• Published 1st Nov 2012
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The Equestrian Wind Mage Classic: Season 1 - LordSiravant



After a teleportation spell goes wrong, Vaati finds himself in Equestria. The world's most powerful mage is about to learn about the world's most powerful magic: Friendship.

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Episode 3: Bridle Gossip

Episode Three: Bridle Gossip

Twilight, Spike, and Vaati had just left the library to bask in yet another glorious sunny day. Twilight sighed. "Ah, what a gorgeous day!"

Vaati merely 'hmph'ed in response. "Rainbow Dash must've gotten up early and cleared all the clouds away!" Spike said as he adjusted himself on his position on Twilight's back.

"I bet the whole town'll be out enjoying the sunshine," Twilight surmised with a smile.

All three of them suddenly stopped short as they noticed the whole town was empty. "Huh? Where is everypony?" Twilight asked in confusion.

Vaati happened to notice the nearby door of a house was open, a filly peeking curiously outside. Suddenly the foal's mother grabbed her child, pulled her inside, and quickly slammed the door shut. "Is it some kind of pony holiday?" Spike asked.

"Not that I know of," Twilight answered.

As Twilight and Spike conversed, Vaati glanced warily about his surroundings, his cold eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Does my breath stink?" Spike asked, coughing up flames into his hand and sniffing it.

"Not more than usual."

"Something's not right," Vaati interrupted. "Stay close to me, both of you."

"What is it?" Spike shakily asked. "Is it…zombies?"

"Not very likely," Twilight answered.

"Not likely, but…possible?"

"If there are any zombies, you stay behind me until I've taken care of them," Vaati instructed.

"Guys, there aren't any zombie ponies!" Twilight said. "Vaati, stop getting Spike all worked up!"

Twilight suddenly realized something. "Wait…are there zombies in your world, Vaati?"

"They're more commonly referred to as ReDeads," Vaati replied simply. "But yes…we have them."

"Psst!" came a sudden hiss.

Twilight and Spike jumped in surprise as Vaati whirled around towards the source of the noise, a spell in his hand ready to cast. The noise appeared to have originated from Sugarcube Corner. The top half of the front door was open. Suddenly Pinkie Pie's head popped out from behind the door. "Twilight!" she whispered. "Spike! Vaati!" Her head ducked again behind the door as Vaati dispelled his energy ball in relief. "Come here!" Her hoof poked out, ushering them towards her. "Come! Here!" She stuck her head out again. "Hurry! Before she gets you!"

Twilight and Vaati glanced at each other before shrugging and heading inside. All the lights of Sugarcube Corner were off. As Pinkie turned on a flashlight, Spike hugged Twilight's neck in fear. "Who? The zombie pony?"

"Z-z-zombie pony?" Pinkie stammered, her eyes going wide with terror.

"Spike, there are no zombie ponies!" Twilight chided before looking at Pinkie. "Pinkie, what are you doing alone in the dark?"

"I'm not alone in the dark!" Pinkie answered, turning on a single light, revealing the rest of the Mane Six gathered behind them, as well as Applejack's little sister, Applebloom.

"Okay, what are you all doing here in the dark?" Twilight asked, glancing at all of them.

"We're hidin' from…her!" Applejack answered shakily, pointing towards the window.

The whole group glanced out the window to see a hooded pony-like creature digging at the ground a short distance away. Suddenly the figure glanced back towards them, revealing glowing yellow eyes. Everypony sans Vaati and Twilight ducked out of view. "Didja see her, Twilight?" Applebloom asked. "Didja see…Zecora?"

"Applebloom!" Applejack snapped. "Ah toldja not to say that name out loud!"

"Well, I saw her glance this way," Twilight said.

"Glance eeeeeevilly this way!" Pinkie interrupted.

Twilight nudged her away from her face. "And then a bunch of you flip out for no good reason!"

"No good reason?" Applejack shot back. "Ya call protectin' yer kin no good reason? Why, the moment little Applebloom saw Zecora comin' into town, she started shakin' in her little horseshoes!"

As Applejack said that, she began shaking Applebloom. "Di-i-i-i-id n-o-o-o-o-ot!" Applebloom said as she shook.

"So I swept her up 'n brought her here!" Applejack finished.

"I walked here mahself!"

"Fer safe-keepin'!"

"Applejack! Ah'm not a baby! Ah can take care 'a mahself!"

"Not from that creepy Zecora!"

"She's mysterious," Fluttershy said.

"Sinister!" Rainbow Dash added.

"And spooooky!" Pinkie finished.

Vaati, still glancing out the window, interrupted, "So am I. I don't see any of you complaining."

A short, awkward silence followed. Hoping to break the tension, everypony crowded around the disgruntled sorcerer and peered once more out the window. Outside, Zecora ceased pawing at the ground for a moment and removed her hood, revealing a white-furred equine head adorned with dark grey stripes. The crowded ponies all gasped, except for Twilight, who just said, "Will you cut that out?"

"Just look at those stripes!" Rarity complained. "So garish."

Vaati rolled his eyes. "She's a zebra," Twilight explained.

"A what?" everypony, including Vaati, surprisingly enough, simultaneously asked.

"A zebra. And her stripes aren't a fashion choice, Rarity. They're what she was born with."

This information appeared to be too much for Rarity to handle, and the fashion pony dramatically fell on her back in a dead faint. Vaati bit back a snide remark and glanced out the window again. "Born where?" Applejack asked. "Ah ain't ever seen a pony like that before, 'scept fer…her!"

