Chapter 3: The Shaman
Night Glass had led Brave Storm and Star Atlas into their home. If the story they were about to tell was relevant to Brave Storm, it should be kept a private matter, not something any pony wandering by can listen in on. As the two visiting ponies settled into Night Glass’s home, he brewed tea to help calm the mare’s nerves.
“Hey, no matter what we learn,” Star Atlas comforted, using a wing to hug his sister, “I’m still your brother. And Mom and Dad will still be your mom and dad.”
“Thank you.” Brave Storm’s voice was quieter than it was only moments before.
Night Glass set their tea cups on cute saucers and poured a generous amount of a calming chamomile mixture for all three of them. Brave Storm and Star Atlas gave their thanks and sipped their tea. It seemed to help the mare’s anxiety, at least a little.
“The story I’m about to tell you is a long one. I can tell you it won’t give you all of the answers that you want.” Night Glass warned. “But if you honestly think that it’ll help, then I’ll share the tale.”
A zebra who traveled the wilds of Equestria found her way to Rorrim Lake. She was not the first to find the village, and she would not be the last. Many ponies are drawn to the Mirror Tree. She was a little over middle-aged.
Perhaps it was the fact that the Mirror Tree could give her what she wanted, or maybe she was drawn to the magic of the tree. She was a shaman, it was obvious the moment one laid eyes on her. The mare spoke in rhyme and made it even clearer that she was a very traditional zebra shaman.
“You ponies here have tied paper to this tree,” she asked, gesturing to the Mirror Tree that drew her here, “For what reason could that be?”
“That is the Mirror Tree of Rorrim Lake. That tree is very special to our village, for we wouldn’t be here to greet you without it.” Night Glass had explained, far more enthusiastic than he was with the expedition team. “Do you see the strange purple fruit that grows from the tree’s branches? Those will grow and grow until they’re ripe and tumble down into the soft moss below. Then a foal will emerge from the fruit!”
The mare was upset by their words and aggressively demanded. “Is this what you tell all who find you village folk? What a cruel and insensible joke!”
“No, no. I don’t think I’d believe me either.” Night Glass laughed, trying to lighten the mood. “Do you see that fruit up there, the roundest purplest one? One of my Grovetenders has told me its stem is drying out and is getting brittle. Soon, in a couple of days, it will fall. And you can see for yourself the miracle of the Mirror Tree.”
“I suppose there is no harm for me to stay and see this tree-foal’s odd first day.”
The zebra was offered a place to rest, but she refused. She found an old tree with a hollowed-out base outside Rorrim Lake. The mare didn’t initiate any conversations and never talked about herself. She waited almost as diligently as the foal’s parents for the fruit to be ready. And as Night Glass predicted, it fell in the final hours of the second day.
Many of Rorrim Lake’s villagers had gathered around to watch. The crowd cooed and cheered politely as the ripe fruit tumbled down and rolled to the base of their parent’s feet. The shaman watched in anticipation as the fruit wibbled and wobbled and suddenly burst open as the foal inside broke its head out. She was taken aback at the event she witnessed, wanting it to be true but fearing to hope.
She slinked away from the crowd and waited for the celebration of the new foal’s life to quiet down. She found Night Glass before they turned in for bed and asked for their guidance in getting her own foal. The Grovekeeper gladly showed her the process of making a wish and writing it on a special paper slip. The zebra asked a nearby pegasus to help her tie her talisman to one of the highest branches of the Mirror Tree.
Then she waited. Every day she came to Rorrim Lake and stared at the canopy, waiting for her wish to manifest. She spotted the fruit’s bud. She watched it blossom into a flower and slowly the fruiting branch began to grow her foal. The zebra stayed at Rorrim Lake for months, but she still remained private.
Her fruit was close to falling when a great storm came through Rorrim Lake. The winds blew hard and the trees swayed in the wind. They were surprisingly sturdy, keeping each other strong with their numbers. But many stray branches broke off and were blown away. The wailing of the winds was replaced by the wailing of the mourning zebra.
“Where is it? Where’s the fruit?” she cried, her rhyme as broken as her heart. “I can’t find it. Not it or any sign of a foal. Where did it go?”
Before even repairing their homes, the villagers of Rorrim Lake sought to find the missing fruit that fell from the Mirror Tree. Some future foals were recovered, but not all. The losses weighed heavy on every pony’s hearts. The shaman stayed in silent vigil at the base of the Mirror Tree. When the next dawn had broken, the zebra had long since disappeared.
“We keep an eye out for her. It’s hard since she never even gave us her name.” Night Glass wrapped up their story. “But no one has seen her since.”
Brave Storm was silent, staring at the space between her hooves. She heard Night Glass and Star Atlas talk among each other. She could hear every word but would lose the meaning of the sentence before it was even finished. Star Atlas nudged her in such a way as to encourage her to move and guided her out of Night Glass’s home.
The fresh evening air hit Brave Storm’s face and she suddenly felt exhausted. Star Atlas brought a wing over her back. He led her away from the village, bringing her to the edges of the wilds, and helped her sit at the base of a tree.
“What are you thinking about?” Star Atlas prompted after so many moments of silence had passed. “It’s not good to stay in your own head right now.”
“I’m not sure. There was no direct evidence that was even about me, but it lines up and explains so many things.”
“Circumstantial evidence is sometimes the best thing you’re going to get.” Star Atlas offered. “Do you feel deep in your heart that that story was about you and your mother?”
“Mom’s my mother. The other mare, even if she is my biological mother, didn’t raise me.” Brave Storm corrected. “But I don’t know how I feel. I’ve driven off the idea of ever knowing my bio-parents. And-and if I do decide to find her I worry that’ll hurt your’s and Mom’s and Dad’s feelings. You all raised me and… and…”
Brave Storm shivered and the tears she was holding back began to fall down her face. Star Atlas patted her gently while she worked through her initial burst of crying. He would be there for her, and he wouldn’t let her forget it for a moment.
“As I said earlier, Brave Storm, we will all still be your family.” Star Atlas reminded her after she had calmed down and her crying had turned to quiet hiccups. “No matter what you decide to do with this knowledge, I’ll support you. Never forget that. I love you.”
“Thank you. I love you, too.” Brave Storm leaned into her brother’s shoulder as he pulled her in for a hug. “I couldn’t have asked for a better family.”