A Mortal Dillema

by Queen Sanguine Dreams

Null-Rings and Acting Classes

I was awoken by the sounds of quiet speech and decided it would be best to pretend I was still asleep.

"What do you mean he just passed out on the floor? Didn't you take him to a bed or something?" It sounded like the Pink alicorn said.

"It's not my fault! I had a lot of letters to write to Princess Celestia about this whole thing." Twilight replied.

"I thought we were keeping this a secret?!" Pink hissed.

"We are! Just you, Celestia, Spike and myself know about King Sombra's return."

"Psh, at least until she tells Luna. Everypony knows that mare just doesn't take surprises well."

"So what? It's not like anypony can hold anything against him. All Sombra's done is drink Cocoa and fall asleep on the floor." Spike pointed out.

"He enslaved an entire country to do his bidding! Of course there's things we can 'do' about him!"

"That was over a thousand years ago, Cadance."

"Alright, so what about a few years ago?"

"He wasn't even fully formed. It was probably a malfunctioning Phylactery."

Actually no, that was entirely me. I just don't remember much of that very well. It was one of the Phylacteries I used that was more spells than personality. I don't know what Sparkle did, but she seems to have combined several of my Phylacteries in order to fully reincarnate me. I should probably thank her for that later before I enslave her as well.

"Do you think we should be discussing something like this right outside his door?" Spike asked the both of them. "I mean, he could be awake right now and listening to us."

Smart dragon.

"I'm sure he's exhausted from yesterday. I'll check in on him anyway, though." Twilight assured the others.

"Alright. I'm gonna go make sandwiches. I'm starving!" Spike announced, and the scratching of his clawed feet faded down the hall.

"Do you think he's going to be recovered enough for conversation? He didn't talk much at all yesterday." Pink asked.

"It might just be part of his personality. I should ask Princess Celestia if he talked a lot when she fought him."

No, I was too busy being surprised to actually have a witty comeback at the moment. I would've had a great many things to say if I hadn't been obliterated by rainbows.

"Should you knock, or should I?"

"Cadance, it's your castle." Twilight pointed out.

So, the Pink alicorn is Princess Cadance then. Good to know.

"Right, Right." A momentary pause, then three sharp knocks.

Pretend to be asleep and wait for a few more knocks before answering. Then they won't suspect a thing.

Three sharper knocks.

A pause.

Three more louder knocks.

That should be good.

"Hmm, What?" I replied loud enough to be heard through the door.

"Are you awake?" Twilight called through the door.

No. In fact, I am still asleep. Thank you for asking my unconscious body that just answered you, Twilight. "Yes, I am awake." I grumbled, shifting my position on the floor to attempt and stand. To my surprise, I was doing a great deal better this morning. Perhaps some of my enchantments had survived over the years. I wasn't going to be doing back flips anytime soon, but I was able to walk around well enough. Running was out of the question however.

"May we come in?" Cadance asked.

Nay, this is my castle! I will use all of my non-accessible power to bore you to death, should you enter! "Yes." Was my simple reply.

The double crystalline doors then swung open and revealed the two alicorns. Both of them seemed prepared for me to attack them for some reason. Upon seeing me standing on my hooves and slightly wobbling however, they saw fit to relax.

"Are you okay?" Twilight asked as the two walked into the room.

I've only just come back from the dead for a third time. I've also been floated through a blizzard with no protection and slept on the floor! I am doing marvelous! "Fine."

Cadance and Twilight both made scrunchy faces while sharing a look. "I told you he doesn't talk much!" Cadance whispered.

I rolled my eyes at their lack of tact for speaking about me in front of my face like I was not there. "Why have you come here; to bother me?" I asked.

"We... wanted to see how well you were doing." Twilight nervously explained before nudging Princess Cadance.

"You're not planning on anything evil, are you?" Cadance bluntly asked, which caused Twilight to cover her face with a hoof.