Rarity quickly recovered from her faint and stood up again as Twilight answered, "Well, she's probably not from around here. And she's not a pony. My books say that zebras come from a faraway land, but I've never seen her in Ponyville. Where does she live?"

"That's just it!" Applejack replied nervously. "She lives in…the Everfree Forest!"

The moment she said that, a loud crashing noise reverberated from the kitchen, startling everypony. Seeing who it was, Twilight admonished, "Spike!"

Apparently Spike had snuck into the kitchen to pilfer some of Pinkie's treats and accidentally knocked over a few pots and pans. "Sorry," he muttered sheepishly.

"The Everfree Forest just ain't natural!" Applejack said. "The plants grow…"

"Animals care for themselves," Fluttershy added.

"And the clouds move…" Rainbow added.

"All on their own!" the three ponies chorused.

Rarity fainted again. Vaati threw up his hands in exasperation. "What in Din's name is wrong with this world?! How is it that none of that is considered normal?!"

"There's a story behind that," Twilight replied with a weak smile. "But now's not exactly a good time."

"And that wicked enchantress Zecora lives there, doing her evil…uh, stuff!" Pinkie cried. "Why, she's so evil, I even wrote a song about her!"

"You what?" Vaati asked, deadpan.

"Here we go," Rainbow groaned as Pinkie began singing, darting hyperactively around the room as she sang.

"She's an evil enchantress,

She does evil dances!

And if you look in her eyes,

She'll put you in trances!

And you know what she'll do,

She'll mix up an evil brew!

And she'll gobble you up

In a big tasty stew, so…

WATCH OUT!"

When Pinkie was finished, she was standing on her hind legs on a table, holding her forehooves over her head as she breathed heavily. Everypony just stared at her for a moment. Finally Vaati broke the silence. "What…was I just forced to watch?"

"It's a work in progress," Pinkie proudly answered as she got down on all fours again and jumped off the table.

"This is all just a bunch of gossip and rumors," Twilight said. "Tell me. What exactly have you seen Zecora do?"

"Well," Rainbow began. "Once a month, she comes into Ponyville…"

"Ooh," Twilight interrupted in a mock-horrified tone.

"Then she lurks near the stores," Rarity added.

"Oh, my!" Twilight spoke mockingly.

"And then, she digs at the ground," Fluttershy finished.

"Gracious!...Okay, I'm sorry, but how is any of that bad? Maybe she comes to town to visit!"

"Yeah!" Applebloom added. "Maybe she's just tryin' to be neighborly."

"And maybe she's not lurking near the stores; maybe she's going to them, lurk-free, to do some shopping!"

"Yeah!" Applebloom interjected. "Everypony likes to shop! Ya know what Ah think?"

"Applebloom! Hush and let the big ponies talk!" Applejack interrupted, nudging Applebloom aside.

"Ah am a big pony!" Applebloom muttered bitterly to herself as she moved towards the back by the door, where Vaati was still glaring out the window.

"What about the digging at the ground?" Rainbow asked. "You gotta admit that's weird."

"What if she's digging around for innocent creatures?" Fluttershy implied with a worried glance.

Vaati snorted derisively before gritting his teeth in annoyance as Pinkie started working on her song in the background in her usual obnoxiously loud way. "I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for everything Zecora does," Twilight admonished Applejack. "If anypony here were actually brave enough to approach her, she would find out the truth!"

Applebloom blinked as an idea suddenly came to her. "Well Ah'm brave enough," she whispered to herself, nudging open the door. "Ah'm gonna go find out mahself."

Quietly, Applebloom snuck out the door while the ponies were still bickering to themselves. Vaati glanced their way and shook his head condescendingly. These ponies had a little more in common with Hylians than he had initially perceived. He didn't know whether to be pleased or disappointed. Deciding not to think on it too much, the sorcerer turned his head back towards the window just in time to see Zecora wandering off towards the edge of town.

What caught his eye, though, was the little yellow filly with red hair and a big red bow discreetly following the zebra.

Vaati's eyes narrowed in curiosity. "Now what is she doing?" he whispered to himself, watching Applebloom tailing Zecora.

He glanced once more towards the Mane Six, who paid him no mind at all as they continued to debate about Zecora. Rolling his eyes, he decided he needed a change of scenery anyway and quietly slipped out the door to catch up with Applebloom, casting a cloak of invisibility over himself so he would not be seen escaping.

Not noticing the absence of two of their own, Twilight said, "You ponies are being ridiculous!"

"Well, I heard Zecora eats hay," Pinkie retorted.

"Pinkie, I eat hay," Twilight responded crossly. "You eat hay."

"Yeah! But I heard it's the evil way she eats hay!"

"Hey!" Applejack suddenly yelled in alarm, glancing around in panic. "Where's Applebloom?"

All eyes immediately darted towards the still-open door. "The door's open!" Fluttershy gasped.

"She went outside!" Rarity cried.

"Vaati's gone, too!" Rainbow exclaimed, her eyes widening in terror. "What if he took Applebloom to offer her up as a sacrifice to Zecora?!"

Everypony sans Twilight gasped. "Rainbow, that's not fu-!" Twilight was interrupted by the sight of Applejack bolting out the door with a look of wild panic on her face. "AAAPPLEBLOOOOOM!" she yelled as she ran.

"We'd better go after her," Twilight said, glaring at Rainbow.

