• Published 29th Mar 2012
  • 4,598 Views, 377 Comments

Sideboard of Harmony - FanOfMostEverything

Because ponies and card games are too much fun to confine to a single story.

  • ...

Markov Distinction

Rainbow Dash loved her house. She'd crafted it with her own four hooves, knew it inside and out, and considered it among the top ten achievements of her young life. It was, in a sense, her baby, though she'd viciously disagree with anypony who used such terminology. As such, when she cycled the contents of the rainbow tank, a messy, dangerous chore for most, she did it gladly and enthusiastically.

"Friggin' son of a bat. If I didn't owe him another favor, he'd be on his ass and out of this dimension faster than he could blink."

Of course, just because Dash was happy to clean the free prismadicals out of her signature cloudscaping project didn't mean she was deaf to a friend in need. At least, one in need of a dose of awesomeness. Setting down the rainbow-stained pail in her hooves, she swooped down to her front door. A most disgruntled grey mare was stuffing letters in her mailbox like they had personally offended her.

Dash approached the situation with her usual grace and tact. "Yo, Ditzy Doo! You all right?"

Ditzy heaved a sharp sigh and fixed a manic grin on the weathermare. "Oh, fine, Dash. Just fan-friggin'-tastic. Supercalifragilisticexpiali-feathering-docious." She slammed the mailbox shut with as much volume as she could eke out of enchanted clouds.

"Uh huh." Dash gave her a flat look. "'Cause you angry and cursing up a storm is obviously par for the course."

Ditzy snorted at this. "You call this cursing? Please. I've heard stuff that could turn your mane white, filly."

"Yeah, yeah, you've been around the mopeyverse, we get it."


"Whatever. Point is, you're upset, and I hate seeing my friends upset." Dash went from annoyed to sympathetic in a blink. "Anything I can do to help?"

"Not unless you want to show Sorin—"

"Soarin'!?" Suddenly, Ditzy's field of vision was full of excited magenta eye. "You know him? He's coming to Ponyville? Oh, I am so there! When's he gettin' here?"

The mailmare backed up. "Whoa, whoa, this isn't—"

"Wait, what am I thinking?" Anxiety crept across Dash's face. "I can't see him like this! Look at me, I'm covered in rancid rainbow! I gotta get a shower, brush out my mane, maybe put on something nice..."

"Dash?" Ditzy tried to fit the panicking fanfilly before her into her mental framework of the Bearer of Loyalty. "You don't—"

"Sorry, Derpy, can't stay and chat! Too much to do! Thanks for tellin' me!" The blue mare flew through her front door. The multicolored stains she left behind were a testament to her forgetting to open it.

Ditzy shook her head. "Neither rain nor sleet nor irritating fillyhood nicknames." She continued on her rounds. Dash would figure it out soon enough.

"Hey, Pinkie?"

"Yes, Ditzy-Litzy?" asked the party pony, balancing Sugarcube Corner's mail on her head.

"Do you know Sorin Markov?"

Pinkie pondered this for a passel of picoseconds. "The vampire or the Wonderbolt? The answer's 'yes' either way, but it never hurts to check."

Ditzy sighed. "Tell that to Rainbow Dash." She frowned. "Wait, the Wonderbolt's last name is also Markov?"

"Sure!" Pinkie somehow nodded without upsetting her precariously perched parcels. "Youngest son of the Duchess of Cloudsdale, Frau Blucher Markov."

A startled whinny sounded from within the bakery. "Thin pot holder!" called Mr. Cake. "I'm okay!"

Ditzy paid him little mind. "Huh. Well this is going to make things even more confusing."

Pinkie beamed. "So Sorin-without-an-'a'-or-an-apostrophe is coming?"

"Yeah. You know him?" Ditzy shook her head. "What am I saying? Of course you know him. He's a millennia-old planeswalker, you're a millennia-old planeswalker, you must've run into one another at some point."

Pinkie giggled. "You could say that. In fact, you did say that! And you're right. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a recipe for black pudding muffins to dust off." She zipped back into the bakery.

Dity suppressed a gag as she continued her route. "Finally found one I won't eat. Well played, Pinkie."

An ashen gray unicorn trotted into Ponyville, heedless of the risen sun and any curious onlookers. The bright colors of Equestria were a welcome contrast to the relatively sullen palette of his home, even after Avacyn's return.

Sorin didn't mind the form this plane forced on him. He still had all the necessities: fangs, magic, devastating good looks. The horn-facilitated telekinesis meant he scarcely noticed the loss of fingers, and the sclera of his larger eyes were easily recolored with an illusion he'd mastered before this world had even been created.

