Applebloom was over at Zecora’s hut, like she was every other week. The scent of potions and plants filled Applebloom’s nose. She trotted toward Zecora and her big pot of whatever it was. “Zecora, what are you making?” the little filly asked, peeking into the pot. Green liquid was bubbling, but instead of feeling heat, Applebloom felt a coolness emanating from the liquid, and when one of the bubbles popped, it smelled of springtime.
“This, my dear friend, is so that the heart can mend. When a pony has her heart broken, all it takes is a few words to be spoken. And then when she has said them, her heart will glow like a gem,” Zecora rhymed. She walked over to a shelf filled with little multi-colored bottles and picked a small blue glass one and walked back to the pot. She somehow managed to open the top and poured the contents into the pot.
Applebloom watched her with steady eyes. “Why do you rhyme, Zecora?” she asked suddenly. Her eyes widened, suddenly realizing how her question had sounded. “I-I mean, I-I don’t mean that in a bad way, Zecora! I… I was only curious,” she covered, looking down at the floor, ashamed.
But Zecora only smiled and said, “To make some potions I must rhyme, though it does take up a lot of time,” she laughed. “I remember when I didn’t rhyme at one point, that was before… before my family I did disappoint,” Zecora’s eyes became glassy. She cleared her throat. “Well, that was a while ago, and now I’m not sure if I know. I don’t remember them quite well, but I do know they were quite swell…” Zecora stopped for a moment. “Come with me to the back, and come help me unpack,” she said suddenly, walking quickly down a hallway.
Applebloom trotted after her, confused by Zecora’s strange attitude. What really scared her was that Zecora left her cure in the pot. She never did that, because if she left some potions and cures in the pot too long, they wouldn’t work.
Applebloom looked around. She had never been allowed down this hallway before. Of course, Zecora’s hut was pretty small, so Applebloom could always see down the hallway and see where it ended, but there was a room at the end of the hallway, a room in which she had never seen.
The doorway of that room was where Applebloom stood now. It was Zecora’s bedroom. The thought had never occurred to Applebloom; she had never seen Zecora’s bedroom before. She had never even thought about it. But now, as she stood in the doorway, gazing at the new room, she could feel the sense of living, and could tell that Zecora spent a lot of time here.
The zebra was rummaging through her small closet at this point in time, and Applebloom went over to see if she could help. “Um… Zecora? What is all this stuff?” Applebloom asked, ducking as an empty cardboard box flew over her head. There were filled boxes on the ground, which were taped up, and ancient jars and a scroll. There was one thing that seemed out of place in the mix of things; a plastic bag filled with black hair-it looked like pony hair.
Zecora looked at Applebloom with sad eyes. “Applebloom, I’d like to tell you about my life, which ended in a strife. Come sit over here, and I will tell you, if you’ll lend me your ear,”
Applebloom did as she was told and sat down on the rug on the ground. The rug was made from dark reds and blues, and was surprisingly soft against Applebloom’s bare rump.
Zecora sat across from Applebloom, dragging the boxes, jars, and the scroll around her. She first cut open a bulging cardboard box, the contents desperate to be free. She pulled out two items; the first was a woven blanket, the second an old book.
“Items from my past, they’re coming out of their box at last. This blanket was woven by my grandmare; she made it with a lot of care. This book belonged to my dad, and seeing it makes me quite sad. So, the blanket will be the start, of the story that breaks my heart. Are you ready, Applebloom?” Zecora asked, holding the blanket close in her arms. Applebloom nodded, sensing that this was going to be a sad story.
“Yes ma’am, Zecora. I’m ready.”
In the hot summer in Africa, there were many zebras roaming the plains. They weren’t your typical zebras, however; these zebras lived in huts, could talk, and had many other humane traits about them. There was one particular family, comprised of a mother, a father, two sons, a daughter, and a grandmare. They lived in a rather moderate-sized hut, regardless of the fact that there were six of them. They were all happy, and loved playing and working.
One day, the daughter and the sons were playing in the center of town with all the other foals while their parents worked. The daughter, whose name was Zecora, laughed and played with the foals, despite being younger than them by a year. They screamed and hollered; they were currently playing tag, and Zecora was “it”.
“Come on! Let me tag somepony! I don’t want to be “it” all the time!” Zecora cried. The others stuck their tongues out at her, daring her to strike out at them. Zecora stopped running, panting hard.
“Aw, Zecora’s giving up!” said a colt by the name of Paye. He was Zecora’s eldest brother.
Her second eldest brother, Dolo, trotted up to Paye and said, “Nah, she’s just doing that so we’ll let our guard down,” he turned to Zecora and said, “Aren’t ya, Zecora?”
