“Where are we heading?” Twilight asked. Both she and Zecora were walking on a path through the Everfree Forest. The sounds of wild animals had faded long ago, leaving the two in an unnatural silence. The silence made Twilight uneasy, the Everfree was full of life, wild animal calls would normally be heard all around them. And yet, the only sound that accompanied the two was their footsteps on the dirt.
“We’re going to meet my friend,” Zecora answered. “Someone to talk to. And someone who has wished to speak with you.”
“Speak with me?” Twilight ducked under a branch. “Why would they want to speak with me?” Zecora pushed some leaves out of the way and gestured Twilight to enter. On the other side was a circular opening. Surrounding the opening were trees that touched the skies. Flowers of every size and colour bloomed at the base of each tree. In the center was a stone like circle that measured the size of a house. On the circle were lines and shapes similar to those found in an arcane circle. Twilight looked at the stone circle.
“I’ve never seen this kind of rock before,” she tapped on it. “It doesn’t feel like rock either. It feels almost like bone.” Zecora walked to the center of the circle and sat down. She waved her hoof asking Twilight to do the same.
“What is this place?” she asked.
“This, is Everfree’s Center,” Zecora said. “This is a place that is sacred, a place that very few dare to venture. It is here where we will meet, and it is here where our conversation will be complete.”
“Is somepony going to meet us here?” the zebra shook her head.
“No, they’re already here,” Twilight opened her mouth but was stopped by Zecora raising her hoof. “Let me warn you. If they do not like what they hear, you will disappear.”
“Is that a threat?”
“A threat? No. It is a promise that has not been fulfilled yet.” Zecora placed the ends of her forelegs together. She closed her eyes, took in a deep breath and sighed.
“Kuamsha,” she said. The word echoed around them. Twilight could feel magic radiating from the phrase.
“What’s going on?” she was ignored.
“Kuamsha,” the magic radiating from the word grew stronger. Twilight could feel herself being pushed back. Two vines from behind Zecora moved towards her. They wrapped around her neck and around her forelegs. She was lifted up a few feet off the ground.
“Zecora!” Twilight ran towards her friend. Her horn lit up as she approached the rising zebra. A wall of invisible energy stopped her just before she could reach Zecora. The energy pushed her onto her back. A third vine moved towards Zecora. It attached itself to the back of her skull. She spread her forelegs out and stopped rising.
“Kusema,” she said. A final burst of magical energy moved away from the zebra. Twilight was pushed to the edge of the circle. She watched in awe as Zecora floated in the air. She moved one of her forelegs causing vines to grab onto Twilight. Twilight struggled against them as she was brought in front of Zecora. When her eyes opened, they were glowing a bright spring green.
“Whatever you are, let go of Zecora!” Twilight shouted. “I know that you’re not her!”
“Very perceptive,” a distorted elderly voice said from Zecora’s body. “Most would assume that the shaman would be doing this of her own volition.”
“I said,” Twilight’s horn lit up. “Let. Her. Go.”
“After we’ve had our talk,” Twilight’s horn grew brighter. “She did tell you that someone wanted to speak to you, yes? That someone is me.”
“Who are you?” the elderly voice chuckled.
“I haven’t used my name for generations, I’ve forgotten it long ago,” Zecora’s body tapped her chin. “Call me as your people call me, Everfree.” Both Twilight and Zecora’s body were lowered to the ground. With a wave of Zecora’s hoof, the vines removed themselves from Twilight.
“Again I ask, who are you?” The vines around Zecora lifted her off the ground.
“I am the flowers you see around you,” Everfree said. “I am the trees that pierce the sky. I am the marsh that houses life. I am the roots deep within the ground.” Twilight’s eyes widened.
“You’re the forest,” she said. “How is that possible?”
“Because like you, I am very much alive,” Everfree touched Zecora’s neck. “The only difference is that I don’t have a way to speak. That’s why the shaman invited me into her body. But that’s not why we’re here is it? We’re here to have a talk.” Everfree began to move forward.
