Rainbow Dash feels like a prisoner and is getting the urge to fly away and escape, before the opportunity slips away. But she knows it will not do anypony any good, especially that she'd only be letting her friends down. Pinkie Pie, on the other hand, hops happily without a worry in her mind. The zebras do not mind her bouncing, but watch her carefully nonetheless. The little pink pony with the poofy mane has taking a liking to the zebras, and they to her...a little.
After awhile, the group reaches their destination: a wide open lake of the swamps, filled with stones, branches, and other creatures such as frogs and bugs. Both ponies look around and wonder what all this is about.
"Uh...would somepony mind telling us WHY we are here?" Rainbow Dash demands to know.
The zebras place their torches into the ground and start gathering plants, mud, and other items scattered all around them.
"Oh oh oh! Maybe their going to give us a mud bath and facial! That would so cool! Right Dashie? Huh huh huh?~" Pinkie cheers as she bounces around her friend.
Rainbow scoffs at that idea and rolls her eyes; The very thought of her getting something like that out in the middle of the swamp is ridiculous. Especially that she is not into that sort of thing. Suddenly, Subira appears before them, ready to explain the situation.
"Oh Subira, there you are! So what is this all about?" Pinkie Pie asks, eager to know, "Is this where you and the other mares come to get facials? Or is it where-"
"We are preparing what you'll need for your trial. Sit down, for this may take a awhile." The leader of the zebra tribe explains. The two sit down and waits patiently as the zebras finish their gathering and move on to the next task Subira gives them.
Rainbow starts getting frustrated with all the waiting, although Pinkie Pie finds a way to overcome it: humming a lovely melody.
"Arrghhh!! How much longer to we have to wait like this?!" The tomboyish pony complains.
Before Pinkie replies, the zebras return. They are carrying bowls of white paint with them. They then gather around the two mares and place the bowls down beside them.
"To take part in this trial, you must do so in the old style." Subira explains as she joins up with them, "Markings shall be drawn upon your face...for the way of the tribe, you must accept and embrace."
Pinkie Pie seems excited about all this; She enjoyed face painting as much as partying, baking sweets, and pretty much everything else she loves. She holds completely still and awaits for her new look. Rainbow Dash is a little disagreeable on this, but has to play along. She holds still and is ready to accept the Markings of the Zebras.
The few zebras dip their hooves into the bowls and start painting the two ponies in a style most fitting to who and what they are:
Rainbow can feel their hooves moving across her face, her legs, and even her wings; Whatever they are drawing on her, she hopes it will be something cool. She is desperate to open her eyes and see for herself, but she is ordered not to until they finish.
Pinkie Pie feels so excited as the zebras paint her face and body. She hopes they put a smiley face on her...or maybe even a cake or balloons. The smiling pony hopes for so many wonderful things, but will have to wait and be surprised once it is over.
Pinkie and Rainbow continue holding still and keeping their eyes shut as the zebras paint them. Next thing they feel are their hooves pulling off, which probably means they are finished.
"We have finished and your eyes may now open. Look upon your new selves, for I have spoken!" The tribe leader announces.
Rainbow Dash opens her eyes and turns to Pinkie, who does the same. They both gasp as they see each other.
"Wow Pinkie...you look...almost like a zebra," Rainbow informs.
"Oh my gosh Rainbow! You look...well..."
Pinkie Pie smiles and cheers, "Completely, totally, and super-dupertasticly...Awesome!!"
Rainbow rushes over to the water and looks at her reflection. She is in complete awe. The markings she has all over her are beautiful as well as cool in her eyes. She looks like one of the zebra hunters.
"Wow...these aren't half bad." Rainbow admits as she continues gazing at her new look.
Pinkie hops over to the lake and looks at her own reflection and smiles greatly at what she sees, "Oh My Gosh! I love it, I love it, I love it!!!!" She screams. The markings she receives are different than Rainbow's, but show a much happier and pleasant image.
"You look amazing, Pinkie!"
"Thanks. You too, Dashie!"
Subira approaches them both and clears her throat out loud to get their attention. They turn to her and wonder what she wants.
"I hope you like what you were given. Very few outsides receive such admission." She informs them.
"Oh yes! Thank you ever so, so, soooo much!" Pinkie thanks with glee.
"Yeah. This is...not bad. Thanks for...making it look cool on me." Rainbow appreciates.
"This was not for your amusement, but your thanks is appreciated and quite an improvement." Subira says, as she makes her to the other side of the lake, "Follow me to where your test shall begin, but watch where you step and try not to fall in," She warns the two as they walk along the shore.
"I am not afraid, Subria. With this new look, I feel ready for anything!" Rainbow proudly declares.
"We shall see, for I strongly disagree," The zebra hunter snorts as she leads them further down the lake.
Subira guides Rainbow and Pinkie to the southwestern part of the lake and points out towards it. They can see a path of stepping stones and plants all along the way. "This is to be your test, to show us your best." Subira informs the two, "You two must cross this path as one. Fail, and all your efforts will be undone."
Rainbow gazes out and sees it as nothing more than a simple flight across, "So...this is it? I thought it would be more...challenging?"
The zebra glares at her, putting some fear into her eyes, "If it were up to me, you would still be tied to that tree!"
"S-s-sorry..." Rainbow apologizes.
"Um...I'm sorry, but I must agree with Rainbow Dash. I thought this would be bigger and more challenging, Subira." Pinkie confesses, supporting her friend.
The zebra sighs and explains, "Compared to the rest this one is small. There are trials far greater for those who receive the call."
"What do you mean by that?" Rainbow asks, politely this time.
