than just give him the potion she had with her. Moving as fast as she could, she poured the potion both in his mouth and on the wound, then she pulled the spear from his shoulder and covered the wound with the bandaged she had with her. Then she used the strap on his shield to sling it over her shoulder then picked him up and tried to carry him back to her home so she could stitch his wounds. Even though the potion had stopped most of the bleeding, blood still began to run down her back as she carried him. Zecora had never witnessed such an act of brutality before in her life, she found it hard to believe that this was a mere stepping stone compared to the mountain that the soldier on her back had faced more than a thousand years ago.
After she had gotten him back to her home she laid him on the table, removed his armor, and started to stich up his wounds what he spoke in his sleep, “Gem… Luna… Gem… I'm... I'm… Sorry…”
Zecora continued stitching his wound despite her amazement, it’s been more than a thousand years and still he carries his regret on him like the scar he had on his ear. As she finished stitching him up, Commander Bolt finally woke up and looked over at her, “Your name is Zecora, right?”
Zecora smiled and nodded her head, “It’s nice to meet a warrior, so strong and so bold, you faced many foes, or so I was told, you don’t know me nor I know you, but an ancestors words, ring loud and true. for one hour I worked, I did all I could, to save your life, as my ancestor would. you’ve been sleeping for half the time that I had, but you need your rest, your wounds were quite bad.”
Star Bolt smiled and sat up, “Thank you Zecora, but I feel fine now. Do you know where you put my armor and shield? I would like to check the damage.”
Zecora pointed to the set of armor and the shield that she had placed on a chair in the corner of the room. Ignoring his pain Commander Bolt stood up and trotted over to the chair and examined his belongings. All the while Zecora couldn’t believe this pony’s actions. He was walking and talking as if nothing had happened but a few hours ago he was not only nearing death… but he was asking for it. While looking through his things he pulled a pink bandanna out and held it close to his chest while mumbling to himself. Zecora knew that it belonged to the love he had loss so she turned away to give him some privacy before he put his hoof on her shoulder and spoke, “Zecora I thank you for your kindness, but I have to go, I must find Nightmare Moon and stop her from repeating history. I can’t let her start a second war.”
It seemed like every action this stallion made only shocked her more and more. this soldier was putting aside his health, his life, and everything he had left to stop Nightmare moon, so rather than talk him out of it, she just lowered her head and replied, “If that’s your goal, then I'll help all I can, to stop Nightmare Moon, and her evil plan. She’ll be at the ruins that hold harmony, the old dark castle, deep in the Everfree. You know of this place, when you felt betrayed, the dark old castle where your judgment was made. But warn you I must, for I will not deny, if you fight, with your wounds… you will die.”
Star Bolt picked up his shield, slung it and started trotting towards the door leaving his armor behind. Zecora followed closely behind him, but then was caught off guard when he all of a sudden turned around and hugged her, “Thank you… not only have you saved my life, but you pointed me in the right direction. It has been a long time since I had a friend, and even though you were only fulfilling your ancestors wish, I still owe you my life. As your ancestor Chief Rafi would say, I hope good fortune will smile upon you.”
Zecora couldn’t believe what he was doing, all she did was help him when she found him dying in the forest and here he was treating her like they were foal hood friends. She could only blush as she replied, “A friend… to you? I'm embarrassed to say, you’re my first friend in many a day, now go and be safe for this night will soon, be the last night we hear from Nightmare Moon.”
Star Bolt smiled as he trotted out the door then flew into the sky, Zecora trotted to the door and spoke as he vanished into the night, “Good luck my friend, for this is your night, to change your past and make everything right. You have one more choice, to lead strong and proud, or to exile yourself, and blend in with a crowd. So I leave you now, to decide your task, will you run away… or end it, at last.”
Now that her journey was fulfilled Zecora knew that she had no more reason to stay in Equestria, but when she looked over at the armor that still sat on the chair, she mumbled to herself, “A friend… that soldier… it’s funny no less, that being his friend has given me happiness. True happiness I know, it’s funny but no lie, that he could befriend one ,as different as I. maybe this kingdom might not be so hard, if I can make many friends rather than discard. I'll give it a chance, and set things right. Because I know things will change, after tonight.”
About an hour after the sun rose, Star Bolt returned and knocked on her door, Zecora answered it and spoke, “Star Bolt my friend, I see the deed is done. I'm glad you lived to see the morning sun.”
Star Bolt nodded his head and replied, “It would seem that this world has no more place for Commander Bolt, but Luna is back and everything is better now. But can I ask one more thing from you? I would like you to help me melt down my armor and turn it into a sword. I don’t know if you can but I'll do everything I can to help. All I ask is that you help me make it and put some designs on it, you know to remind me of the ponies I used to fight beside. Also I would ask that you lend me your cloak, I know I don’t have much to offer in return, but I swear I'll do everything in my power to pay you back.”
Zecora smiled and replied, “For my first Equestrian friend, I'll do all I can to help in the end, but you know I can’t offer it for free, though I'll patiently wait for you to pay me.”
Therefore, Star Bolt spent the next few days helping Zecora fulfill his request; in return, he spent most of his time out gathering ingredients for her potions, while telling her about life in Equestria a thousand years ago and about the tree of lightning that was actually called the Thunder Grounds. And even after all was said and done, Star Bolt sheathed his sword and left to wander Equestria so that when word of his return had reached Canterlot, he wouldn’t put Zecora at any risk. Now she rarely sees him anymore though she has made many friends amongst the residents of Ponyville. Nevertheless, she continues to keep his return secret from anypony who asks. He returns to her home from time to time to visit her, it’s this reason that she decided to stay in Equestria… because his stories has given her strength to continue, and the friendship that he and the residents of Ponyville have shown, have given her true happiness.
It’s this happiness, that is its own reward.