Zecora lifted her head and smirked. “You got me, Dolo. I guess I should try a new tactic from now on,” she giggled. Dolo trotted up to her and hoof-bumped her. “Hey, Dolo, do you think we could go down to the river sometime? I found a new type of rock there, and I would love to show you!”
Dolo grinned and replied, “Maybe later, Zecora. Look! Grandmare’s coming!” he galloped toward their grandmare, who was slowly walking towards them.
She smiled and said, “Well, hello there, Dolo. Where is your brother? I have something for all three of you. I hope you will like them,” when she smiled, the creases around her eyes crinkled deeper.
Paye trotted up to grandmare. “I’m here, Grandmare! What do you have for us?” he asked.
Grandmare laughed and shook her head. “They’re still in the hut. I will give them to you at the gathering tonight. Something tells me you might need them. I just wanted to let you know,” Grandmare turned to walk away.
Paye scoffed. “Well thanks for getting our hopes up for nothing, Grandmare,” he ducked to avoid a flogging from Zecora.
“Don’t talk about Grandmare like that, Paye! You should be thankful she even made anything for a rotten foal like you. You should be proud that that wonderful mare is your grandmare,” Zecora said, gazing after her grandmare with adoring eyes. Paye rolled his eyes and walked off to continue playing with his friends.
Dolo sighed and looked at Zecora. “Hey, Zecora, what do you think will happen tonight? Do you think Dad’ll get in trouble for all that voodoo stuff he’s been into lately?” he asked her, referring to their father’s sudden interest in creating cures and potions for diseases.
Zecora swatted him. “No! Besides, it’s not voodoo stuff! He’s becoming a medicine pony, that’s all!”
Dolo looked at her dubiously. “And he has to do all that chanting and stuff?”
“I think the chanting and rhyming and stuff is cool!” Zecora protested.
“You’re just weird. What he’s doing is making everypony nervous. Nopony knows what kind of magic he might do. He might be upsetting the gods, or he might cause an accident. They have to do something about him,” he answered. His eyes flittered back and forth; looking at everything he could, except Zecora.
“How could you say that, Dolo?” she asked incredulously, “He’s our father! You have to be on his side!” Dolo only sighed and walked away, leaving Zecora looking after him, feeling hurt.
Later that evening, every zebra had gathered around a big fire, prepared to listen to stories and any town news. Grandmare called Paye, Dolo, and Zecora over one by one, presenting each with their present. Paye received a spear, Dolo a special mask, and Zecora a warm blanket. She curled up with it as she sat beside the fire. As much as Zecora loved the blanket, she couldn’t shake the nervousness that Dolo was right; maybe they would say something about her father’s strange behavior. As far as Zecora could tell, he was nowhere to be seen.
The chief cleared his throat, signaling that it was time to begin. “Welcome to another moon, zebras. Now, before we share stories, there is business to be taken care of. As many of you know, there is a certain zebra who is causing quite a stir with his studies. Now, as all of you zebras know, it is tradition that we banish whomever we believe is a threat to the greater tribe, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who believes this when I say that this particular zebra must leave immediately,” During his speech, the chief looked at Paye, Dolo, and Zecora each in turn. Zecora knew it the moment he had parted his lips. Her father was to be banished from their tribe, and never allowed back.
Grandmare spoke up, “Surely, Great Chief, you can give him one more chance. He is only trying to learn about the world, after all,” the shadows on her face flickered in the fire’s light.
“I am sorry to disrespect you, Elder, but he has been given too many chances as it is. I cannot risk my tribe to be in the middle of some mess that he will create. I must think of the tribe as a whole, not an individual. I’m sorry.”
Grandmare was silent the rest of the meeting. Zecora stood up and left. She couldn’t stand listening to this anymore. The chief watched her go, but didn’t say anything. He probably knew Zecora would try and tell her father, but that Zecora knew herself that it was impossible to help him now. Zecora wiped tears away from her eyes as she entered their hut.
“Father!” Zecora called. She found him sitting in the center of the hut, concentrating on a pot filled to the brim with some strange liquid. “Father… can you teach me?” she asked suddenly.
Her father looked up. “Teach you? About cures and remedies? You want to know?” he seemed genuinely shocked at this; after all, not many zebras enjoyed his work.
Zecora nodded. “Yes, please. Teach me tonight, father,” she said desperately. She wished to learn as much as she could before he was banished. Her father stood up and walked over to his personal space of the hut.
“Come here, Zecora,” he said, motioning her over. She did as she was told, and saw that in her father’s hooves was a book. “This book taught me everything I know. There are recipes and cures in here, ingredients and their descriptions, where you can find them, and more. This will be able to help you.”