Why yes! I was planning on immediately going back to a life of enslaving others to do my bidding and prance around the castle singing at random with how well everything was going for me at the moment. "No?" I looked to Twilight. "I was under the impression that allies do not accuse each other of plots to their face."

"We're not accusing you of anything!" Twilight quickly amended, "We're just worried about you is all!"

I suppose Princess Celestia is going to appear out of nowhere and give me a birthday gift now, correct? That would be equally unlikely. "I am recovering, Sparkle." I replied in a tired manner. "Is there something else you wished to ask of me?"

"Are you recovered enough to have a talk with Princess Cadance and I?"

For a talk, certainly. We're talking right now. I could use this to my advantage however. I suspect that the Magic Null-ring on my horn has been interfering with my enchantments and forcing me to recover normally. If I was able to have the ring removed for a mere five seconds I would be able to regain a small portion of my former power. Unfortunately, this ploy would be far too obvious. I will have to play the long game as I have with the dragon Spike. She will not directly trust me if I ask to have it removed entirely, and Princess Cadance will intervene and annihilate me if I were to try anything malicious. No, I must use her naivety to my advantage.

"I would be willing to speak, but first I have a request." I replied. "This null-ring," I pointed to it with my right hoof, "Is causing my enchantments to not function correctly. I understand your reluctance to remove it entirely, but I have something of a 'trust exercise' we could perform, if you are interested." I smiled reassuringly. At least I hoped so. My sharpened teeth tended to shine a negative light on that particular aspect of my facial structure. Cursed dark magic warping my soul.

"No way." Princess Cadance immediately replied, taking up an aggressive stance. "Don't give him the chance, Twilight." She warned wisely.

"You're the Princess of Friendship, correct? I'm attempting to gain your trust, Twilight Sparkle. Will you allow me that at least?"

"He's just trying to trick you!" Cadance insisted, which irritated me. I was now hoping on Twilight's aloof nature to grant my request.

"What if he's serious about this, Cadance?" Twilight asked uncertainly.

While the two bickered, I planned my next move. Alright, she's only going to give me barely five seconds. I will have to do something flashy to draw their attention away from the Null-Ring while it's removed. If they're focused on me, then they won't notice my tampering with the device. Blinding Light? No, too flashy. I could simply go with a Vortex of Shadow around me. Yes... that will work. I won't regain as much power as I would like, but it will allow me enough time to render the Null-Ring functionally hindered. It will then be able to recover my full strength in less than a week instead of remaining permanently helpless as long as the ring stays on me. Then I will be able to simply take off the ring with my own power and enslave these fools.

"King Sombra, I have to ask you something." Twilight asked me. Honestly, why does everypony ask somepony a question if they're asking them if they can ask a question?

"Yes, Twilight?" I replied.

"I have to have some kind of assurance that you won't immediately attempt to mind control us."

That's not a question, Sparkle. "What did you have in mind?"

Twilight and Cadance shared a quick glance. "If you try anything, we'll never tell you how to make Princess Cadance's special brew of Hot Cocoa."

There are types of that beverage?! I thought there was only the one! Wait, I'm getting sidetracked. As delicious as Cocoa may be, I can always enslave them later and simply force them to make it for me.

"Very well, Sparkle." I held up my left hoof. "I, King Sombra, Do swear to not betray you during the period of five seconds that the Magic Null-Ring is to be removed on penalty of 'No more cocoa.' " I swore.

"Wow, that actually worked."

"If he can keep his word. He is a villain after all."

Are they serious? "You know I can hear you. You're standing right in front of me."

The two shared an embarrassed smile and apologized. "Alright..." Twilight began. "Let's remove that ring!"

Her horn lit up in a glow of purple magic and I felt the tug of mana on my horn as the ring pulled away.

"One." She counted up. I quickly went to work in turning what little mana I had into the beginnings of a swirling shadow vortex.

