• Published 1st Oct 2014
  • 3,593 Views, 435 Comments

Story Shuffle - FanOfMostEverything

Thirty-one one-shots inspired by thirty-one random Magic cards.

  • ...

Without Haste

Applejack was working the apple cart when the offer came. Zecora got her usual (half a dozen apples and a pie she made last all week,) but with her bits came an invitation. "Applejack, when next you're free, I ask that you come with me. There is something you should see deep within the Everfree."

AJ was shocked enough to disable her good manners. "Y' rhymed 'free' twice."

Zecora just grinned. "Separate couplets. No distress. But was that a no or yes?"

"Well..." Applejack looked over Zecora's withers. There wasn't much of a line, and Junebug was a patient sort, but it was still best not to hem and haw over this one. "Look, Ah may go into th' Everfree more often nowadays, but that don't mean Ah like it. Everypony knows that place ain't right."

That got a grin. "Yes, much like the whole town 'knew' that I cooked up pony stew."

"T' be fair, that was jus' Pinkie." Applejack sighed. "Ah'm just sayin, Zecora, good things in th' Everfree are few an' far-between."

Zecora nodded. "In this we don't disagree. I just ask you to trust me. Though the forest you revile, you will find this worth your while." She smiled as she left the stand. "The next evening you've no chores, come and see what lies in store."

And that was how Applejack found herself huddled in a bush next to Zecora, looking at a bunch of trees as the sun set. "Not exactly what Ah thought y' had in mind," Applejack muttered.

Zecora answered in a whisper. "Do you not daily tend the trees? I thought you would like seeing these."

"Well," Applejack said in similarly hushed tones, "Ah didn't know redwoods grew in th' Everfree, so there's that. But why didn't ya bring Twilight, or maybe Fluttershy? They'd prob'ly get a lot more outta this."

"Are we not friends? Can we not do something that's between just us two?"

"Well, sure we are. But..." Applejack groaned. Quietly. "Ah'm jus' fine with havin' a cup o' tea at yer place. Y' don't need to break out th' grand tour t' impress me. An' why are we whisperin'?"

Zecora patted her fetlock. "Just wait a bit. It will be clear precisely what we're doing here."

"Ah just ask 'cause Ah don't get a lot o' free time. Ah mean, there's always somethin' Ah could be doin' back home."

"Calm yourself, Applejack. Farming can wait. Give this a chance and you'll see something great."

"All Ah've seen so far is—" Applejack's eyes widened and her ears shot up. Her surroundings always felt screwy in the Everfree, her magic ramming up against the forest's own, but her frequent exposure had gotten her used to the odd sensations. Now, a whole new collection of odd sensations was line dancing up and down her spine.

Zecora made an odd, breathy sound that might have been laughter if it were louder. "Ah, you can sense them. I thought you could. Of all my friends, you're closest to wood."

"Well, Zecora, that's all well and good, but what exactly am Ah sensin'?" Applejack peered up. The answer came climbing down.

They were built like monkeys, or how Twilight described the creatures in the world beyond the mirror portal. But instead of fur or skin, they were made of wood and greenery, blending in with the trunks, visible mostly through motion until they reached the ground.

Applejack gaped at them. "Sweet Celestia... What are they?"

"High in the branches, there do they nest," said Zecora. "Sunrise to sunset, then do they rest. But in the nighttime, they come to ground. Such are the wonders you have now found."

"Right." Applejack considered this for a moment. "So... what are they?"

Zecora made her odd whisper-laugh again. "If this people has a name, knowing it I cannot claim. To them never have I spoke. I think of them as treefolk."

"Treefolk, huh?" Applejack watched them. Several dozen had reached the ground by now. They stood around the trees, joining hands. Between the distance and the sheer scale of the trees, it was difficult to tell, but she guessed they were three or four times the height of a pony. A dry, rattling rhythm came from them. "Now what're they doin'?"

"They bless the earth and tend the trees. They are, in some ways, like ponies."

Applejack frowned, but she kept watching the treefolk. "But this is th' Everfree. Plants grow on their own here."

"Many do, but redwoods can't." said Zecora. "It's the wrong place for these plants."

"Fair enough."

For a time, both were content to watch. The chant concluded, and the treefolk started wandering about the bases of the trunks. Applejack spoke up again. "Yup, they're somethin' like earth ponies. They know they gotta put in some hard work."

"I'm not yet sure; that's still a theory. Though your belief makes me quite cheery."

Applejack looked away from the creatures long enough to share a smile with Zecora. Then both went back to their observation.

Applejack was content on the way back to Sweet Apple Acres. Not overjoyed, but feeling the same pleasant buzz as after a good day's work. "Thank ya, Zecora. Ah wasn't expectin' this, but Ah had a good time."

Zecora smiled. "I feel the same. I'm glad you came."

An unwelcome thought had been dancing around Applejack's head for a while now. She knew it would bother her all night if she didn't make it known. She bit her lip. "So, uh, was this a... date?"

The silence stretched out for far too long. Finally, Zecora said, "I am glad that we are friends. That's where my affection ends."

"Right. Right. Jus' makin' sure." Applejack had never been happier to see the edge of the forest. "Well, gotta go. Lots o' work t' do tomorrow." She galloped away in a hurry.

Behind her, unseen, Zecora kept smiling.

Author's Note:

I find writing Zecora dialogue a pleasant meditative exercise. I am likely in a very small minority in that respect.

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