• Published 22nd Jan 2013
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The Monster in the Twilight - Georg



Twilight Sparkle’s brilliant mind was gone, burned away by her own power when she nearly destroyed Canterlot twelve years ago. Now there is a monster prowling the Everfree. And it is starting to remember what true power felt like.

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Ch. 3 - Plans

The Monster in the Twilight
Plans


Ever since the land of Zebrica was created by the spirits as a place for the zebra to live, there had been those who knew things nozebra had knowledge of, and spoke with things nozebra could see. Scattered and rare, these few zebra were called the Imetabiriwa, the Wise Ones. At first, they were shunned from the tribes while they traveled the paths and byways that linked the whole of the land together, their hooves passing over the ground as they chanted their chants. It was said an Imetabiriwa met on the road gave good luck to the traveler, and in a way that was true, for they were the ones whose hooves spoke to the earth spirits. The earth spirits would speak to the dangers, both monsters and predators, and warn them away from these paths, keeping them far from where the zebra trod. And so did the zebra prosper and multiply.

Over time as more zebra populated the land, the suspicious tribes began to quarrel and fight. They resented the Imetabiriwa giving their wisdom to all the tribes without restraint, and they attempted to control their movements. The spirits of the land grew restless without the touch of their hooves, and discord spread to all that the land touched, from the sky to the sea. Monsters fed upon the zebra for generations while the tribes hoarded their wisdom from each other, and the zebra dwindled in numbers.

Finally, an Imetabiriwa na Anga, a Wise One of the Sky, revealed herself to the zebra nations. She spoke of a great calamity foretold in the stars that would destroy the world. The zebra scoffed at her words, but the Imetabiriwa knew that she spoke truly, and they prepared. On the day she prophesied, the sun stopped in the sky, and the Angani Moto, the dreaded Sky Fire, fell upon the zebra and the land. Only the prayers and chants of thousands of Imetabiriwa drove the fiery wrath away, and that night the zebra nation took the shape it still holds today.

Deep in these plains of the Zebrican homeland, in a small area created by the intersection of the zebra tribes, there was a small pool of water. Nozebra drank of its bitter waters, for it was told to be formed from the tears of the gods themselves, and to drink of it, even a drop, would doom the drinker to a cursed life. Even the small lizards and insects who occupied the sharp rocks around the pool avoided it, leaving a bubble of silence perfect for meditation.

In a circle drawn in the dust to one side of the pool, a zebra of indeterminate age rested in the moonlight to recover her strength. Chosen by the current Imetabiriwa na Anga herself for a task that would occupy her entire life for the next ten rains, the responsibility of the world rested on her shoulders. The dreaded Angani Moto had been prophesied to return, and this time not all the prayers and chants of the Imetabiriwa would be able to stop it. Only one zebra could be sent to the far side of the world, to deal with the Evil One who had been vanquished to the moon by the powers of the Imetabiriwa a thousand rains ago.

That day drew near, and planning for her destiny had already begun. Soon she would shed her name of Kikao the Wanderer forever, and trot among the spirits to the far end of the world.

The rituals had begun a month ago, with a gathering of the tribal elders, and her selection. Kikao had a single drop from the sacred pool placed in each eye so she could see what could not be seen, and been washed in the water of the Great River Ki so the spirits would be unable to harm her. For a full week, she had been buried in the soft earth of the sacred circle of stones so that the very earth would know her scent, and now she rested under the glow of the moon, so she would be able to understand her enemy, and draw power from her.

Years of study under the greatest zebra minds of her tribe had laid the groundwork for her destiny, but now that she had been selected for this task, many years remained. Each of the Great Tribes would send their wisest to teach her for a full year, sharing ancient secrets that each tribe hoarded carefully from all others, for if she failed in her task, the world would die.

If she succeeded, a far different solitary fate awaited her. She would never be able to return to her home, for her mind would hold secrets that all tribes would kill to possess, or to keep other tribes from possessing. She would truly then be Zecora, the Lonely One.

Then…

The light of the moon wavered for a minute, casting the shadows of the valley into motion and making Kikao look up with a frown. A ripple flickering through the sky ever so slowly moved stars in a slow wave, shifting them back and forth like chips of wood on a moonlit lake, with several stars even bumping together and flaring up with light.