"Two..." She continued, growing quickly worried. The shadows were beginning to obscure the light from the nearby windows and made it difficult for them to see. My eyes began to glow green.

"Three..." She nervously added, looking around in fright while Cadance grew angry. "You promised!" She yelled over the growing maelstrom of shadow.

"Four..." I had successfully tampered with the Null-Ring, though it was sloppy. If she inspected it at all, I would be found out. At least I could remove it later when nopony was around to observe me now.

"Five!" Twilight yelled, slamming the null-ring onto my horn and causing a severe magical whiplash. I was sent flying backwards into a crystalline wall hard enough that a painting was knocked loose and impaled itself on my horn, wrapping around my neck. A nearby shelf also dropped a lit candle which sputtered, spilling wax everywhere. Nothing caught fire, as the floor in that area was crystal instead of carpet.

Still reeling from the backlash, I gave a weak "I told you! I am completely trustworthy!" before coughing out a bit of shadow that had formed in my lungs. The glowing green of my eyes had been snuffed out entirely when the ring came back on, but I could still feel my power growing steadily within me. I had succeeded, if only barely.

"Does that happen all the time?" Twilight asked, taking in the devastated interior of the room. Chairs were flipped over, blinds and curtains were a mess, the sheets on the bed that I hadn't noticed until now were strewn across the floor and several glasses had shattered from the Vortex's power.

Every time I wake up! It must be dark magic of some kind, I swear! "Yes, although it depends on how long I have been forced to exist without my magic." I replied.

"Oh no!" Twilight gasped, finally seeing my current situation against a fractured wall. "Are you alright?" She asked, trotting quickly up to me and removing the ruined painting from around my neck.

I looked up into her eyes with another smile of mine. From her reaction, I should stop smiling. "I am better than before, Sparkle."

"Hey guys, I'm ba- Whoa!" Spike announced with his entrance before nearly dropping a plate loaded with sandwiches to the ground upon seeing the state of the room. "What happened!?"

"Twilight took Sombra's null-ring off for all of five seconds." Cadance explained with some amount of annoyance.

"Did he try to fight you two or something?"

"No, he just stood there and collected power for the time." Twilight said with surprise in her voice. "Honestly I was expecting an attack or something, but he just... did what he said he was going to do." She then rewarded me with a smile.

I technically didn't even break my promise. I didn't betray Twilight when I tampered with the Null-ring. I betrayed the Null-ring's trust in me. We had eaten sandwiches together and gone through a blizzard after all. Poor arcane device.

I picked myself off of the floor quite energetically, startling the alicorns and Spike with my vigor. "Now, You wished to discuss something?"

It took a moment for Cadance to reorganize her thoughts. "Yes..." She then shook her head for a moment, clearing whatever fog had come over her mind from being knocked out of her comfort zone. "I wanted to talk to you about Twilight's plan for the two of you to become friends."

Oh, just that? I thought this was going to be something important. "What of it?"

"We've already informed Princess Celestia of your return, so she'll be keeping a close eye on you. With that in mind, I don't think you're going to learn much about friendship being stuck in my castle for the rest of your 'reformation period'." she verbally air-quoted.

"We've been talking, and I was thinking about having you live in my castle in Ponyville. There's a lot more ponies to interact with, and not as many of them will be aware of who you are as they will in the Crystal Empire." Twilight added.

Suddenly, a knocking at the door drew all of our immediate attentions. "Hey, is everything alright in here?" I heard a stallion's voice call out.

"Oh no, It's Shining Armor!" Spike whispered.

Oh, that's right. They didn't tell anypony else except those in the room and Celestia. If some guard comes through the door then I know what to do. Acting classes have paid off in droves by now. Thank you, Miss Opera House.

"What do we do?" Twilight whispered to Cadance.

"We answer him, of course." I replied, walking towards the door.

"Sombra, don't!" Cadance hissed.