"What?" the cyan Pegasus asked.

"Spike, you stay here in case Applebloom or Vaati come back," Twilight ordered.

Spike saluted as the other ponies ran out the door after Applejack. "Will do!"

XXXXXX

Applebloom cautiously trailed after Zecora, her eyes slowly widening in growing fear as they neared the entrance to the Everfree Forest. Still unaware she was being followed, Zecora entered the forbidding woods, unconcerned with the many horrors that might lie concealed within the gnarled trees. Applebloom suddenly stopped right at the very edge of the path where the tree line cast its shadow across the ground. But the farm pony shook off her fear, took a deep breath, and went in.

Vaati had to admit, the girl's resolve impressed him. She couldn't be older than five, and yet she possessed the stubborn bravery of his once-hated adversary, Link. Vaati forced himself not to shiver in displeasure at the thought of his former enemy. He needed as much of his concentration as possible to maintain his shroud of invisibility as he quietly floated behind Applebloom so as to not alert her with his footsteps.

A particularly mean-spirited part of him wanted him to drop the spell and scare the daylights out of the poor child, but his mature, logical side easily won out. He was too curious about the mysterious Zecora to indulge in a childish prank that would immediately blow both of their covers. Vaati wasn't that dumb.

As they moved deeper and deeper into the forest, they passed by a large patch of brilliant blue flowers. Not wanting to disturb the natural beauty of it, Vaati and Applebloom circled around the flower patch, as did Zecora, surprisingly enough. They were making good progress. Wherever Zecora lived, it had to be close.

And then the silence was unceremoniously spoiled. "APPLEBLOOM!" came Applejack's frantic voice.

Startled, Vaati lost his concentration and de-cloaked right beside Applebloom, who reacted to the sight of her sister and her friends all staring at her from where they stood in the flower patch before jumping at the sight of Vaati standing next to her with an expression resembling a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

But the worst part was the fact that Zecora had heard them and turned her head. Caught, Vaati flashed a deadly glare in the Mane Six's direction. "Blast it all, you miserable pea-brains!"

"See?! I told you Vaati was gonna give her to Zecora as a sacrifice!" Rainbow Dash cried.

Vaati recoiled in shock. "I…what?!"

"Rainbow!" Twilight chided angrily.

"Applebloom, you get back 'ere right now!" Applejack demanded, stomping her hoof.

Zecora frowned. "Beware, beware you pony folk," she intoned in an exotic accent, stepping back into a dense mist. "Those leaves of blue are not a joke!"

Vaati sharply glanced down towards the flowers and noticed his cape was fluttering dangerously near one. Deciding Zecora's advice was worth heeding, the mage quickly pulled his robe away from the plant. Applejack quickly flopped a startled Applebloom onto her back, glaring at the zebra. "You…you keep yer creepy mumbo-jumbo to yerself, ya hear?"

"Yeah, was that supposed to scare us?!" Rainbow arrogantly demanded, causing the others (except Twilight) to voice their own complaints.

Well, except Pinkie, who just started up her song again. Vaati's eye twitched once before he lifted his hand and cast a small spell, forcefully shutting Pinkie's mouth. "Beware! Beware!" Zecora called.

And then the thick mists of the forest claimed her, and she was gone. "Yeah, back at ya, Zecora!" Rainbow boasted. "You and your lame curse are the ones who better beware!"

Applejack turned her head and glared at her pouting sister. "And you…why couldn't ya just listen to yer big sister?!"

"I…I, uh…"

"Maybe because her big sister was being a thick-headed simpleton lacking the mental capacity to keep from jumping to conclusions," Vaati snapped.

Applejack jerked her head up and met the mage's glare. "Says the one who was gonna offer mah sweet little sister up as a sacrifice to a creepy enchantress!"

"And there you go again!" Vaati shouted again before turning his attention to the others. "I can't believe the stupidity of you ignorant dull-wits! Thinking I would sink so low as to offer a child as a sacrifice to a mysterious person who might not actually be evil! Even at my worst, I would have never done something that cruel! How dare you suggest that I would?!"

The group recoiled in shock at Vaati's harsh words. Not even Twilight could think of something to say, even considering the fact that she didn't share her friends' opinion. Vaati turned around, his cape whipping dramatically around him. "I'm going home, before you start thinking up more ludicrous rumors to pin on my reputation."

The mage began stomping off. Realizing he was upset, Pinkie started bouncing after him, Vaati's mouth-sealing spell having worn off. "Hey, I know what'll cheer you—"

"NO!" Vaati yelled, turning around and pointing a finger at a startled Pinkie. "I don't want to talk to you, Pinkie! You're no better than the others! Just do me a favor, shut your mouth, AND DON'T BOTHER ME FOR THE REST OF THE BLOODY DAY!"

With that, the furious wind mage left them alone in the woods. Everypony was dead silent. Pinkie just stared wide-eyed at where he had disappeared. To Twilight's curiosity, Pinkie seemed to suddenly just…deflate somehow. Her hair slowly lost its poofiness and went straight and limp, and her coat lost some of its bright pink luster, becoming slightly greyed. The pink party pony's lip started quivering. Somehow sensing how distraught Pinkie was, Twilight slowly approached her. "Uh…Pinkie? You…alright?"

Suddenly she stepped back in awful surprise as Pinkie broke into tears, covering her face with her hooves as she sobbed uncontrollably. Twilight was shocked. She had never seen Pinkie Pie, of all ponies, cry before, and it nearly tore her heart in two. The other ponies quickly gathered around their bawling friend and initiated a group hug.