Zecora looked into her father’s eyes, and knew. Her father already knew he was to be banished. Tears arrived at her eyes’ doorstep, and she hugged him. “Oh, Zecora,” he said, “I will miss you so terribly. You must promise me that you will never give this up. You must continue doing this practice for me. You must always think of your daddy,”
Zecora cried. “Daddy, please don’t go!” she hadn’t called him Daddy since she was just a small filly. “Please! I will miss you so much! You can’t leave me!” Her father started pushing her away. Why was he pushing her away?
Zecora looked up and saw that it wasn’t her father pushing her away; it was the chief and the warriors pulling her father away from her. “NO!!!” she screamed.
They took her father outside. She ran after them. “No!! DADDY, PLEASE!! You can’t leave me here! You can’t abandon me! You can’t!! Come back! Daddy, please!” at this she felt hooves wrapping themselves around her; it was Dolo. She buried her face in his shoulder, crying her eyes out as she watched her heart be banished from the tribe. She looked up once, and saw her father looking back at her. ‘I love you,’ he mouthed. “I love you too, Daddy,” she whispered. Then all she could see was her father’s retreating shadow.
At this Zecora stopped. She wiped tears away from her eyes. “I didn’t know I’d remember it so clearly. Oh, how I miss him dearly,” she blew her nose.
Applebloom had to wipe tears away from her eyes as well. “Oh, Zecora, I’m so sorry,” was all she could say. She crawled over to Zecora and snuggled up beside her.
Zecora sniffed and cleared her throat. “Ah, and next comes the sad part, where I truly lose my heart,” she pulled up the next box and pulled out one thing: A drawing of a lion.
“What is that, Zecora?” Applebloom asked, looking at the drawing with a look of confusion.
“This is a lion, a horrible beast, one who will surely eat ponies for a feast,” Zecora replied softly. “It is this beast that ended my life as I knew it, and it started with my brother’s spirit.”
It was a year after Zecora’s father had been banished. Zecora and Dolo were playing together a little was from the others. Suddenly Zecora gasped. “What is it, Zecora?” Dolo asked, looking up from their game in the dirt.
“I just remembered, Dolo! I never showed you the rock where the river flows!” Zecora said, gasping. Ever since she had been given the task of continuing her father’s work, she had rhymed everything she said. Nopony knew, but it was so that she could have practice when she had to chant. She giggled and asked, “Would you like to come with me now, and let me show you what I have found?”
Dolo was hesitant. “I’m not sure, Zecora… I mean, the elders all say to keep away from the river. Many zebras have seen lions around the river. It’s not safe,” he said. He had gotten used to Zecora’s rhyming, even if they didn’t quite make sense.
Zecora rolled her eyes. “Oh, please, brother, just a peek! And then we won’t talk of it for a week!” she said happily.
Dolo still looked hesitant, but said, “Well, all right then. But just a quick look, Zecora. I don’t want to get caught there without an adult.”
Zecora cheered happily, but softly. “Ok, let’s go! It’s right this way, you know,” she led the way across the plain. Once they got far enough, they broke into a gallop. With the wind racing through their manes, they quickly enjoyed themselves, and tried racing each other to the small river.
Once they arrived, Zecora looked for the rock. “Hmm… where did I see it…” she began searching all along the riverbank.
After ten minutes of searching, Dolo was getting anxious. “Well, Zecora, it has been a year since you’ve seen the rock. Do you even remember what it looks like?” he asked, only slightly revealing his annoyance and irritation at his sister.
“Umm…” Zecora stopped to think about that. “Actually, I don’t think so. Hehe… oops,” she smiled apologetically. Dolo tried with all his might to swallow his irritation with his sister. “Um, we could go back home, if you’d like, or we could continue to roam,” Zecora suggested lightly.
Dolo smirked. “Yeah, I think going home would be the best thing to do,” he said, and started walking off toward the tribe.
Zecora was about to follow him when she suddenly saw a creature slowly creeping towards them. “Um… Dolo, what is that that I see, right there across from me?” she pointed the creature out. It was hard to spot; it was the same color as the grass.
Dolo squinted in the direction Zecora was pointing. Suddenly his eyes widened. “It’s a lion! Run!” at this the lion launched forward, racing towards them with incredible speed. Zecora and Dolo ran towards the tribe, trying with all their might to outrun the lion.
“NO!!” Zecora cried, pulling to a stop. “We can’t lead the lion back to the village!” she started running in the opposite direction. “Come on, Dolo! We’ll go this way!” she ran off through the tall grass. Feeling the grass on her body, it almost made her forget she was racing away from a deadly lion. It calmed her in a way, and she let out a small giggle of pleasure at the familiarity of it.
