Zecora finished sprinkling herbs onto her floor for her estrus ritual later in the night and started adjusting the decorative vines in her home while humming a tune to herself. "You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em..." She sang to herself as she made the bed and finished up preparations for her ritual. "Well that only leaves one more thing before to make right before tonight." Zecora stared at a silver flask on the highest shelf in her herb cabinet with a mixture of awe and regret. They are not going to like what I have to say at the astral springs this year but then again, it's the same every year.
Zecora pulled the silver flask off the top shelf and set it beside her bed. She dug around underneath it and pulled out a old green saddlebag and set the silver flask inside it before heaving it onto her back. Time to get bitched at she thought to herself as she exited her home and stepped into the afternoon sun. "Celestia is slacking again I see, the sun is off at least three degrees." Zecora shook her shoulders to check if her saddlebag were firmly in place before walking down the road to her next destination. I don't even know why I bother with this part every year.
An hour later Zecora finally made it to her destination, a wide open hot spring at the far end of the Everfree Forrest. Zecora inhaled deeply, the smell of thick slightly sulfur laced steam in the air and the only other creature around were a pair of colts playing at the far end of the spring. Zecora eyed the pair of colts suspiciously, smelling the air, trying to get a idea of their ages. "Good , neither of them are of breeding age, I can meditate without any interruptions." Zecora set her backpack on the ground and rummaged through the contents, pulling out a towel that she wrapped around her head. next, she pulled out a vial of green spices and dumped them into the hot spring. The water fizzled and bubbled for a moment making the air around the area smell strongly of oregano.
"Ahh, smells just like the springs in my homeland." Zecora lowered herself into the hot pool of water slowly and took a seat with the water gently splashing against her neck. This feels so good. I don't care what Rarity says, that little spa in town has nothing on the real thing. Zecora leaned back letting the hot bubbling water relieve the tension her body had built up from going into estrus. Now if I only didn't have to do the other part... Zecora stared at her saddlebags for a moment, giving a deep sigh before opening up the left side and pulling out the silver flask. "Bottoms up I guess" Zecora popped the cork off the top of the flask, tilting her head back to allow the liquid within to slide down her throat. After finishing off the contents, she set the flask by her saddle bags. "Bweh, you think after all these years I would learn to add some fruit punch to the mix."
The sky started to turn a hazy pink, the ground became like glue and Zecora could smell the wildflowers from the meadows of her homeland. The sensation felt as if someone was tearing her mind from her body and soon she closed her weary eyes, drifting off into a deep sleep.
A few minutes passed Zecora opened her eyes to find herself in a meadow of lavender flowers. Taking a gander around she noticed she could see the ground below her through her legs. The sky was a brilliant sunset Pink and the light shone through her body making small rainbows in the misty air. Spirit form, no matter how many times I have done it, that part always creeps me out. In the Distance was a large oval hot spring with many other Zebra going about their business, chatting among themselves. Although one group was dead silent, giving venomous stares at Zecora as she walked up to the edge of the water.
"Auntie Bahati, grandma Masika and uncle Chakide, how have all of you been?" The three Zebra were silent as Zecora lowered herself into the spring. The all stood there glaring at her until he eldest of them spoke.
"So granddaughter, tonight will be your first estrus ritual of the year. So tell us, do you have a mate for tonight?"
"I may, grandma Maskia."
The rest of Zecora's family raised their eyebrows in unison, as well as a few other Zebra listening in on their conversation nearby. "What madness is this?" Bahati chimed in "Zecora has a mate for once?!"
The eldest Zebra put her hoof up to silence the outburst from some of the other zebra in the pool. " So what is the name of the father of my future great grandchild?"
Zecora looked into the water, hesitant to give a name. Here goes nothing. "Fluttershy, my mates name is Fluttershy."
A mixed outburst of confusion, anger and glee erupted around the spring. A virtual torrent of arguments broke out between tribe members and zebra from other tribes.
"Shes mating with a mare? how disgusting" said a zebra stallion with a spiked mohawk.
"Maybe it's a stallion with a very feminine name? I have heard that Equestria has plenty of them" said another.
"You're being so outdated Jimine, who cares if it's a mare? Not like it effects you any" said a particularly young looking filly.
Grandma Maskia stomped her hoof on the side of the spring, snorting loudly. The rest of the chattering stopped immediately and all eyes were on the elder Zebra. "Zecora, you very well know the consequences for mating with the same gender do you not? As it was written by my ancestors any stallion or mare caught doing such would be put to death, as is the law of the land."
Zecora looked around the spring for any kind of support but found the ones that were making comments if favor of her were oddly silent, too afraid to speak up over the elder Zebra. "What do you have to say for yourself Zecora? Do you still wish to go through with this...abomination of a mating or will you submit to the will of the tribe and change your filthy ways? Because the alternative is we hunt you down and put you to death, as well as your filthy mate."
Zecora thought to herself How dare she call sweet Fluttershy filthy...by my mothers bones I will not have this! Zecora puffed out her chest and her eyes began glowing a deep yellow sending arcs of yellow electricity rippling across the waters surface. "How dare you call my mate filthy you outdated, racist, useless sack of flesh!."
Many of the other Zebra were taken aback, some of them fleeing the spring in fear. "You speak to your elder like you run the tribe, you dare challenge the authority of the elders that have run this tribe for two thousand years?" Grandma Maskia eyes glowed a deep blue, walking up to Zecora, trying to intimidate her. "Twenty scores ago our ancestors set down rules to keep the tribe strong and proud, stand down or I will strike you down" Maskia threatened.