"When colts and fillies reach the right age, they must go through these to reach the next stage. This process takes a few years at best, and soon they become adults and join the rest."
Pinkie and Rainbow listen= more as Subira continues, "Since time is very short, so shall be your test to earn our support." She then starts to explain the rules of the test, "Make your way to the other side, across the water so wide. Reach to where the others stand, or forever be shamed...and banned!"
Rainbow cracks her legs and wings, "Lets get this over with then." She flaps her wings and rises above the ground, but is pulled back down, "Hey, what give!"
Subira glares at the cyan Pegasus once again, "A true warrior has no use for wings! Only little fillies have need of such things!"
Rainbow growls and folds her wings, sighing, "Fine! I don't need them! I happen to be a world class athlete. I can do this in my sleep."
Subira snorts and says one last thing before as she turns around, "May the Spirits guide your steps." She gallops off to rejoin her zebra brothers and sister on the other side. Rainbow and Pinkie smile and nod at one another and start hopping from one stone to the next. Their trial...has begun.
As they makes their way across, both the pegasus and the earth pony find it very simple and way too easy.
"Ha! This is suppose to be challenging?" Rainbow asks rhetorically.
"I don't know, but it sure is fun!" Pinkie answers as she bounces from stone to stone, following behind her friend.
Rainbow chuckles and decides to rush a little ahead, hoping the shore is close; It is hard to see further ahead due to the dark, but at least they can see in front of them.
Pinkie is right behind Rainbow, until she spots a pair of yellow eyes within the water, but they disappear right after.
"What is it Pinkie?"
"I...uh...I thought I saw something." Pinkie answers nervously.
"I'm sure it was nothing. Come on, we have to hurry!"
Pinkie nods and continues following her friend, but then she sees another pair of glowing eyes, and freezes.
"There it is again, Rainbow Dash!" she informs her friend, "...Rainbow Dash...?" She looks ahead and can no longer see her friend, for she has gone on ahead. "Rainbow...?" Pinkie shivers as she notices more glowing eyes all around her, and are moving in closer to her. Terrified, she screams at the top of her lungs.
Meanwhile, Rainbow hops faster across the stones, and can see the shore from where she now stands. She smiles and chuckles to herself, "Some trial. This was simple as pie...right Pinkie?"
Rainbow turns and notices her friend is no longer behind her, "Pinkie...where are you?!"
Suddenly, she hears a scream in the distance, and knows that it is Pinkie, and no doubt in trouble. Rainbow starts making her way back, but soon finds herself surrounded by glowing eyes that her friend mentioned earlier.
"Alligators!" She yells.
Five of them surround her on the one large stone she stands on, and licking their chomps; They are hungry and seethe pony as their next meal.
Rainbow Dash feels the need to fly away, but if she does, both she and Pinkie will fail the test. She then hears Pinkie screaming again, and at that moment no longer cares what Subira said. The cyan Pegasus takes flight and dashes over to rescue her friend.
Upon arriving to her friend, she finds Pinkie trapped by alligators, who are as hungry as the last ones were. Enraged, Rainbow flies towards them and kicks them all in the heads with her hooves.
"Don't you dare touch my friend!" She warns as she does all she can to protect Pinkie.
The gators, now with massive headaches, flee from the two ponies. Rainbow picks up her friend and carries her to the shore where the zebras are waiting.
"You saved me, Rainbow. Thank you so much," Pinkie praises.
"You're my friend, Pinkie Pie. I would never abandon you or anypony else...not even for a silly test like this." Rainbow admits
Pinkie smiles as she is carried to the shore. Once the two arrive, they can see the zebras...and the disappointment in their eyes. Even Subira feels the same way.
"Against my orders you used your wings, and you know what punishment it brings!" Subira barks at them.
Pinkie hands her head, feeling responsible for Rainbow's actions. She is about to take the blame when Rainbow stands up to them.
"Now you listen here!" She yells at Subira and the other zebras, "I don't care about your stupid test. My friend was in danger, and I was not going to let her get eaten by alligators!" She snorts and continued, "My friends are more important to me...and if I had to use my wings to save her, then I would gladly fail any test to do so again!"
Pinkie feels joy when she hears Rainbow stand up for herself, and for her friends.
"Come on Pinkie. We're leaving." Rainbow informs as she turns away from the zebra tribe, "We don't need them if this is what it means to be a zebra."
As the two mares walks away, they soon find themselves blocked by another group in front of them.
"Out of the way!" Rainbow demands, but the zebras refuse to budge.
Just as Rainbow Dash is about to take off with Pinkie, Subira walks up to them from behind, "You may not leave yet, so I suggest you listen before I choose to forget!"
Rainbow and Pinkie have no choice but to sit down and listen as Subira explains, "You refused to heed my warning, and chose to finish by soaring. You failed to listen, which affects your current position!"
Rainbow has about enough of this annoying zebra until Subira speaks these next words, "For the loyally you showed...our respect and trust shall now be bestowed."
Pinkie and Rainbow gasp and are at a loss for words. "But...but...I don't...understand..." the confused Rainbow stutters.
"You passed because of your friend. You chose her over the test in the end." Subira smiles for the first time...a little, "You are loyal to those you care for. It is this in you that we accept and adore."
Pinkie and Rainbow smiles as Subria and the other zebras bow before them, congratulating them on passing their true test. Pinkie cheers and hugs her friend in excitement. Rainbow hugs her back, feeling the same.
"Come now, let us return to the village. We have much to discuss, for it is our privilege."
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie smile once more and follow the zebras as they are escorted back to the village not as unwanted outsiders, but as honored guests.