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Behind the Shadows of Friendship

by Omegathyst

Twilight sat on her throne, her eyes red and tears dried on her fur, as she stared at Canterlot outside the windows of her castle in Canterlot. Years of all her work, bringing different creatures into Equestria to learn friendship, could all have very well been undone by a comment that she had let slip out during a royal address to various leaders. Despite Zecora’s insistence to her people that Twilight meant no harm by the comment, that it was a slip of the tongue, the zebras wouldn’t budge in the conversation. They had confronted Twilight days after the royal address, stomping their hooves as they shouted about how no zebra was invited to the School of Friendship, how Zecora was never invited to live with the ponies in Ponyville, and on top of that, how Twilight referred to Zecora as a witch in her speech when she had meant to say that Ponyville thought of her as a witch. She stared at the door intensely until the doors opened, two stallions of the Royal Guard flanking a zebra stallion much taller and bulkier than the two of them. His dreadlocks ran down to his neck and he never took his deep orange eyes off Twilight as he approached her as far as her guards would allow him. Upon taking a deep breath, the zebra then broke the silence and spoke to Twilight.

“Princess Twilight, I’ve come to address when we have last spoke,” the zebra said in his deep voice. “I’m glad you’ve acknowledged that the comment you’ve made was no joke.”

“Of c-course not, I’d never joke about something like that,” Twilight’s voice came out trembling for the first time in years. It was already bad enough as it is, with a mysterious unicorn wreaking havoc in Ponyville and causing ponies of other races to turn on each other. But if all of Zebrica came down on them? Twilight gritted her teeth, Equestria wouldn’t survive it.

“Shavanni…do you forgive me?” Twilight’s ears perked up the tiniest bit as she stared at the tribe leader’s unreadable expression.

“Despite my shared anger with my kind, I did come here with forgiveness in mind,” Shavanni sighed, noticing as Twilight clapped her hooves together as gasped with a smile on her face. “But Princess, do not rejoice just yet. Your kind is still not free from threat.”

“What do you…mean?” Twilight whispered, her blood running cold as she felt the feeling of spiders crawling underneath her skin. “You’re the leader of the tribe! Surely they’ll stand down if you forgive me, right?”

“Yes, but I’m only the leader of the biggest tribe,” Shavanni explained. “For the many others of Zebrica, they will not be satisfied with any plea or bribe. Some of the tribes my people have dealt with haven’t stopped until they’ve had their enemy’s head. They will not stop till all of your people have bled.”

“N-No,” Twilight shook, the tears that she thought had stopped came alive again in waterfalls, rolling down her face as she thought of anything that could reverse this. “Did you try reasoning with them? That all I did was say a comment in the wrong way?”

“All you did?” Shavanni’s glare bore into Twilight like knives held inches away from her muzzle, his ears flattening against his head as he openly gritted his teeth. “Princess Twilight Sparkle, you’ve insulted our people despite telling others to forbid. You’ve invited the griffons, the dragons, even the changelings that attacked this city into this so-called Friendship School. And yet, you’ve kept your only zebra resident in Ponyville isolated in the Everfree in a way so cruel?”

“She chose to be there!” Twilight snapped, feeling her temper wavering as she knew there was no salvaging the situation. “Nopony would’ve stopped her if she chose to move to Ponyville, we would’ve welcomed her with open hooves!”

“Don’t make me scoff at your throne, for I don’t believe your tone,” Shavanni chuckled. “The damage was already done, for already she was shun. Your people ran from her and accused her of witchcraft, therefore I wouldn’t believe you to be so daft. It was mere convenience for you, that you’ve effectively manipulated that poor zebra with the words you spew.”

“Listen here, I won’t accept your apology at all,” Shavanni decided upon finishing his monologue. “But I need not wage war since the other tribes will choose to brawl. It’s only a matter of time before they beat your people into the grime.”

The cold feeling in Twilight’s blood quickly shifted into a hot boiling feeling raging throughout her body, the tall alicorn gritting her teeth as she held back the biting words she wanted to land on Shavanni’s ears. But none of it would change anything, and Twilight’s shoulders slumped as she stared down at her own forehooves.

“If your kind want to hurt our mares and foals, then so be it,” Twilight shrugged, feeling her insides dying as the words came out of her mouth. “You should know that it’ll only cement the accusations your kind protested against.”

“And you should know,” Shavanni raised his voice, taking two steps closer to the throne. “That I made it clear my tribe won’t be part of this not five minutes ago. But my thoughts about you have been cemented as well, shall I explain and tell?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me anyway,” Twilight huffed.

“That you’re nothing but a liar about equality for all kind, for during the real problems, you choose to be blind,” Shavanni spat, then literally spat on the stairs leading up to Twilight’s throne before turning around. “Good day, Princess Twilight.”

Shavanni stormed off without the guards following him, the Princess of Equestria waiting for him to leave the building before burying her face in her hooves, sobbing as the door slammed closed. She sobbed for several seconds before lifting her face out of her hooves and looking at the guards that stared back at her.