"There there, Pinkie," Rarity cooed. "It's alright, dear."

"No, i-i-it's not alright!" Pinkie blubbered. "Vaati ha-ha-a-a-ates meeee!"

"No, he doesn't hate you, Pinkie," Twilight assured her, gently stroking Pinkie's flattened mane. "He's just a little upset about somebody thinking up a crazy rumor about him!"

Twilight glared at Rainbow, who smiled nervously. "Okay, yeah. Maybe I did get ahead of myself."

Twilight said nothing as the Mane Six and Applebloom huddled together to comfort Pinkie.

XXXXXX

It was nearing nightfall when Twilight finally returned to the library. Spike was rearranging some books, taking care to keep his distance from Vaati, who was sitting in the far corner of the library, reading a book on Equestrian history. An unpleasant scowl was plastered on his face. Spike noticed Twilight enter and waved, "Hey, Twilight!"

Vaati looked up, his scowl softening only a little. Bidding Spike a quick hello, Twilight walked up to Vaati, a stern look on her face. "I can understand how upset you were at Rainbow coming up with that awful idea of hers," she said, "but there was no reason for you to yell at Pinkie like that."

"She's annoying," Vaati replied curtly, glancing back down at his book. "That song of hers was extremely grating. The last thing I needed was for her to throw me some silly party out of the blue."

"Vaati, you made her cry."

The mage blinked in surprise. "I didn't think she had it in her."

"That's not the point, Vaati!" Twilight chided. "You hurt her feelings really badly, and you need to apologize to her the next time you see her."

"Perhaps if she shuts up about curses and evil dances, maybe I'll consider it."

Twilight gritted her teeth in frustration. "First of all, there's no such thing as curses, and second of all—"

"I beg your pardon?" Vaati interrupted, raising an eyebrow. "You, who possess magical prowess beyond most other unicorns, are telling me that a basic category of magic like curses is not real?"

"My magic, real magic, comes from within," Twilight explained. "It's a skill you're born with. Curses are artificial, fake magic, conjured with incantations and potions. It's all smoke and mirrors meant to scare. But curses have no real power. They're just an old pony's tale!"

Twilight blinked in surprise when she saw Vaati's expression. He was giving her a look as if he had seen her sprout an extra head. Suddenly the sorcerer burst into a mad fit of laughter, startling Spike so badly he lost his balance on the stepladder he was standing on and tumbled to the ground, the books he had been carrying falling on top of him.

Predictably, this went unnoticed. Twilight glared at the cackling mage, waiting as he slowly calmed down. Finally Vaati looked her in the eye and flashed a condescending smile. "An old pony's tale? Ah, silly Twilight. You have a lot to learn about magic still."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Twilight huffed.

Vaati stood up, setting the book down on the chair he had previously occupied. "Curses are far from fake magic. The only magic that is truly fake is fortune-telling and card tricks. Everything else, even potion-making, is an integral part of the magical arts."

Spike emerged from the pile of books and stared at Vaati, intrigued by Vaati's lesson. The mage began to pace around the room, Twilight following him with her eyes. "Curses are a form of dark magic. To put it in specific terms, curses are offensive magic meant to have a long-term effect on the target. They aren't conjured by potions, though incantations are a way of focusing more power into the spell, whether through concentration or enlisting the aid of magical spirits. I myself know quite a few curses, my most infamous being the Stoning Spell."

"The Stoning Spell?" Spike inquired curiously.

Vaati glanced at him before answering, "Whomever is struck by the curse is immediately turned to stone. Based on what I've read of your land's history, a similar spell was harnessed by the Elements of Harmony against a creature called Discord."

Twilight flinched slightly at the feared name. "But let us return to the topic at hand," Vaati continued, resuming his pacing. "Curses have a wide range of effects, ranging from permanent transformation into an animal or object, to immortality while suffering unimaginable pain, to undeath."

Vaati's audience shuddered in discomfort at the mere thought of meeting with any of those terrible fates. "But, perhaps the most famous of all curses has to be the Golden Trio cycle."

Twilight and Spike's eyes widened in curiosity. "The Golden Trio Cycle centers around three items of legendary power in my world," Vaati continued. "Three golden triangles that held the power of the Goddesses who created my world. Power, Wisdom, and Courage. Together they were called the Triforce. The cycle began after the Demon King Demise, the much-feared son of the Dark God Majora, was struck down by the Champion of the Goddesses, after he had attempted to seize the Triforce for himself. With his dying breath, he cursed the Champion and the goddess Hylia-incarnate and their descendants. For eternity, the Hero and the Princess would be reincarnated, and do battle with an incarnation of Demise's power and hatred. That incarnation came to be known as Ganondorf. Ironically enough, his curse doomed many of the demons who invaded Hyrule afterwards, including a manifestation of Majora himself. Whenever any enemy threatened Hyrule, a Hero would be there to defeat it…a Hero that I myself have fought against several times."

"Whoa," Spike marveled.

"You fought against a hero?" Twilight asked, worried. "Why?"

"A series of circumstances I don't feel like elaborating on, that's why."

Twilight backed off a little at Vaati's sharp retort. "Well, maybe there are curses in your world, but not in ours."

Vaati chuckled darkly, ascending the staircase up to his bed. "Oh, Twilight. You may find out that some "old pony's tales" really are true. And with that, I bid you goodnight."