Zecora turned around to see where the lion had gone. She couldn’t see it anywhere. Suddenly she saw it; it was running away from her and the village. She pumped her hoof in the air and shouted, “Yes!” she looked around for Dolo to share in their victory, but he was nowhere to be found. Zecora looked around, starting to get worried. Then her eyes fell on Dolo’s fallen body. “Dolo?” she said absentmindedly. She ran back as fast as she could, even faster than when she had been running away from the lion.
She arrived at Dolo’s body, out of breath. She fell beside him and said, “Dolo… hey… the lion ran away. We did it, Dolo! We survived!” she said excitedly. It took her a second to realize that Dolo wasn’t responding. “Dolo… come on, you can’t be out of breath that bad!” she giggled. Then she realized the only sound she heard was the wind blowing her mane and her breathing. Her breathing. She looked at Dolo. She shook his shoulder. “Hey… Dolo… what’s wrong? Why aren’t you answering? Dolo!” she saw his closed eyes.
“Come on, Dolo, now is not the time to be sleeping. You have to wake up. I’m sure the rest of the village is wondering where we are… come on, Dolo!” she continued to shake his shoulder, harder and harder. “Come on! Wake up! You have to wake up! Come on, Dolo… please…” Zecora’s eyes filled with tears as her mind and heart finally accepted the reality of the situation. Dolo had been killed.
“Dolo…” Zecora whispered softly. She rocked back and forth, shaking her head. “No, this can’t be happening. No, Dolo can’t be dead. He’s my big brother. He’s supposed to be there for me. He’s supposed to protect me….” ‘And that’s what he was doing’ she thought to herself, ‘He was distracting the lion so I could get away safely.’ Zecora lay across her brother, and wept.
Zecora and Applebloom were hugging each other. “Zecora, I… I don’t know what to say,” Applebloom said through tears.
Zecora shrugged helplessly. “My dear Applebloom, there is nothing to say. It should have happened this way,” she reached out and grabbed the plastic bag filled with a lock of a pony’s hair. Dolo’s hair, Applebloom realized, her heart breaking for Zecora. “This is all I have left of him. It leaves my heart quite grim.”
Zecora entered into the village with Dolo on her back. There were gasps and cries from all the zebras she passed, but she didn’t stop to talk to anypony. She had to get to her hut. But when she got there, she wasn’t greeted with happy tears for her and sad tears for Dolo; she was greeted with devastated tears for Dolo and looks of pure hatred for her.
“What were you thinking!?!” her mother cried after hearing Zecora’s story. She slapped her across the cheek. “He even warned you about going to the river! Why didn’t you listen to him, you stupid, ignorant foal! Now because of you my beautiful son is dead! I disown you as my daughter! Get out! Get out now!” Zecora shrank back in fear.
She looked to Paye for help, but all he did was give her a disgusted look and walked over to Dolo. Zecora tried her best to say how sorry she was, but the chief stood in front of her. “You cannot be trusted; you killed your own brother. How could you? I think we both know what has to happen now,” the chief gave Zecora a harsh glare, and she swallowed down her tears. She could only nod.
Before she turned to go, she said, “May I at least say goodbye to him?” she asked, gesturing towards Dolo.
“No! Get away from him!” her former mother shrieked.
But the chief held up his hoof. “She may have a minute alone with him. A minute, and then you must pack up and leave,” he said. Zecora nodded, and the other zebras walked out of the room.
Zecora brushed Dolo’s hair back. She took out a small dagger and cut off some of his hair and placed it inside a leather pouch. She kissed Dolo on the forehead. “Dolo, my big brother best friend forever. You have no idea how sorry I am. I will forever live in regret. I’m saying my last words to you without rhyme, because I know how much you detested it, even though you never told me. My life… it will never be the same again. I’ll have to leave. Actually, I think I will leave Africa permanently. It is too… it reminds me too much of the life I once had. I can’t bear it,” she started crying, “Dolo, I already miss you, dear brother. I hope to see you again,” she kissed his forehead once more, and grabbed her father’s book. With one last look at Dolo, she exited the hut and started off on her long trip away from everything she knew, towards a life she knew nothing about.
She received no looks of sadness or pity, only hatred and cruelty. Zecora bit her lip and said nothing. What else could be said? She left the village behind her, and unfortunately, was not attacked by another lion.
Applebloom helped Zecora put her boxes and things away. “Thank you for telling me, Zecora,” Applebloom said. “I appreciate it,”
Zecora nodded. “I just feel as if I am all alone, nopony cares about this old soul.”
Applebloom stopped what she was doing and said, “That’s not true, Zecora! I care about your old soul! You are part of my family, and I don’t expect that to ever change, ever!” she hugged Zecora, and felt Zecora’s tears of joy plop onto her tiny red-maned head.
The two stayed like that, hugging each other tightly, for many hours afterwards, and Applebloom visited Zecora more often.