“Get Spike,” Twilight ordered. “And tell him to evacuate as many Equestrians as possible to here and the other cities with high defenses.”

“Yes, your Majesty!” The two stallions saluted their Princess before rushing out of the building, leaving Twilight by herself. She felt a cold prickle on her neck from the air around her, half expecting for another zebra to show up behind her and wrap their forelegs around her neck, not stopping until she passed out and tumbled off her throne unconscious.

But such a moment never came.

Twilight gasped, was Shavanni right about her? How could she even think such a thought?

She then shook her head, taking a deep breath and preparing for war.


The next few months were not quite what she expected.

There weren't whole tribes, but rather smaller groups that had raided the towns of everything they could, and even taking the stragglers that didn’t evacuate and left them with scars that wouldn’t let them forget anytime soon. There were few ponies that refused to evacuate, wanting to stand up for their town despite their lack of fighting experience. One of those ponies leaned against Rarity as they walked to the doors of the Canterlot castle. Rarity stifled tears staring up at her marefriend’s face, and said marefriend looked down at the unicorn with her remaining eye.

“Now, sugarcube,” Applejack whispered, running her hoof down Rarity’s mane. “What ah did was mah decision, and ah won’t have any of this grieving. Ah’m still here, aren’t I? And if it weren’t for Rainbow Dash staying at the barn, we would have both been dead instead of maimed.”

“Oh please don’t remind me,” Rarity winced. “How is she supposed to lead the Wonderbolts with one wing?”

“That mare is as strong as an army of dragons,” Applejack assured her. “She’ll find a way.”

Applejack pushed the castle doors open, and Twilight gasped as she saw the long red scar going from the farm mare’s right ear down to her muzzle, an eye patch thankfully covering the permanent damage to her right eye. Twilight rushed to her best friends, throwing her forelegs and wings around them in a big embrace as she pressed her forehead against Applejack’s forehead.

Great Celestia, I’m so sorry!” Twilight cried. “This is all my fault, if I had just-”

“None of that sugarcube, you didn’t send any of those brutes after us,” Applejack sighed. “Please just take me to the nearest doctor, one with magic preferably.”

“I know just the pony,” Rarity walked Applejack past Twilight, and before Twilight could say anything, Rarity gave a sharp glare in the Princess’ direction out of Applejack’s sight. “No need to talk anymore, love. Save your energy please.”

Applejack nodded, the two mares leaving down one of the castle’s many hallways. Twilight was about to bury her face in her hooves for the hundredth time in the past few months, when she heard a knock on the door before it slightly opened, revealing a dark gray muzzle.

“Hello, permission to come in? I understand if your time is wearing thin,” Twilight recognized the feminine voice, and cursed herself for feeling the blood boiling within her at the Zebrican rhymes that have plagued her mind for many days now.

“Come in,” Twilight sighed, and Zecora walked in and slowly blinked at her.

“I know a zebra is the last creature you’d want to see, but I think you’d benefit from the words of a Guru like me,” Zecora explained herself.

“A…guru?” Twilight tilted her head.

“You may not believe in the Zebrican spirits in any way,” Zecora elaborated. “But closing your eyes with me and listening will keep the grief at bay.”

“Yeah right,” Twilight scoffed, closing her eyes anyway. “But go ahead, indulge me.”

“You’ve manifested this internalized hate for zebrakind throughout your life,” Zecora started, and Twilight flinched as the words of her reality were spoken out loud into the open air. “Even with an olive branch extended to others, did your initial encounter with me still created prejudice and strife.”

“But despite all of this, I forgive you,” Twilight gasped as Zecora placed her hooves on her own. “And I pray for the Zebrican spirits to bring peace and healing to your kind. Even if it takes generations, the stars for ponies will once more be aligned. However, there is one request I must give.”

“And that is?” Twilight whimpered, already knowing what Zecora was going to say.

“You must right this wrong about zebras in your head in order for your kind to live,” Zecora told her. “Now open your eyes, young mare. For now you will see us all the same and treat us fair.”

Twilight’s eyes flashed open, and despite the destruction of Equestria coming down on them no matter how hard her and the other Princesses have tried, felt a warm peace stirring within her for the first time in her entire life. All her life, she had chased books, then friendship, only to look past the zebra staring right at her. Feeling her eyes welling up with even more tears, Twilight grabbed Zecora with her forelegs and scooped the smaller zebra mare up in a tight embrace.

Zecora embraced the alicorn back and smiled, knowing that the horrors her kind are inflicting couldn’t be undone. But the Zebrican spirits showed her an orange earth pony with a rosy mane alongside four other ponies, who would extend friendship to Zebrica in a way that Twilight never did. And the Zebrican spirits would bring Zecora back as a new zebra, a reward for her gesture towards the misguided alicorn.

In due time, zebrakind would be understood like the others, starting with the hug Twilight and Zecora shared.