Within the forest hut, Luigi stood in front of the yellow pegasus and cyan Yoshi, defending them from the crazed Zecora. The zebra started things by lobbing a few different bottled elixirs at the plumber, but they were all knocked back thanks to Luigi’s skilled hammer swings. Luigi quickly countered with a nimble jump, planting his feet on Zecora’s noggin. Fluttershy winced at this, and called out to Luigi. “Try not to hurt her too badly! I know she doesn’t seem very nice right now, but this isn’t how Zecora usually is! Something’s wrong with her!”
Luigi nodded, and he turned back to Zecora, awaiting her next attack. The zebra grabbed the tipped cauldron, and rolled it swiftly at Luigi. He knocked it back toward her easily enough, though she immediately spun on the spot and bucked it hard enough to rival Applejack’s kick. The pot sailed through the air, but once again, the plumber knocked it back. It landed overtop of Zecora, trapping her underneath. It was here that Luigi got an idea. He promptly rushed over to the pot, and swung his hammer on top of it, producing a loud, ringing clang. A shout came from inside, before a short silence. Then, Zecora’s voice came out from beneath it, calmer than it had been before.
“What’s going on? I cannot see! Who’d do such a thing to me?”
“Zecora, are you alright?” Fluttershy asked tentatively.
“Fluttershy, my quiet friend, my mind has yet to fully mend,” Zecora stated. “Discord’s taint is still on me, though another ring might set me free!” There then came a bit of groaning from inside the cauldron. “My lucidity is close to its end, so quickly; help me, my dear friend!”
Suddenly, there was an angry shout from Zecora, and the pot flew off of her. There she stood, her eyes still swirling in a hypnotised haze. She once again produced a few flasks, but lobbed them at Luigi a bit faster this time. Luigi managed to knock them away, one of them flying back and hitting Zecora. Furious once again, she didn’t wait for Luigi to attack. She retrieved the cauldron, and rolled it at him once again, hesitating for a moment in an attempt to throw him off. The trick didn’t work, however, and Luigi sent it back at Zecora, who bucked it back at him. He sent it to its sender once again, and it landed on top of her once again. Luigi rushed forward and hit the pot with all his might, causing another loud clang to sound out. Zecora shouted again, and everything was still for a moment.
Zecora’s voice sounded out once again. “Fluttershy, if you would care, please lift this pot up, I need some air.”
“Oh, of course,” Fluttershy replied. She walked over, and she, Luigi, and the Yoshi lifted the pot up and tossed it aside.
“Thank you dear, and I apologize,” Zecora replied. “That ‘me’ was caused by Discord’s lies.”
“Don’t worry, Zecora, I know how it feels,” Fluttershy said.
“Your sympathy means a lot, for sure, put I fear that I’m not fully cured. In the meantime, though, I’m curious, you see: Why did you come out here to see me?”
“Well, a friend of mine fell into a patch of Poison Joke, and we need a cure.” Fluttershy said, before she looked around the trashed hut. “Though I suppose that if you had any, it’s gone now…”
“Not to worry, Fluttershy,” Zecora said. “The cure is hidden from the eye.” Zecora moved over to the one standing shelf, and took out a book. Upon opening it, she revealed a medium sized bottle. “The ingredients attract many beasts. It’s inconvenient, to say the least.”
“Oh, thank you, Zecora!” Fluttershy said. “Let’s go give this to Mario. Twilight will be with him, and she can get rid of that spell Discord put on you for good.”
“Thank you, dear, but let’s make haste,” Zecora replied. “Each minute we talk is a minute we waste.”
“Oh, right,” Fluttershy said. She then looked to Luigi and the Yoshi, and they followed Fluttershy and Zecora out the door.
The group of four followed the sound of crying, and made it back to the other ponies, who were trying frantically to calm Baby Mario down. The Yoshi gave a start as Mario came into view, and immediately dashed over to the baby. Before anyone could react, the Yoshi had scooped Mario onto his back, and the temporary infant immediately stopped crying. Luigi, Fluttershy, and Zecora followed in its wake.