Twilight said nothing as she watched the mage retire for the night.

XXXXXX

That night, Twilight's dreams were plagued by nightmares. She could hear Pinkie's incessant singing, Zecora's cryptic rhymes, and Vaati's warnings. Finally, when morning came, Twilight groggily opened her eyes and groaned, "Ugh, what a dream."

She sat up in her bed and noticed that Vaati's bed was empty. Not unusual; Vaati was an early bird. She narrowed her eyes. "Curses, shmurses."

Twilight got out of bed and walked over to her cabinet, crying out in mild surprise at her frazzled bed hair. "Haha, wow, maybe Zecora cursed my hair!"

Chuckling to herself, Twilight used her magic to lift her brush and start straightening her hair.

And then she suddenly screamed.

A bright flash of light heralded Vaati's quick arrival as the mage came to her aid. "Twilight!" he exclaimed as he saw her staring wide-eyed at her horn.

"M-my horn!" she cried.

Vaati blinked in surprise as he saw what had gotten Twilight so worked up. Her horn was no longer pointed and straight. It flopped over her forehead like a wet noodle. And to add insult to injury, it was covered in blue polka-dots. "Well, that was unexpected," Vaati muttered as Twilight ran down the stairs and began pulling out books frantically.

"Spike! Help me find something, ANYTHING, that tells me what the hay's wrong with my horn!" she cried.

"Huh? What's wrong with…oh." Spike clamped his hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter.

Vaati trudged down the stairs, nonchalantly dodging all the books Twilight cast aside with her magic. The book-smart unicorn could not find anything that seemed helpful and was starting to panic. "Vaati! Help me out here!" she cried.

Vaati glanced over at a particularly interesting book with a green cover. The mage picked it up and held it up to Twilight's face. "What about this one?" he inquired.

Twilight read the title. "Super Naturals. Vaati, the word supernatural refers to things like ghosts and spirits and zombies, which do not exist in Equestria. Just like curses! This book is just a bunch of hooey!"

She shoved the book back in the mage's face. "I'm not even going to bother commenting on just how wrong you are," he muttered sourly to himself.

"Yeah, Twilight," Spike spoke up. "What if Vaati's right? What if it really is a-?"

"Ppbppht!"

Everyone turned to see Pinkie Pie with her tongue sticking out of her mouth. This was not by choice, it seemed, for her tongue appeared to be swollen to the point it didn't fit in her mouth anymore. It too was covered in blue spots. As such, she was having a difficult time speaking. "A purse?" Spike asked, misinterpreting Pinkie's altered speech pattern. "How can it be a purse?"

"Pinkie!" Twilight exclaimed. "What happened to you?!"

"Ppffhht pbbhp blpphbp!" answered, spitting all over a disgusted Spike, who quickly stepped back and wiped himself off.

"Ugh, say it, don't spray it!" he complained.

Suddenly they were all interrupted by a crashing noise outside the library, accompanied by an "ow." Everypony looked over to see Rainbow Dash continuously crashing into the library window, as if she wasn't able to control her flight. "What she's trying to say is-*BAM*-ow, is that Zecora *BAM* ow…"

Suddenly Rainbow crashed through the door and slammed headlong into a bookshelf, getting entangled in one of the ladders. "…slapped us all with a curse!" she painfully finished.

"I'm afraid I would have to agree," came Rarity's voice.

Everyone turned to see Rarity looking like a shaggy dog. Her hair looked absolutely awful. Twilight and Spike recoiled in shock at the sight. Vaati, on the other hand, snickered in amusement. This promised to be an interesting day. "Ah hate to say Ah toldja so, Twilight," spoke the voice of Applejack, focusing everypony's attention on her, "but Ah toldja so!"

Vaati's snicker rose slightly in volume. Applejack was now small enough to fit in the palm of Vaati's hand. The cowpony was perched atop Applebloom's back. "It's a curse, Ah tell ya!" she yelled.

Twilight stammered for a moment before noticing Fluttershy walk up next to Rarity. "W-well, Fluttershy seems just fine!"

Fluttershy looked away. Vaati could tell she was hiding something. "Yes, there doesn't seem to be a thing wrong with her!" Rarity complained.

"Fluttershy?" Twilight asked. "Are you all right?"

Fluttershy flinched, but did not answer.

"Is there something wrong with you?"

Fluttershy nodded.

"Would you mind telling us what it is?"

Fluttershy turned away and shut her eyes.

"So you're not gonna tell us?"

Fluttershy nodded.

"Is that a yes you will or no you won't?"

"For the love of Din, tell us what in Majora's name is wrong with you!" Vaati shouted, having lost his patience.

Fluttershy gulped. "I don't wanna talk about it," she said in a very deep, masculine voice.

Vaati blinked in surprise for a moment before bursting into laughter. Spike quickly joined in and pointed at all of them. "Wow, this is hilarious!" he guffawed. "Look at all of you! We got Hairity, Rainbow Crash, Spitty Pie, Appletini, Flutterguy, and…"

Spike turned to Twilight, but slowly lost his grin as he failed to come up with a proper name for Twilight's condition. "Eh, I got nuthin'."

"How about erectile dysfunction?" Vaati quipped.

The whole group stared open-mouthed at the smirking mage as if he had just insulted Princess Celestia. Twilight then let out a sarcastic chuckle. "Haha, very funny. Quit fooling around and find some more books so I can find a cure!"

