"Guh..." I mumbled from my spot on the train's couch. Augh, my head hurts!
"Twilight, Sombra's already awake!" I heard Spike whisper quickly.
Argh, please be quiet Spike. I feel like somepony took a mallet to my horn...
"Are you sure the new Null-ring is on?" Twilight whispered.
I opened a single eye a sliver and saw Spike set a mallet down. You're kidding.
"Definitely made sure! He won't be tampering with the new one any time soon." The soon to be pile of ash grinned.
I tried to cast any sort of spell, but the feedback from the Null-ring nearly made me fall unconscious from overload. It wasn't painful, so much as overwhelming to the point that my brain decided it would rather not be awake at the moment than deal with whatever was going on.
"Sparkle..." I grumbled, moving a hoof to hold my head upright. Not only did I have a headache, but I had an everything-ache. It felt like my body had gone through a gladiatorial arena as some kind of mascot for punching bags. "Wuh..." Was all I could blurt out before my limb gave out on me and sent my head flopping onto the cushion. I instead resigned myself to lazily blinking and looking around.
"King Sombra?" Twilight replied in a nervous and 'too innocent' tone. "Are you alright? You fell asleep as soon as you drank that cocoa!"
"You had us worried there, buddy." Spike added, the both of them insulting my intelligence by thinking that they had fooled me. I don't particularly care anyway at the moment. I knew my trick with the Null Ring wasn't going to last under inspection. It seems I hadn't given Sparkle and the dragon the credit they were due. Possibly one of those lists she had been looking at was to make certain I wasn't doing anything to the Null-ring.
"Whatever." I voiced with the effort similar to a disinterested adolescent. "Cocoa?" I had been promised all the cocoa I wanted, since I had been teleported twice against my will. If I couldn't yet make her my slave, then I would make her my cocoa maid. That will teach her to mess with me.
"Sure! I'll be right back." Spike dutifully replied, sliding the room's door open and shutting it behind him in pursuit of cocoa. Twilight sat across from me on the other couch in the train's private room that we occupied.
"So... how are you feeling?" Twilight asked a bit awkwardly.
"If you take my ring off, I can show you." I half heartedly threatened. It came off as more of a monotone ramble than a menacing retort, but everything in my body was distracting me with pain from the Null Ring being in full force and containing what power had seeped into me in the time the last one had been compromised.
"I'd like to, believe me. It's just..."
"You do not trust me."
"I'd like to, though!" She quickly added, a hoof raised as if it would help add to her sincerity.
"Sparkle, I would like to ask you something." I properly stated; instead of asking somepony If I was allowed to ask them something.
This change in conversation seemed to take the Princess off guard for a moment. "Uh, sure! What do you want to know?"
Now was my opportunity to get updated on 'recent' events. I had been functionally gone for a thousand years since Celestia and Luna had obliterated me with their rainbows, so I was supremely lacking information that anypony in this age would find commonplace. "What has happened in the last thousand years? Significant events; not every day tedium." I clarified.
She thought for a moment. "You mean, since you've been gone? Weren't you back in Equestria only a couple of years ago?"
Use your brain, Sparkle. "I was not fully conscious and had little time to do research, I assume."
"Oh, right. Giant smoke monster." she remembered. "Well, when were you conscious last?"
"Before Princesses Celestia and Luna shot a rainbow into my body and obliterated me." I snarked. I shifted into a more comfortable position with my back pressed against the wall's cushion and faced towards Twilight. Yes, I didn't have any of my clothing on at the moment but she didn't seem to notice or care. Things like nudity must be far more common place now. I'm even more worried about if taking a bath is a regular occurrence. I wouldn't want to sit somewhere in a public place (banish the thought) and have some other pony's nastiness left behind on the seat.
"That would be... a couple years before the banishment of Nightmare Moon then." Twilight quickly replied after thinking for a moment.
"Nightmare Moon?" It sounded like some cheap opera villain.
"Princess Luna had become corrupted by dark magics and negative emotions, and attempted to overthrow Princess Celestia and leave all of Equestria in eternal night." she explained.
Hah, serves her right for overthrowing me. It must've given Luna ideas! Actually, wait a moment. I had just run into Luna the other day. "So I am to understand that she is freed from her banishment now?"
"Thanks to the Elements of Harmony, my friends and I were able to cleanse the corruption from Princess Luna about six years ago. It's also how we became friends! I mean, my friends in Ponyville and I, not Princess Luna. We are friends! Luna and I, I mean." She rambled a tad.
How wonderful for you, Twilight. You made some friends and released the mare that nearly killed me again yesterday. Bravo. "Very well. What else has happened?"
"Well, Discord came back about a year after that."
Discord? Really? Where are these ponies getting their names, a black hat? "Discord?" I asked.