Kikao remained stationary, hardly breathing for a long period of time while the stars returned to immobility other than their stately rotation and the moon flowing on her path through the sky. It was that moon which held her attention, and the pattern of darkness on the surface that showed where the ancient Imetabiriwa had imprisoned their ancient foe so long ago. Prophecies were notoriously inaccurate until looked at afterwards, and she studied the glowing orb with the utmost of attention to ensure the unnamed entity remained trapped.

“What is it you fear, my old friend? Do you see something that brings your end?” The moon did not answer for her as it did for the Imetabiriwa na Anga, or at least she claimed. The image of the horned one looked troubled somehow, and Kikao sung the Song of Rising that the zebra always chanted at dusk and dawn to hurry the heavenly bodies along their way.

Jua wa siku,
Mwezi wa usiku,
Wakati wako umepita,
Hoja juu,
Kupitisha
Kupitisha⁽*⁾
(*) Sun of day, Moon of night, Your time has passed, move on, pass.


Before the sounds of the ancient chant had died away, Kikao could hear the sounds of galloping hooves, which preceded the arrival of the elderly Imetabiriwa na Anga. The old zebra, nearly milk-white with grey hair until her stripes were bare suggestions, wheezed asthmatically upon skidding to a halt and knocking dust all over Kikao’s meditative space. Before she had even gotten her breath back, she managed to gasp out a few words.

“What do you think, are you a fool?
The stars have changed, now move it, mule!”

Kikao remained in her kneeling position while trying to maintain her fleeting sense of tranquility, before addressing her elder respectfully.

“What rush is there for me to go?
The moon is still up there, you know.”

“Ow!” Kikao glared at the old zebra, who waved her staff and threatened another whack about the ears to the impudent youngster. “Cow,” she muttered. The slight did not seem to bother the elderly mare in the least, or even slow the aggressive waving of her gnarled wooden staff.

“There is no time! Our fates have changed!
The stars themselves have rearranged!”

The old zebra pointed her staff into the sky away from the moon and gestured at several stars to the side.

“There, you stupid mare!”

All feelings of meditative tranquility vanished as Kikao gasped in fright at the scrambled jumble that had once been an orderly cluster of predictions, now spitting and tossed about in a course that they were not due to travel for many years in the future.

“My respected elder, you are entirely right
I must be gone on this very night
This disruption has my liver scared
Please tell me all is being prepared?”

The old zebra scoffed and spat into the dust.

“Yes, yes, young stupid fool
We are not plain and simple tools
Come, Zecora, if She will survive
By morning’s light, you must arrive
The spirits of earth shall move you and me
Upon dawn, you will see the Everfree.”

“You?” Kikao gazed at the old zebra, grown milky eyed and grey with age but still filled with a primal energy she could never possess. “Too?”

The old zebra paused in her agitation to rest her staff on the ground and place a dusty hoof upon Kikao’s shoulder.

“Your name I give to you today
To wait would be a fool’s delay
I go with you to the spirit’s door
But when you emerge, I shall be no more
A price will be paid for our urgent need
The spirits have spoken, and I agreed
My years here are gone, my wisdom spent
I give my soul gladly, once your spirit is sent.”

* * *

In the middle of the Zebrican nation, near the mountain range known as the Spine of the World, is a simple flat stone the size of a large corral. Generations of zebra Imetabiriwa have inscribed runes of great power into the deep bones of the earth there, to the point where not a single spot of stone remains untouched by their scribing. A chaotic rush of zebra swarmed around it, gathering objects and boxes, books and scrolls of ancient lore, all of which had been considered not important enough to be inventoried in the years remaining before they would be needed.

They were needed now.

The center of the stone held a large cast-iron pot, the only iron item in the entire collection of items, which heaped high and threatened to cascade down the sides. Without time to consider the relative importance of things, everything that could be thought useful had been thrown together at once, and the newly named Zecora looked at the mess with only a minor twitch of irritability.

“We must be off now!” snapped the Imetabiriwa na Anga before she settled into the empty space remaining next to Zecora. “Have them start, you useless cow.”

Hundreds of Imetabiriwa began to dance and sing around the outside of the circle, calling upon the spirits of the earth and air in the ways that had been done for thousands of years. Slowly, the dust of the ground they kicked up began to settle across the heap of items, while the air grew thick and cloying. For hours, they danced in the whirling dust, unable to see each other or anything else until dawn broke, and the rays of sunlight shone down onto an empty stone.