"Well one score and seven years in the past I was born and now I'm here to kick your ass!" Zecora arched her head back and struck Maskia with a thunderous headbutt sending her skipping across the water, landing in a heap in the meadow on the other side. "Get your old wrinkly behind up, I know that wasn't enough to hurt you. One can push or pull in the spirit realm but killing is impossible."
Sure enough Maskia staggered to her feet shaking her head, trying to focus from the powerful hit. "You..you struck a elder tribe member? Seize her! We will torture the homosexual behavior out of her." The other ponies moved to corner Zecora but stopped dead in their tracks when she stared at them with her powerful electric yellow eyes.
"You will do no such thing unless you prefer to end up like her."
"Equine retch! You inherited your cunt mothers disgusting sense of morality!"
"You will not speak of my mother that way, she had the foresight to get out from under your sexist, racist and homophobic leadership and find true happiness in other lands. I not only inherited her sense of adventure but her power as well. If being truly happy means I must couple with another mare then so be it. I said 'I may' have a mate tonight yet you condemn me before anything happens, as if thinking of loving is a crime."
"It matters not, the fact that you even thought it was a good idea is enough to mark you a traitor. If you stand down to the will of the tribe and take two hundred lashings, then I will forgive this transgression. Refuse and the hunters will be sent after you."
"I will not back down, love is where you find it and if your...hatred is so great that you cannot even be happy at the possibility of me being happy outside your narrow world view..then..then I...I cast my membership to this tribe to the winds.
Maskia eyes went blood red and she charged Zecora, smoke puffing from her snout as she closed in on her target. Zecora's eyes glowed brilliant yellow, arcs of electricity forming along her ears. As Maskia got within impact range Zecora shot a brilliant beam of yellow light striking the elder mare square in the chest, sending her rolling, tearing up the meadow in her wake. "You were never fit to run anyone's lives and you are far too old to challenge me, you lost a granddaughter today becuase of your own hate and inability to let go of the past. I hope you are happy with yourself."
Zecora turned her back on the rest of the tribes members, muttered a few words under her breath and faded from sight.
Zecora awoke moments later back inside her own body. The two colts playing across the spring staring down on her with worried expressions. "You okay lady?" a black colt with a scar over his right eye asked.
"I dunno Wind Shadow, she look's like she is crying" said a blue Pegasus colt with a ghost cutie mark.
Zecora looked into the black colts eyes and wiped a tear from her own. "I will be fine young one, I ..just had a nightmare is all." Well if I'm no longer a member of the tribe that means I no longer have to keep up the tradition of rhyming to outsiders. I guess that's something of a consolation prize.
"What about?" asked the blue Pegasus.
Zecora was taken aback, She didn't know how to phrase what happened to her closest friends, let alone a colt too young to understand basic anatomy. "You...you wouldn't understand young one. Now go along and play, I have much to contemplate."
The black colt shrugged and began to walk away but the Blue Pegasus pressed his questions. "Does it have to do with your grandma?"
"How did you know about that?" Zecora said shocked.
"You were kinda mumbling in your sleep lady, OH and my special talent." The young blue Pegasus pointed at his cutie mark, that of a ghost with holding a scepter. "I can detect when someones doing anything supernatural, including the astral projection you did about a hour ago."
Zecora lifted a eyebrow, a young-ling with this much spiritual attunement was rare even in Zebra let alone Pegasi. "Sit down young one, we have much to discuss it seems."
"My name Is Sight Seeker and that's my friend Wind Shadow, whats your name ma'am?"
"I am Zecora."
"Oh I remember you now, your that lady from nightmare night last year" Wind Shadow said.
"Indeed I am, Sit next me we have much to talk about."
Zecora spent the next two hours going over what happened in the astral springs with the two inquisitive colts. Although she had no idea why she bothered telling complete strangers about her problems, it felt good to get it off her chest. The two colts seemed mesmerized by her story and genuinely curious about how Zecora got to the astral plane to begin with.
"So your family doesn't like what you are doing? Sounds like my dad, he wants me to be some kinda superstar flier but I want to study astral anomalies. We constantly butt heads about it."
"My moms like that, she wants me to inherit and run her radish farm when she retires but I want to be a explorer."
"I see we all have similar problems, our families expect things from us but we want something different for ourselves" Zecora said.
"The way I see it, family is important but it's your life to live not theirs. Even if the steps you take are a mistake you will never learn if it is a mistake unless you make that step to begin with."
"Yeah, what Sight Seeker said. You can never learn what makes you happy unless you stumble around in the dark for a while. Sure you can take others advice but if you hesitate to explore other options you will end up regretting what could have been for the rest of your life."
These two are wise beyond their years Zecora thought to herself as she stared into the sunset. Standing up she shook the water from the spring off her striped coat. "It was nice talking to you, but I suggest you two getting home, The Everfree Forrest can be very dangerous at night."
"Don't worry about us Zecora, the Hoofington town limits are only a three minute walk from here."
"Well then I wish you a safe journey." Zecora started packing up her things when something made her hair stand on end...something she had felt before but couldn't put a hoof on. Turning around from packing up her belongings there was only two small puffs of smoke lingering in the air where the colts once stood. Could they have been? No...sure I would have detected if they were. Zecora shook her head and lifted the saddlebags over her back. Heading home she wondered If Fluttershy was waiting for her, or if it would be another lonely estrus. As she made her way down the trail home her thoughts kept wandering back to the two colts at the hot springs.