"The God of Chaos and a Draconiquis, ruled for about a thousand years before Princess Celestia and Princess Luna? How have you not heard of him?"
I blinked. "Crystal Empire; secluded and far away place behind mountains locked in snowfall for most of the year... and busy enslaving peasants?"
She didn't seem impressed. In fact, she seemed annoyed by my response and complete lack of concern for those I had enslaved. "Right." she sighed. "Well, he was released from his imprisonment in stone twice, and we befriended him on the second escape."
I can not imagine what their prisons must look like now. 'Oh, hello murderer pony. Would you like to be friends? You could leave prison sooner if you do!' A complete mockery of any form of punishment system. Not that I was complaining; I was on board with this entire 'make friends' system of rehabilitation, even if it was a complete waste of effort on their part. I mulled around the idea of speaking with Discord, but something tells me that he is not the 'enslaving' type. Besides, there is only room for one king in the first place. I do not need anypony in a position to overthrow me at a moment's notice either. Let him rot with his friends.
"A swarm of Changelings tried to take over Canterlot. Their queen impersonated Princess Cadance, mind controlled Shining Armor and fooled pretty much everypony. Except for me, of course." She smiled proudly.
A Queen, not a Princess? Changelings? Mind control? Also, a swarm would mean... "What are changelings; some kind of insect?"
"As far as we know, they're shape-shifting insectoid parasites that feed off of love. They transform into somepony that you love in order to feed off of your love for them, and they leave you drained in the process. We don't know a lot more than that, because we've only encountered them them once." she explained.
Interesting. I can not see them being much of a threat for me personally, but the idea is novel enough. I wonder if they make good workers?
"After that?" I asked.
"Well, you came back as a giant smoke monster and tried to take over the Crystal Empire again."
Oh. "How did you defeat me?"
Twilight was about to answer, but something must have caught her tongue. "Eh... It isn't important. What matters is that you're back, and on the road to learning all about friendship!"
My eyes narrowed at her avoidance of my question, but I decided to drop the subject for now. A knocking at the door announced the return of Spike... and my hot cocoa! I attempted to take it in my magic on reflex, and subsequently almost passed out with my head mushing into the cushion beneath me.
"Uhg. This ring is going to be the death of me." I complained.
"What, you mean again?" Spike snarked, setting my cup down on a secure table with a holder to avoid any spillage from the train's travel.
One day, dragon. One day and you will be my slave too. Just you wait, with your comebacks and your drugged cocoa. I glowered at him, waiting for my body to recover enough to reach for the cocoa with my hooves.
"What've you two been talking about?" Spike wondered, sipping his own cocoa after handing a cup to Twilight. I idly wondered how his stubby claws managed to carry three cups and a plate of sandwiches, but then immediately decided I didn't care. I was hungry.
"I've just been updating King Sombra on what's been going on in the last thousand years or so since he's been gone." Twilight explained, sipping her cocoa.
"Wait, you didn't tell him about... you know?" He spoke through the corner of his mouth while looking at me with a false friendly smile.
"Narrowly avoided it." Twilight returned through her own mouth corner. They were both speaking quietly but I was still able to hear them because...
"I am right here, you know." I grumbled, lazily swiping at my cocoa. I didn't even care if it was drugged again at this point, It was still delicious.
"Right! Where were we?" She widely smiled, attempting to change course in conversation away from any further awkwardness.
"How you defeated me?" I attempted again.
"Oh! I became an Alicorn after I cast a spell from Starswirl the Bearded." She dodged again, but at least it perked my interest.
"That fool? I'm surprised it did not explode in your face. I would not trust a single thing that wizard ever put on a scroll."
"Well, technically..." Spike began, before getting cut off by Twilight.
"Everything worked out fine in the end!" She insisted.
"Certainly for you, it did." I nodded to her wings, which she unfurled and took a look at before folding them again. "What happened after that?"
"Well, I... um..." She stopped herself again, after Spike had given her some kind of neck slicing gesture with nervous expression and shaking his head in the negative.
"I got a castle!" She declared.
I sighed in both annoyance and boredom. "Of course you did." I'll learn all your secrets eventually, Sparkle. Even if I have to mind control you to do it.
"Well, my castle came with this big map for all of Equestria and-"
"Recent events, Sparkle. I don't care about a map."
"Oh.. right." She said with slight deflation of her excitement. "Well, we were called by the Cutie Map to a remote part of Equestria where there was a really big friendship problem happening and-"
"Sparkle." I cut her off again. "Recent, important, events." I do not care about your map, or your 'friendship problems'.
Twilight thought again for a moment, looking to Spike a few times to whisper something much quieter in his ears for his approval. Apparently she wasn't the brightest when it came to information management.
"That's about it." She finally decided. "Your return is the most recent historical event to happen for Equestria." She smiled. Nopony smiles that much. It must be an act.