Moving my hoof to the handle, I pulled the door open non-nonchalantly to face whomever this Shining Armor was.

"King Sombra?!" He yelled, before pouncing on top of me in full armor. The two of us rolled backwards into the room and abruptly stopped when my back hit the frame of the bed.

Time for some Improvisation. Higher pitched voice, slight panic and worry... maybe a few stutters of surprise should do.

"S-shining Armor? It's an honor to meet you!" I appropriately stuttered. My voice was disguised enough that I would appear to be a stallion in the late years of my youth. My demeanor had changed to one of meek surprise instead of commanding authority and I had altered my mannerisms in kind.

It worked for the most part, confusing Shining Armor. "Huh?" He looked over towards Princess Cadance. "Uh, Cadance? What's going on?"

I quickly butted in before the alicorn could reply. "The Princess hired me for a play that she's been working on in secret! Ah, oops!" I added with fake embarrassment while covering my mouth and offering a look of guilty alarm towards Cadance.

Cadance, Twilight and Spike's mouths had all decided they didn't feel like operating correctly for the moment. They were all dropped loosely and attempting to form some kind of verbal reply.

"Prince Armor? Would you mind getting off of me?" I asked Shining Armor, hoping that he would be called a Prince in this time period instead of something else.

His attention refocused on me and our current positioning of him on top of me, and blushed briefly before moving off of me. "I'm sorry! I didn't know anything about this. Cadance has been really sneaky lately about things. I didn't know it would be a play though. That's new for you." He smiled proudly.

"Y-yes! A play!" Cadance finally spoke, "I was just going over... his lines!"

My lines. Are you serious? What, is there a hundred different ways I could say 'Crystal' or something? I refrained from showing my feelings of despair from her poor attempt at an excuse, but Shining Armor took them at face value regardless.

"Well, I'm sorry to barge in here like-- Wait, what happened in here?" he asked, looking around the mostly destroyed and messy room.

I spoke up, pointing to the null-ring on my horn. "I'm not that practiced with magic and there was a little 'accident', Eheh..." I nervously chuckled for effect.

"Right... I had one in my saddlebags-- For study!" Twilight added a bit too eagerly while nodding.

"Well, you should go to school to learn more about how to control your magic if you're wielding that kind of power there, Mister...?"

Quick! Think of an appropriate name for an actor!

"Stage Write!" I offered a hoof to shake with a smile, which unnerved him. "Oh! Don't worry about the teeth. They're fake." This cheerful demeanor is taxing me. I hope he leaves soon.

"Nice to meet you, Stage Write. Sorry about tackling you earlier. You make a very convincing King Sombra!" He smiled, shaking my hoof.

"Thank you for the compliment, Shining Armor. It was a pleasure to meet you!"

Shining then looked to Spike, Twilight and Cadance. "Everything okay in here with the room?" He motioned to the various destroyed objects.

"We'll be fine, Shiny. Thanks for checking up on us." Cadance replied warmly.

"You four have fun!" Shining called, leaving the room to do whatever it was that Princes do.

As the door shut, the three others in the room slumped to the floor in relief. "Wooo!" Spike tiredly exclaimed.

"That was close!" Twilight agreed.

"Where did you learn to act like that?" Cadance asked me.

"A Wizard never reveals his secrets." I replied cryptically, while proudly placing a hoof on my armored chest.

"I thought you were a necromancer?" Spike pointed out.

This deflated my ego a bit. Here I was, being all smug, and this dragon had to shoot me down. "Whatever." I grumbled, placing my hoof on the floor.

"Now that we're not in danger of an angry Shining Armor, what about him living with us in Ponyville again?" Spike asked, bringing us back to the reason for our conversation.

"Oh!" Twilight chirped. "Well, the only ponies that are going to know who King Sombra is, is all my friends. All we have to do is give Sombra a disguise and it should work out fine!"

Seriously? A disguise? "You expect a disguise to fool somepony into not recognizing me?" I asked in surprise.