“Where the hay did that thing come from?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“I think the thing that’s more curious is how he managed to get Mario to stop crying,” Rarity said, lowering her hooves from her ears.
“Um… actually,“ Fluttershy spoke up. “Yoshis are extremely protective of infants of any species, and will go out of their way to pacify any crying infant it hears.”
“How did you know that?” Twilight asked. “I know you know a lot about animals, but I didn’t think you knew about Yoshis.”
Fluttershy took out her Equestrian Yoshi handling liscense that she had obtained in Mareshroom Beach. “I learned a lot about them at the Yoshi Shop.”
“As interesting as this may be,” Zecora said. “I’m beginning to lose control, you see.”
“Oh! Right!” Fluttershy said. “Twilight, Discord put a curse on Zecora. Do you think you could get rid of it like you did with all of us before?”
“I think so,” Twilight said. “Though it has been a while…” Twilight stepped towards Zecora, and shut her eyes. Her face screwed in concentration, and her horn began to shine. She touched it to Zecora’s head, and after a bright flash of light, the two separated. Zecora stood silent for a moment, before smiling.
“Thank you Twilight, my dear friend,” Zecora said. “Discord’s taint has met its end.”
“I guess Discord brainwashed you to slow us down,” Twilight said. “Celestia knows how many others he’s done this to…”
“Ya think maybe Trixie was one o’them?” Applejack asked.
“I don’t think so,” Twilight replied. “She didn’t seem to be acting too differently from what I remember of her.”
“So being a jerk just comes naturally to her.” Dash chimed in. “Figures.”
“I think we’re getting off track here,” Twilight said. “We’ve still gotta help Mario.”
“Do not worry, Miss Twilight,” Zecora said. “I have a brew to set things right.” Zecora took out the bottle, and walked over to the cyan Yoshi and its diminutive passenger. She uncorked the flask, and poured it over the baby plumber. Before their eyes, Mario seemed to rapidly age, going from baby to toddler to child to teenager and finally back to adulthood. Mario seemed confused as he sat atop the Yoshi, looking down at himself and everyone around him. Luigi quickly ran forward and hugged his brother, relieved to see him back to normal.
“Okay, now that that’s sorted out, we need to get to Ponyville,” Twilight said. “Zecora, do you any paths that will take us out of here as quickly as possible?”
“This forest has been changed, that much is true,” Zecora said. “However, I can guide you all quickly through.” She turned around, and began to walk along the path, before turning and beckoning them to follow her.
A few minutes, later, they stood at the edge of the forest, about a stone’s throw from Fluttershy’s cottage. Fortunately, Discord didn’t seem to have messed with the town or animals, as everything looked the same as when she left.
“Well, my friends, it is here we must part,” Zecora said. “Thoughts of your safety will be in my heart.”
“Thank you for everything, Zecora,” Twilight said. As the zebra nodded and headed back into the forest, Twilight turned to the rest of the group. “Now then, if my hunch is correct, the Elements should be back at the library, in the same book they were in before.” Everyone else nodded, and they proceeded into town.
The streets seemed oddly barren for the time of day that it was. Maybe everyone was hiding out after seeing the Everfree Forest suddenly wrap around the town. However, this seemed unlikely, as the forest wasn’t even visible from the town.
“Where is everyone?” Pinkie asked. “Ooh! Maybe they’re planning a surprise party for someone! Maybe it’s us!”
“Pinkie, it ain’t anyone’s birthday,” Applejack said.
“Maybe it’s Mario or Luigi’s birthday!” She said excitedly, she turned to the plumbers, a hopeful smile on her face, but they both shook their heads.
Twilight pondered. “The only times they’ve hidden away like this are when Zecora came to town and when Applebloom got the Cutie Pox…” she noted. “So whatever’s going on, this can’t be good…”
Suddenly, a loud cackling sounded out from behind them.
Everyone spun around on the spot, and they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.