Vaati glanced down at Spike. "Spike, hop to it."

Spike, knowing better than to argue with the scary sorcerer, walked off to search the library, grumbling to himself. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash finally managed to disentangle herself from the ladder and started flapping haphazardly in the air. "I think we'll find a cure for these curses at Zecora's place!"

"It's not a curse!" Twilight snapped, causing Rainbow to crash into the wall.

"I actually have to agree with Twilight here," Vaati spoke, causing everypony to glance at him in surprise. "These are too benign to be any sort of curse. They fall more into the realm of hexes."

"Well, whatever it is, Ah agree with Dash!" Applejack said. "We'll go to Zecora's, and force her to remove this hex!"

"It's not a hex, either!" Twilight cried in a frustrated tone.

The whole group started arguing. Vaati, not feeling like joining in, walked up to the only unaffected pony in the room. "Applebloom," he said to the farm pony, who stepped back a little at the mage's scrutinizing look. "I cannot help but notice you look…normal."

"W-well, so do you," Applebloom replied nervously. "Ah guess."

Applebloom looked over at the bickering adults and sighed. "This is all mah fault."

"No pity parties in my presence," Vaati interrupted, holding up Super Naturals. "We have work to do."

"What kinda work?" Applebloom asked, a hopeful gleam in her eye.

"We're going to Zecora's place and settling this silly matter once and for all."

Applejack glanced over to see Vaati and Applebloom passing by the table she stood on. "Now where do they think they're goin' this time?" she whispered before jumping into Applebloom's tail.

The filly and the sorcerer quietly slipped out of the library unnoticed.

"I don't care what you say, Twilight!" Rainbow snapped. "It's time to pony up and confront Zecora! C'mon, girls! Are ya with me?"

"Pbbpt bpt!" Pinkie declared.

"And I as well," Rarity added.

"I don't know," Fluttershy said. "Seems awfully dangerous."

Spike snickered at Fluttershy's voice. Rainbow turned towards the table. "What about you, Applejack?"

She received no answer. "Applejack?"

"Shppth gubbt!" Pinkie spat.

"Ah! Somepony stepped on her!" Rarity cried, causing all the ponies to check their hooves.

"Or sat on her!" Twilight said, looking at her flank.

The other ponies did the same, but there was no sign of the shrunken cowpony. Rainbow suddenly got an idea. "Rarity's hair!"

Pinkie immediately began sifting through Rarity's hair, the fashionista complaining audibly. "Pinkie, haven't you ever heard of personal space?!"

Pinkie shook her head. "Nuppbt!"

"Applebloom and Vaati are gone too!" Twilight exclaimed.

"I bet they went after Zecora!" Rainbow surmised.

"Well, we better go find them," Twilight said, walking towards the door. "C'mon, girls. Let's go."

Rarity moved to follow, but couldn't get very far, as Pinkie had accidentally stepped on a lock of her hair. Noticing this, Pinkie lifted her hoof, allowing freedom for Rarity. "Hey guys, a little help here?!" Rainbow demanded as she slid along the floor upside-down, her hind legs flailing in the air.

"Oopsie, sorry," Fluttershy muttered as she and Pinkie helped her get to her feet.

Rainbow promptly crashed into the wall again. Smiling apologetically, she then flew out the door as Fluttershy turned to Spike, who was writing in a journal. "Uh, Spike? Are you coming?" she asked.

"Nope…uh, gotta stay here and look for a cure!"

With that, the Mane Six left. "Aha! Twilight Flopple!" Spike exclaimed, writing the idea down in his notebook.

XXXXXX

Meanwhile, Applebloom and Vaati entered the Everfree Forest, determination burning in their eyes. Both suddenly stopped in surprise as they heard Applejack's voice. "Stop right there, you two!"

Applejack then popped out of Applebloom's mane. "Shame on ya for lurin' mah sister into the Everfree, Vaati! Now you both turn around and head back to the library, ya hear?"

Vaati and Applebloom smirked devilishly at each other before Applebloom replied, "No."

Applejack sputtered in surprise. "Whu—no?! You can't ignore a direct order from yer big sister!"

Applebloom threw her head up, tossing Applejack into the air and catching her in her mouth. The filly then put her on a branch hanging over a bramble bush and too far away from land for Applejack to escape. "Sorry, Applejack," Applebloom giggled, "but Ah'm the big sister now!"

"Applebloom, you—"

"Hush now, Applejack," Vaati crooned fiendishly, putting a finger to his lips and grinning. "Just sit there and look pretty until we return, won't you? It would be an awful shame if a big, hungry hawk swooped down and carried you off, now wouldn't it?"

Applejack cringed. Vaati and Applebloom then continued off, leaving Applejack to fend for herself. "Applebloom, you get back here right this instant! Ah'm gonna tell Big Macintosh on you!"

She then realized she was stuck there. "Ah, ponyfeathers."

XXXXXX

Twilight led her companions into the forest, galloping as fast as they could. "C'mon, girls, we've got to get to Zecora's!" she commanded. "Hurry!"

Rarit tripped on her hair and fell to the ground. Now covered in dirt and leaves, she rose to her feet and huffed. "Easier said than done!" she complained before picking up her pace.

Rainbow Dash, still unable to control her flying, spun through the air erratically before crashing into a tree, swallowing a large bug as she did. As she tried to gather her bearings, said "bug" popped out of Rainbow's mouth, revealing herself to be a relieved Applejack. "Rainbow Dash! Thank Celestia yer here! There's no time to lose!"

