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A Matter of Perspective · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The Perspective of Zebras
The fire burned brightly, drawing the attention of the spirits. The drums beat rhythmically, enticing them to come investigate. The shamans wore masks, reminding the spirits that they were friends. The zebras danced, inviting the spirits to join with them. And join they did.

Around the fire and the dancers, several zebras sat quietly. Most of them were the elders of the tribe, whose dancing years were far behind them. But one of them was a young mare, just on the cusp of adulthood.

For many hours, the spirits danced with the zebras to the beat of the drums around the fire, until the dawn began to draw near. It was then that the elder shamaness, who had been sitting next to the young mare, arose.

When she did so, the drums and the dancing stopped. The zebras quickly and silently formed a semicircle around the fire, all facing towards her. The spirits stopped their dancing as well, and let their attention fall upon this seemingly important zebra as they lazily drifted around the fire.

“Here me, great spirits of the plain,” the shamaness began chanting. “We seek your guidance now to gain. This young zebra is now full-grown, and needs to have her future known. So give to her your prophecy, and mark her with her destiny.”

The spirits turned their attention to the young mare. They had had their fun. They were satisfied. Yes, they would help the zebras.

The young mare felt the spirits surround her. The light cloak she wore began to billow as if a strong wind blew. Her eyes began to glow with a bright white light, and she rose slightly off the ground. She opened her mouth, and the spirits spoke through her.

“Years have passed: nine-eighty-one,
Since the war ‘twixt moon and sun.
And since then the victor has reigned
In peace in a land far away.
But when one thousand years have passed,
The loser will return at last.
For on the Summer Solstice day,
The stars will aid in her escape.
When she returns, the queen will fall,
And then she will reign over all.
She’ll freeze the heavens as they are;
The sun won’t move, nor moon, nor stars.
But you need not accept defeat.
There is a chance she can be beat.
So send this mare to pony land,
And with the queen she’ll make a plan.
And with some luck, then they just might
Be able to save day and night.”

Their message concluded, the spirits withdrew from the mare and dispersed across the plains, letting the mare gently drop to the ground as the light in her eyes faded. When she regained full control over her body, she looked out across the assembled zebras. They stared back at her, full of fear, apprehension, and confusion.

After a minute of silence and stares, the elder shamaness spoke up again. “Go home and sleep until morning. Then we'll discuss this grave warning.”

The shamaness’s words snapped the zebras out of their silent trance, and they began to quietly speak to each other about the night’s events as they dispersed to their homes. The night’s prophecy had worried them all, but none more so than the mare at the center of it all. As she turned to leave for her home and bed, she looked at the symbol the spirits had left for her on her flanks. It was, she thought, perhaps the worst mark possible, especially given the circumstances: a sun.

Zecora smiled as she sat in a meeting room somewhere in Canterlot’s castle. She had made it. At long last, her journey was over. But that just meant that her real adventure could now begin.

A few years had passed since the spirits had marked her and given their prophecy through her. In that time, she had spent her days preparing to follow that prophecy. She had become a full-fledged shamaness. She had learned the arts of alchemy and potion-making. She had become fluent in the Equestrian language. And she had learned how to make a long journey across the world. So she sat in peace as she waited for her scheduled meeting with the queen, or as the locals called her, the princess, she thought she was ready for whatever awaited her.

She was, of course, wrong.

Eventually, a guardspony opened the door to the room, and the princess entered. Her coat was the palest pink, so much that it was nearly white. Her mane was pink, blue, and green, and it flowed as if blown by a constant wind. She was by far the largest pony who Zecora had ever seen, as well as the only one with both wings and a horn. But the only part of her appearance that really caught Zecora’s attention was the stylized sun that was her cutie mark.

“It is a pleasure to receive you here,” the princess said with a smile. “I trust your accommodations here have been acceptable?”

This was enough to snap Zecora out of her shocked trance. “How can this be? Was I too late? Did the spirits have the wrong date? But as I traveled, I did see, both sun and moon, moving free.” Her eyes turned fierce as she stood up and glared at the princess. “So how is it that you now rule, and what things have you done, so cruel, to the other who ruled before, now that you’ve finally won your war.”

Celestia’s eyes widened as she was accused. “What are you talking about?”

“Your sister, is she gone for good? Did you destroy her while you could?”

Celestia was still confused, but she now at least knew for sure what this strange zebra was talking about. “My sister, Princess Luna. You’re referring to our fight and her banishment all those years ago. But why did you come all the way here to bring this up now?”

“‘Years ago?’ What do you mean? Did you not just become the queen?”

“No. My fight with my sister was well over nine hundred years ago, and I have ruled alone ever since then.”

“And yet your mark displays the sun, the symbol of the evil one, the sister who did go astray, and cursed us with eternal day.”

“What do you mean, ‘eternal day?’ It was my sister who refused to lower the moon and tried to bring about nighttime eternal. The night lasted for days as we fought with words, then with weapons and magic. During that whole time, only the moon was in the sky. It was never day then, the sun was stuck...somewhere...far...away.” Celestia’s eyes widened in absolute shock and horror as the reality of what had happened dawned on her. Zecora, meanwhile, continued to stare at her in confusion.