“Do you remember what happened two years ago on the longest day?” it asked.
“That was the Summer Sun Celebration,” Twilight replied. “Nightmare Moon returned and my friends and I stopped her.” Vines circled around Twilight and tied her. Everfree glared at the bound unicorn.
“That night, when you purified the moon’s avatar,” it said in an icy tone. “You did something to me as well. The power you used to cleanse her hurt me. Not like removing a tree or a berry, those kinds of physical wounds are temporary. But you did permanent damage to me. What do you think you did?”
“I,” Twilight stuttered. “I have no idea.”
“You burned a piece of my soul away,” the vine’s grip tightened. “That spot where the moon’s avatar stood was part of me. And when you burned her shell away, you burned my soul. It hurt more than your mortal mind can possibly imagine. Tell me, what happened when you sealed away chaos’ avatar?” Twilight was speechless.
“Nothing to say?” Everfree asked. “That’s fine. I’ll tell you what happened. You used that power again. And again, it burned my soul. Do you know what it’s like to have a piece of your soul burned away? Do you know what it’s like to have a fundamental piece of yourself missing?!” Twilight shook her head. The vines around Zecora’s right foreleg grew. They formed a three pointed claw on the surface of the hoof. The tips of the claws gave off a deep green glow.
“Well then,” Everfree pulled Zecora’s foreleg back. “Now’s the time to find out.” The foreleg was thrown towards Twilight’s chest. She closed her eyes. Strange, this doesn’t hurt as much as Everfree described. Twilight looked down to see the claws barely touching her. She looked up at the zebra in front of her to find that her left eye had lost its glow.
“Why do you stop me, shaman?” Everfree asked. Zecora’s mouth moved with her native tongue coming from it. “Is that so? Very well.” Zecora’s left eye blinked. When it opened up again they were glowing once more. The vines around Twilight loosened themselves and she fell to the floor. She lay there gasping for breath.
“The shaman has told me that you are very adept with magic. Is this true?”
“I’m not sure how to answer that,” Twilight said still gasping.
“She has told me that the sun’s avatar is helping you hone your abilities,” The purple unicorn stood up. “Once more, is this true?”
“It is,” she said.
“Then perhaps we can come to an agreement,” Everfree said. “There is a very old kind of magic that only Magic’s Bearer can use, a magic that has the ability to both heal and destroy. Because you wield that power, you can use it.”
“What is this magic?”
“Soul Magic,” Twilight blinked.
“I’ve never heard of that kind of magic before,” she said. “I haven’t seen it recorded in any books. How do I know it’s real?”
“It exists,” Everfree said. “Use it to repair my wounds. I will give you all the time you need. Do so, and I will not do the same as you have done to me. Agreed?” Twilight nodded.
———————[Time Limit Reached]———————
“Excellent. But know this,” Four sharp thorns pressed themselves against Twilight’s neck. “I will be watching. My roots run far deeper than most think. No matter where you go, I will find you. And if I find that you have made no effort to learn Soul Magic…” The thorns glowed.
“Well, you can guess. Are we clear?”
“C-crystal,” Twilight stammered. The thorns moved away from her neck and the vines receded from Zecora. She closed her eyes and the vine at the back of her head removed itself. When she opened them, they were their original colours. Twilight fell onto the floor. “What have I gotten myself into?”
“A promise that must be kept,” Zecora answered. “That was the only available option. And you had no choice but to accept.” She walked back to where they came.
“Come,” she said. “You have much work to do.” Twilight followed her friend back to the path. As they walked through the forest, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched. Ordinarily, she would tell herself that she was being paranoid; however she knew that that wasn’t the case anymore.
A/N: The two Swahili words I used, the first translates to awaken and the second translates to speak.
This was a pretty interesting take on the Everfree Forest as a living thing. And it was a pretty scary living thing at that. The idea of the Elements of Harmony hurting the forest like that was pretty interesting. I do wonder why Zecora would agree to be its vessel for threatening Twilight like that though, perhaps it has something on her as well. Good story!