"Wonderful. Can I wear my garments yet?" I asked while looking out of the train window, seeing nothing but green fields and countryside mixed with a thick treeline and blue skies all around.
"I don't see why not. Are you able to walk again?" She asked.
I stretched a limb experimentally, and it ached sorely in response. "Not with this ring on me." I looked to Sparkle and attempted to manipulate her with a pouting face. "Would you reconsider removing it? I would be most grateful!"
She deadpanned at me. "Not right now."
I dropped the false expression. Drat. It was worth the effort, I suppose. "How long until we reach the village with your castle?" It probably wasn't even a proper castle. Hmmph.
She looked out the window along with Spike. "I think we just passed the Whitetail Woods, so it shouldn't be very long. Maybe thirty minutes?"
"Well, I'm going to attempt to dress myself. You're perfectly free to go elsewhere in the meantime." Maybe if I could get them to leave me alone, I could figure out how to release myself from this blasted ring on my horn.
"I'm pretty sure we got everything covered. Besides, why would you be embarrassed about getting dressed in front of other ponies?" Spike asked with genuine curiosity instead of teasing. You are a baby dragon, so I will forgive that faux pas.
"It simply is not an activity you perform in view of others." I stated simply, slightly annoyed that it was a question that needed answering in the first place."
"But Twilight and her friends do it all the time together." Spike pointed out.
"That is because although Sparkle may have wings, she is still a peasant at heart. You should conduct yourself with more dignity, being an alicorn." It's like she doesn't see herself as inherently superior to the feather-brains and mud ponies. I hope she isn't... friends with any. Yuck. Does she even know what those feather-dusters do in the clouds all day? Nap! They do absolutely nothing productive, and take all the food they can get their cloud covered hooves on from the Muddies below! If it weren't for us unicorns lording over everypony, it would be absolute chaos.
"I'm happy with who I am." She curtly replied, somehow offended.
"Obviously. You are an alicorn after all."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Spike asked.
I rolled my eyes. "What has happened to the state of Equestria in my absence? Are alicorns supposed to be the peasants now? Did the pillow-ponies finally do something productive and invade? It would take a miracle for them to accomplish that, actually." I amended after a moment's thought.
"King Sombra... were the pony tribes united when you were alive last?" Twilight asked me suddenly, a scroll and quill levitated nearby. I regarded the writing implements a moment and decided I didn't mind being recorded. I was probably living history to her, and If my opinion on something gained me favor with her then I would exploit that possibility by all means available. It doesn't hurt that I didn't have to lie, either.
"Tribes? Please, If you could count whatever the Earth Ponies and the Pegasus did as a coordinated effort to the level of a tribe, the unicorns wouldn't have had to lord over either of them." I then took this opportunity to take a bite of the sandwich that had been set next to my cocoa.
"Wait... Sparkle, what is this?" I asked while absently chewing.
"Egg salad." Spike replied.
I took a moment to swallow, before nodding in appreciation. "You continue to surprise me with your culinary delights, Spike." Now I have two favorite foods. Cocoa and egg salad!
"Would you mind talking more about the way things worked in your time?" Twilight asked, having finished her frantic recording.
I looked out the window. "How much longer until the village?"
"About twenty minutes."
Ugh. This train is taking forever. "Alright. If only to pass the time, then."
"Aaah!" I yelped, nearly dropping my cocoa. "What was that?!"
Twilight was looking towards the roof of the train car. "It sounded like something landed on the train!"
"Should we tell somepony?" Spike asked, nervous.
*Clack, clack, clack*
"It's moving away?" Twilight wondered.
"Good! I nearly spilled my cocoa!"
"Sombra, this might be serious!"
"Very serious! Do you know how difficult it is to drink cocoa from the carpet!?"
"Ugh! I'll go take a look and see what it is." Twilight grumbled, peeking from our room before leaving Spike alone with me.
"Do you know what it could be?" Spike asked, still nervous and seemingly anxious.
"Death?" was my helpful reply.
*Tink tink* went the glass window next to me.
"Aah!" I squeaked, hiding underneath my blanket from Princess Luna hanging upside down and pointing towards the window's locking mechanism. "Nopony is here, return at a later time!" I mewled from under the covers. She must know that Twilight was lying! Why else would she be here? I'm not even sure if I have any surviving phylacteries, so this could very well be my last death!
"Spike, open the window for us." Luna calmly asked, jarring Spike from his shocked trance.
"Of course!" He finally agreed, running for the window.
I tripped him. I then made as hasty a retreat I could muster with my impaired form out of the room.
"Sombra, wait! Come back!" I heard Spike call after me. If Luna didn't know that I was Sombra, she certainly did now. Thank you, Spike. Idiot.