Seeing that she needed to explain her realization, Celestia continued. “Your land, it is very far away, right? You probably spent months traveling to get here.”

Zecora nodded to confirm, though she didn’t see how the question was relevant.

“The sun and moon don’t simply disappear when they go beyond the horizon. Our planet is a sphere, and they are constantly orbiting around it.” Celestia’s horn lit up as she used her magic to conjure an illusion of the sun and moon orbiting the planet. “So when it is daytime here,” she pointed at the part of the planet being illuminated by the sun, “it is nighttime at your home here on the other side,” she said as she pointed at the moon’s side of the planet, where it was dark. And when my sister stopped the orbits of the sun and moon when we fought, it remained nighttime here, but on your side of the planet…” She motioned for Zecora to complete the thought.

“...The sun remained up in our sky,” Zecora said as understanding came to her, “and we all feared we’d burn and die.” Though she knew it wasn’t strictly her fault, Celestia did feel quite bad at the mention of the near loss of so many innocent lives.“So all this time we blamed the sun, when the moon was the evil one.” Zecora took a deep bow before continuing. “Please, accept my apology, now that the truth, I plainly see.”

“Of course I accept your apology. I can’t very well blame you or your fellow zebras for this, after all. I can certainly see why, from your perspective, it would seem like I had tried to create an eternal day. But now that we’ve cleared that up, what brought you here to begin with?”

“Princess, my reasons, you’ll soon see.” Zecora turned to the side and lifted up her cloak, revealing the stylized spiral sun on her flank. “Once I explain my destiny.”

Zecora watched from her hiding place in the old castle as six young pony mares unlocked the power of the Elements of Harmony and used them to defeat Nightmare Moon. She smiled as she watched Princess Celestia, her closest friend for the past fifteen years, finally become reunited with and forgive her younger sister.

All the planning and preparations the two of them had done since they first met in Canterlot all those years ago had finally paid off. It hadn’t been easy. The pony who the princess had originally intended to wield the Elements of Harmony, one Sunset Shimmer, had rebelled and left the princess and Equestria a few years after Zecora arrived. But the princess had found another pupil to take her place. Said pupil had her own issues, and was so antisocial that Zecora feared that she wouldn’t be able to make good friends in time to use the Elements. But the princess had believed that she could, and she was right, as usual.

But in Zecora’s opinion, the biggest challenge of all was the fact that she had spent most of the past fifteen years living in the Everfree Forest. Between the training she had received back in her home village, her experiences on the long journey to Equestria, and some help from Princess Celestia, Zecora had been able to survive in the forest. It was by no means an easy life, but she had gotten quite good at living it. And considering just how dangerous the forest was, the fact that she was able to thrive there as well as she did was a true testament to her skill.

Her only real regret was that she had never been able to earn the trust and friendship of the ponies in the neighboring town.

But even that regret was a small one. While it would have been nice to have more friends than just the princess, her life was plenty busy and fulfilling as it was. She had spent her time in the forest communing with the spirits of the Everfree, tending to her herb and vegetable gardens, mixing potions and brews, using said potions and brews to keep the more dangerous residents of the forest away, and generally doing what it took to survive in a place like the Everfree Forest.

But all of that was just secondary to her more important task, which was to care for the Elements of Harmony. Had she not needed to do so, she wouldn’t have agreed to live in the forest to begin with. In fact, back when she and Princess Celestia had first began planning for this day and the princess had described the Everfree Forest to her, she was adamant in her refusal to live there. But in the end, they simply couldn’t think of any other ideas with a better chance of success. And so Zecora had spent a decade and a half living in the Everfree Forest, guarding the Elements of Harmony, and even caring for the Tree from whence they originally came.

But now, it was all over. Her job was done. Her adventure was complete. She could finally go home.

Except, she couldn’t. Not as she had planned, at least.

Zecora had long dreamed of the day she would be able to return home having successfully completed her quest and fulfilled her destiny. But what she hadn’t expected was that it would happen when she returned to her hollow tree that that morning. It was then that she realized that the forest that had done everything it could to prevent her from living in peace was her real home. While she might someday return to the plains to visit her family and old friends, it would only ever be a visit. She had grown to love the forest, and it had grown to accept her as part of it. And it wasn’t just the forest; there was also Celestia, who was by far the best friend she had ever had, and who she had spent many days with over the years, whether planning for her sister’s return, attempting to tame the Everfree Forest as best the could, or simply enjoying a nice cup of tea made from some herbs from Zecora’s garden.

Zecora continued to cast her memories back to everything that had happened over the past nineteen years, since that night she had received her prophecy and destiny, to the day she discovered how a matter of perspective had caused generations of misunderstanding between the zebras and Princess Celestia, even though they had never met before, to this day when she fulfilled her destiny by doing her part to prepare for the redemption of Princess Luna. Her life had been hard and dangerous, but she had liked it and lived it, and she wouldn’t have changed anything about it.

But what would she do now that she had accomplished all that her destiny required of her? “I think I will now take the chance,” Zecora said to herself, “to finally learn how to dance.”
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