Applejack quickly fashioned a makeshift bridle and leaped onto Rainbow, stuffing the bit in Rainbow's mouth. "Ah need to get to Zecora's, pronto! Giddyap, pony!"

"Excuse me?" Rainbow snapped.

"Yeehaw!" Applejack responded, kicking Rainbow's neck.

The Pegasus immediately rose involuntarily into the air. "What the?!" Rainbow cried.

Rainbow began spinning through the air as Applejack tried to direct her movements. "No, Dash! Other way!" Applejack demanded.

It took several adjustments to get Rainbow relatively on course.

XXXXXX

After much haphazard trudging through the thick undergrowth, the ponies were finally met with a truly bizarre sight. A house was carved into a huge tree trunk. Several spooky tribal masks and symbols were dotted around the house. Several bottles filled with different-colored potions were hanging off branches on ropes. "Oh my, I look horrible!" Rarity complained, glancing at what little she could see of her filthy mane.

"Thipph plappbt lppb hubbibbl!" Pinkie said, lifting up Rarity's hair so she could see.

"Oh my, that place really does look horrible," Rarity agreed.

The ponies quietly snuck up to the window and peered in. The house's interior looked even weirder, with even more masks and fermenting potions scattered around. "Nice decorations," Rarity said, "if you like creepy!"

Suddenly the back door opened, and Zecora walked out, carrying a bottle in her mouth. Oblivious to the snooping intruders, Zecora walked over to a boiling pot filled with a thick green substance. She then sprinkled the contents of the bottle into the concoction before setting it down and chanting in an unfamiliar language.

Pinkie recoiled in anger and pointed at the window. "Ssbp sppbbt mbb sub! Ssbp sppbbt mbb sub!"

"She stole your song?" Rarity interpreted questioningly.

"Oh, Pinkie," Twilight groused. "It doesn't sound anything like your song."

Pinkie got in her face and nodded furiously before going over to Fluttershy and grabbing onto her leg. She then flashed her puppy-dog eyes. Knowing what she wanted, Fluttershy sighed in resignation and began to sing blues-style as Pinkie danced.

"She's an evil enchantress

And she does evil dances.

And if you look in her eyes,

She will put you in trances.

And what would she do,

She'll mix up an evil brew.

Then she'll gobble you up

In a big tasty stew, so…

Watch out."

"You saw those terrible things," Rarity said. "Now do you believe what we said?"

"Scary-looking masks, confusing incantations, and a great big bubbling cauldron?" Twilight answered reluctantly. "Everything is pointing to Zecora being…bad."

Then another thought occurred to her. "Or…what if she's just making soup?"

The ponies then glanced back through the window to see Zecora tasting her brew. "Mmm, the perfect temperature for ponies, I presume," she said to herself. "Now, where are that Vaati and Applebloom?"

Twilight's eyes bugged out in horror. "Or what if she's making Applebloom soup?!"

Everypony was quiet for a moment before they all started screaming in terror. Suddenly, Rainbow Dash and Applejack entered the picture, still spinning erratically through the air. "Ah'm comin', Applebloom!" Applejack yelled.

Rainbow then crashed right through the door, surprising Zecora. The zebra began yelling in her native tongue as Rainbow spun all over the room, crashing into things and breaking stuff. The door was suddenly busted open again by four angry-looking ponies. "What've you done with Applebloom?!" Twilight demanded.

Zecora ignored her, too busy yelling at Rainbow Dash. Applejack started twirling a lasso and latched it onto Zecora's ear, jumping on it and trying to take it down like a rodeo bull while Zecora looked on in confusion. "Ponies! What is this—" she began.

Suddenly Rainbow crashed into the cauldron, knocking it over and spilling its contents all over the floor. "No!" Zecora cried. "You know not what you do! You've gone and spilled my precious brew!"

"We're onto you, Zecora!" Twilight snapped. "I didn't want to believe that you cursed us, but the evidence is overwhelming!"

"You made me look ridiculous!" Rarity said.

"You made me sound ridiculous!" Fluttershy added.

"Ppbbt bbhh ppbhht bbptbbhs!" Pinkie interjected.

"You ruined my horn!" Twilight accused.

"How dare you!" Zecora yelled angrily. "You destroy my home, destroy my work, then accuse me of being a jerk?!"

"You put this curse on us!" Rainbow snapped. "Now you're gonna uncurse us!"

"It is not wise to travel down this road," Zecora warned ominously. "Your actions will make my anger explode!"

"Where is Applebloom?" Twilight demanded.

Twilight and Zecora started butting heads and pushing against each other.

"Zecora, we're back," came the voice of Vaati.

Everyone turned to see Vaati and Applebloom looking perfectly fine. "Ah think we got all the ingredients ya asked for!" Applebloom added before both she and Vaati noticed the scene before them. "What in Ponyville is goin' on here?"

Vaati's eyes narrowed at the spilled cauldron. "Twilight, please tell me you and your idiot friends didn't barge in here and ruin the potion we were making. I will be very cross."

Applejack gasped. "Applebloom! Yer okay!"

"Well why wouldn't Ah be?"

"Because Zecora's an evil enchantress who cursed us and was gonna cook you into soup!" Twilight explained.

To her great surprise, Zecora, Vaati, and Applebloom all began to laugh hysterically. "Twilight, for a total bookworm, you're still dumber than a box of rocks!" Vaati panted between laughs.