"I could see it working. We just need to take off all your armor, your cloak and your crown. Then nopony would know it was you!"

"Not happening." I insisted.

"Come on, It's just clothing!" Spike jabbed.


"What's the matter, afraid of walking around naked like the rest of us?" Cadance joined in with a childish tone.

"N-no." I accidentally stammered.

"Uh oh! Sombra's afraid of being naked in public!" Spike teased.

"It's not like that." I tried to calmly insist. This is getting out of hoof quickly. If only I had my magic!

"I'll bet it is! You're probably hiding something really embarrassing under that cloak, aren't you?" Twilight joined in the group teasing of me.

I backed away from the group of hungry looking beings in front of me, swiftly being betrayed by the wall behind me. With my flank pressed against it and no way out, I was doomed.

"I'm warning you!"

Twilight used her magic to lift me into the air. I felt it tugging at my armor straps and desperately tried to hold on to what I could, but to no success. Eventually even my cloak was tossed from me, leaving me naked like the rest of these peasants.

"Happy?" I grumbled, expecting gasps of shock or giggling at my expense.

"Whoa... that's a cool cutie-mark!" Spike commented.

Wait, what?! I quickly tried to look around at my flank and only succeeded in spinning around helplessly in the air.

"Sombra? Are you okay?" Twilight asked, setting me down on the ground carefully. "I'm sorry if we teased you too much. We were just trying to get you out of your shell."

I didn't care what Twilight was saying, as I was too busy looking at my flank in awe. There, upon my once bare flank that I had hidden with great shame, was a cutie-mark. Black crystals sticking out of a Phylactery with an ethereal wisp circling it. No... My special talent can't be...

"What does it mean, Sombra?" Cadance asked.

I looked up at the three whom were expectantly awaiting my reply. "It means that my special talent is coming back from the dead."

Twilight's recoiled a bit. "Seriously?"

"That's kinda cool, actually." Spike commented.

"Does that mean you'll never die permanently?" Cadance asked, worried.

"Your guess is as good as mine." I replied, standing on my hooves and looking at them with a controlled expression. I may be naked, but I'm not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing me uncomfortable.

"So how do we disguise him? He's pretty iconic around here, and we still have to go to the Train station to get him to Ponyville." Spike pointed out.

"Um... let me see..." Twilight replied while rooting through her saddlebags.

I rolled my eyes. This will be good. Let's see what's in the goodie bag for ol' Sombra today!

"Aha!" She declared, lifting a pair of reading glasses and a news-colt hat from her bag. "This will work perfectly!"

A hat and glasses, Really? "You expect that to fool anypony?" I asked in disbelief.

"Let's see how it looks, first." Twilight agreed, and placed the two items on me. The hat was slightly off to the left, irritating my ear. The glasses fit well enough, but I pushed them further down my muzzle as the prescription was harming my eyes.

"Well?" I asked in annoyance.


"Perfect!" Twilight, Cadance and Spike all announced with joy at once.

Seriously? "Do you have a mirror?"

"Yeah, it's right here." Spike went to Twilight's saddlebags and hefted out a small mirror for me to see my reflection. Surprisingly, I did seem to be a different pony.

"There is no way this is going to work for long." I pointed out.

"Well, you're good at acting, right?"


"Then just play the part! You said your name was Stage Write earlier, so be him!"

I don't like where this is going.

"If I am going to wander around with you Sparkle, I am going to be myself. You're not 'rehabilitating' a playwright, after all." I countered.

"Hmm... that's true. If anypony asks, your name is Play Write, okay? If you say you're King Sombra, then word will spread of your return either through ponies asking about you, or through rumors getting to the wrong ponies." Twilight allowed.

"Fine, Sparkle. Now what?"

"Well, I already have the tickets for us. Next stop, Ponyville!" She eagerly cheered.

Fate, I tempt you.

This can't possibly go wrong.