I ducked through the halls, still without my enchanted protective apparel, weaving through serving ponies and overturning a serving tray. I made my way through several high class unicorn types to the door joining this train car to the next. I then opened the door to come face to face with Luna herself.
"Eep!" I squeaked, backpedaling into the wall behind me before attempting to run around it. Alas, I was held in the air by her magical grip. "Drat."
"King Sombra." Luna mused, floating me towards her at eye level. She was almost equal height to me, if a tad bit taller. Still, it was either for intimidation purposes or for us to see another as equals. Given that she could annihilate me, I leaned towards her using it for intimidation purposes. "You have returned once more."
No, really? I nodded, my mouth deciding it wanted to have a vacation for a few minutes at least.
"Why?" was her question, accompanied by suspicious eyes and a slight frown.
Being dead is very counter productive to my plans of enslaving worthless ponies to do my bidding? I held out both of my fore-hooves and attempted my best shrug.
"Very well. If you wish to remain silent, then we will learn of your plans eventually. By force, if need be." She threatened.
"Princess Luna!" I heard Twilight call. Thank magic. She'll either turn me in to Luna, or save me. Given that I'm technically a pet project of hers now, I lean towards the saving bit. "Wait!"
"Princess Twilight? We thought you were performing a task for Princess Cadance. Have you completed it already?" Luna asked, still keeping me floating nearby with her magic. Being helpless is getting old, fast.
"Aaabout that... heh..." She chuckled nervously, holding a single hoof upwards as if to ask for a moment of time to think. She then pointed towards me. "King Sombra was the 'task' that Princess Cadance asked for my help with." She now nervously smiled, slightly flinching away.
"You knew this pony was King Sombra all along?" Luna asked in partial surprise and now suspicion. "Why did you not inform us of this?"
"Princess Cadance wanted to keep it a secret, so there wouldn't be a panic in the Crystal Empire." Twilight explained. "We were in the middle of getting Sombra away from the Empire before we ran into you, and I had to lie to you to keep our cover." she continued, apologetically.
Luna regarded Sparkle for a moment, before looking to me again in suspicion and distrust. "You vouch for this... pony?" She asked hesitantly.
I may enslave ponies by the Empire and hold no regard for disgusting peasants, but I am still a pony! That is most uncalled for, Luna.
It was Twilight's turn to look at me in thought. "He might not be the most... friendly of ponies, but he's working on it. I can already see him being more thoughtful about ponies other than himself. I think we're making good progress in rehabilitating him!" She decided proudly.
Sure, rehabilitation. Like I am going to start going on picnics with-- wait; I am not tempting fate with that one. Disregard that!
Luna stared at me for some time in thought, causing Twilight and Spike to share nervous glances as Luna mulled over my fate. Finally after what seemed like ages, she gently placed me on the train car floor. "Very well, Princess Twilight. Friendship is your domain, and we will defer to your judgement in this regard. Were you attempting to overrule us on the subject of the Moon, we would be most upset. With this in mind, we will not trample over your duties. We wish you luck, Princess Twilight Sparkle." She nodded royally.
Yes! Thank you! Finally somepony understands position and chain of command! I rejoiced in my head. I tried to keep my expression as neutral as possible, but I must have cracked a small smile at the least if Spike's look on his face was any indication.
"Until next our paths cross, Princess Twilight." Luna bade farewell, opening the train door and taking off again to go wherever it is that Moon Goddesses go in their spare time.
"We really have to stop running into her like this." Spike groaned." This is what, the second time? I can't believe she didn't spot Sombra the first time you told me you ran into her!"
"Something tells me that she already knew, but didn't say anything." Twilight replied.
"Why would she do something like that?" Spike wondered.
"Collateral damage?" I suggested, drawing their attention. "Perhaps she did not want to risk obliterating me where others might be harmed in the imagined duel. I am uncertain if she has noticed this null-ring." I pointed to it for emphasis. "If she truly has been banished nearly as long as I have, then she would not have encountered many. They were excessively rare in my time." Pfft. 'My time'. Now I feel old.
"Silence, Spike." I snapped, and he thankfully complied.
"Grampa Sombra." He teased.
"Grumpy Grampa." He said more quietly.
I decided this childish game was nowhere near my list of priorities and moved aggressively past him, knocking him over in the process. I still had not had a chance to fully enjoy my sandwich, and I was not going to confront an entire town of Sparkle's friends while malnourished.
I navigated my way back through the car, filled with ponies that were giving me nervous looks. The train had left the Crystal Empire, and thus it was filled with adventurous Crystal Ponies. They of course knew what I looked like, and had overheard our conversation in the hallway. Thankfully none of them got it in their heads to attack me with pitchforks or torches and I safely returned to our train cart.
"Hey, who are you?"
Never mind, wrong cart. I will find it eventually.