"Oh, Twilight! Did those silly fillies finally git in yer head?" Applebloom giggled. "Ya know there's no such thing as curses!"

Vaati stopped laughing at this.

"Applebloom, sweetie," Twilight responded, "you can't just tell me this all isn't a curse!"

"It's not a curse," Vaati explained. "You were actually right, and I was wrong, for once. Zecora, if you would explain to my dull-witted compatriots?"

"If you will remember back, the words I spoke were quite exact. "Beware, beware you pony folk! Those leaves of blue are not a joke!"

"It was a warnin'," Applebloom interjected, "about that blue plant. It's called Poison Joke."

"That plant is like poison oak, but its results are like a joke."

"What in the hay is that supposed to mean?!" Applejack demanded impatiently.

"It means this plant does not breed wrath, instead this plant just wants a laugh."

"…Will somepony please talk normal?"

"The blue flower patch you idiots walked into played pranks on you," Vaati dully explained. "Simply little jokes."

"Little jokes?" Applejack repeated. "Very funny."

"I get it now!" Twilight said. "It all makes sense!"

"About bloody time," Vaati grumbled to himself.

"Okay, but what about the cauldron?" Rainbow demanded.

"And the chanting?" Fluttershy added.

"And the creepy décor?" Rarity finished.

Zecora turned and looked at her masks. "Treasures from the land I am from. This one speaks hello, and this, welcome."

"Not very welcoming, if you ask me," Rarity huffed.

"The words I spoke were from olden times, something you call a nursery rhyme."

"But…the cauldron," Twilight stuttered. "The Applebloom soup?!"

"Lookie here, Twilight," Applebloom answered. "That pot'a water wasn't fer me, it was fer all these herbal ingredients! The cure for Poison Joke's just a simple ol' natural remedy! Ya just gotta take a bubble bath!"

"But I tried to find a book like this in the library and found nothing!"

"Not hard enough, little Twilight," Vaati smugly replied, closing the book so Twilight could see the cover.

Super Naturals.

"But…"

"You, of all people, should have known not to judge a book by its cover, Twilight," Vaati chided before reading the book's full title. "Super Naturals: Natural Remedies and Cure-Alls That Are Simply Super."

Twilight held her head down in shame. "You're right, Vaati. I should have just tried it out instead of brush it off right away. I'm sorry. I had the answer the whole time, if I had only bothered to look inside."

Twilight looked up at Zecora. "Zecora, would you be willing to make another batch of your brew?"

Zecora chuckled amiably. "Mix it up, I certainly will. Yet Iam missing an herb from Ponyville."

"But whenever Zecora comes to town," Applebloom added, "all the shops are mysteriously closed."

"Oh…well, I think we can help you with that," Twilight answered with a shy grin. "Follow me."

As the ponies slowly filed out the door, Vaati said to Zecora, "Wait a moment, Zecora."

The zebra turned to see Vaati. "I need to know something," the sorcerer said. "I have to be certain. Are there curses in Equestria?"

Zecora frowned. "A dangerous topic, my bipedal friend. One where your curiosity must end."

Vaati smirked in triumph before heading towards the door. "Thank you, Zecora. That was all the answer I needed."

XXXXXX

Zecora's entrance into Ponyville was, unsurpriningly, met with terror and screams. But they rose in volume as they saw Vaati and the Mane Six alongside her. "The wicked enchantress has cursed them all!" one pony cried.

"The horror! The horror!" another screamed before the whole crowd scattered, locking their doors and shutting the windows.

Twilight walked up to the herbal store and knocked on the door. The proprietor tentatively opened the door slightly. "Daisy, we need to talk," Twilight said.

XXXXXX

Not long afterwards, the Mane Six were all enjoying Zecora's bubble bath at the spa, while Vaati sat in a corner and read Super Naturals. By now, everyone had returned to normal, earning a cause for celebration. One of the spa owners came up to Zecora and said, "Miss Zecora, I would like to get the recipe for this bath! It's simply luxurious!"

Zecora smiled and opened her mouth to answer before she was interrupted.

"Applejack!" Applebloom cried. "Where's Applejack?!"

Everypony started panicking and splashing around in the water.

"Ah'm right here, little sis!" Applejack said, back to her normal size and sitting overtop a tiny bucket. "Ah ain't tiny no more!"

Rarity sighed in contentment. "Ah, I've never felt so lovely in all my life!"

Pinkie suddenly poked her head out of the water and started babbling. "Oh my gosh, I never realized how horrible it is not to be able to talk! I mean, I love talking so much and my tongue was all—"

Pinkie's mouth was suddenly zipped shut. Twilight stole a glance at Vaati, whose hand had just ceased glowing. The mage looked up from his book and smirked. "Yes, such an awful shame. Was it not, dear Fluttershy?"

Fluttershy was quiet for a moment. "Yes," she finally said, her voice back to normal.

The whole group then shared a laugh.

XXXXXX

Dear Princess Celestia,

My friends and I all learned an important lesson this week: never judge a book by its cover. Someone may look unusual, or funny, or scary, but you have to look past that and learn who they are inside. Real friends don't care what your cover is; it's the content of a pony that count. And a good friend, like a good book, is something that will last forever.

Your Faithful Students,

Twilight Sparkle

Vaati Picoru

As Princess Celestia's eyes hung over the mage's name inscribed in different hand-writing from Twilight's own, the Sun Goddess allowed herself a small smile. Things just might work out after all.