Slightly more off-putting was the vanishing trousers phenomenon. Sorin had been wearing them before entering Ungula, and he knew from experience that they'd be on his person when he left, but he was presently ponily pantsless. At least he still had the rest of his ensemble. Longcoat, breastplate, bracers, all in place and suitably reshaped for his equine form.

Beneath Sorin's coattails was, of course, an image on his haunches. In his case, a wineglass filled with a red fluid with two white, feathered wings spread at the rim. Had anypony asked, he would've claimed to be a rich, eccentric oenophile. Only two of the townsfolk would recognize how the glass's stem and bowl, along with the spread wings, suggested a different shape entirely: Avacyn's Collar, symbol of the angel of hope.

The vampire reached the central square and looked around expectantly. He was vaguely disappointed by the marked lack of pegasi who owed him favors, but on the other hand, it gave him time to explore what entertainment the hamlet had to offer.

Sorin spotted what appeared to be a tavern, judging by the grapes-and-berry sign hanging above the door. He moved towards it with slightly less than dignified haste, brushing against a blue pegasus.

"Hey!" Suddenly, the pegasus stood between Sorin and his new watering hole. "Watch it, bucko!"

Under most circumstances, she would have died then and there, but the planeswalker was on vacation. He intended to relax, not annihilate. "Pardon me," he said smoothly. "I didn't notice you."

The mare quivered with barely restrained rage. "Didn't... notice!?"

Ah, mused Sorin, that sort. Can't stand to be anything other than the center of attention. What fun. He looked her over carefully, as though trying to place her in his mind. "Do I know you from somewhere?"

"Uh, yeah!" She leapt into the air. "You're talkin' to the one and only Rainbow Dash! Fastest flier in Equestria, performer of Sonic Rainbooms, future Wonderbolt. Ringing any bells?"

No response. After a moment, Dash realized that the arrogant stallion had walked beneath her and into the bar. He'd ignored her.

Just walked past.

Like she wasn't even there.

She slammed open the door to the Punch Bowl. "Hay, I'm not through with you!"

"Yes you are." The stallion had a wineglass in his magic and was contemplating the vintage's bouquet.

"Who in Tartarus do you think you are?" Dash demanded.

"I'm Sorin Markov." He saluted her with the glass. "Cheers."

As the unwinged, non-Wonderbolt jerkass emptied his glass, Rainbow Dash felt herself fill with rage. She wanted nothing more than to flatten the smug bastard's muzzle with a single well-placed hoof.

So she did.

At least, she tried to. With eyes still closed in contemplation, Sorin leaned back, avoided the strike, allowed Rainbow to overextend, and sent her into his lap with a gentle nudge against her unbalanced body. Holding her in place with his forelegs, he used his magic to set down his glass and draw a sword as long as him from the scabbard on his back. "Barkeep," he pondered aloud, "how familiar are you with this town's self-defense laws?"

Berry Punch scowled. "Look, buddy, I appreciate the early business, but I'd appreciate you not threatening one of the saviors of the world."

Sorin shrugged. Few things were worth making an enemy of a publican. "Fair enough."

He sheathed his blade, but did not yet release Dash. Instead, he leaned close to her ear and whispered, "I admit that I provoked you for my own amusement, but striking me would be incredibly ill advised. I have hunted down and slain entities vastly greater than you for less." He straightened up and released his hold on her. "Now, could you be a dear and tell Ditzy Doo that I've arrived?"

Dash scrambled out of his grip, dignity forgotten in favor of speed. She kept her gaze on the floor. "S-sure."

As the pegasus left the bar, Berry Punch frowned again. "Best not to mess with her, pal. Even if she doesn't dive bomb you later, she's friends with Celestia's personal student."

"Thank you, but I think I'll be able to manage." Sorin seemed far more interested in the bunches of bottles behind the bartender. "Could I get a glass of the Crystal Berry Bijoulais?"

Ditzy glided down to the post office, her rounds complete. She went through the motions automatically, hanging up her mailbag and hat, logging her completed route, all while her mind raced, trying to guess what Sorin might want and how to minimize the damage.

She only noticed Rainbow Dash entering the building when she heard herself ask, "How may I help you?" Apparently, she'd walked behind the front desk without even realizing it.

"I'll tell you what you can do," Dash all but shouted. "You can go tell that jerk calling himself Soarin' to go jam his horn where the sun don't shine!"

"Rainbow Dash, please calm down!" Twilight Sparkle trotted into the office. "Is this because I wasn't there to be your wingmare? I didn't want to embarrass you by showing up without any actual wings. It took me a few minutes to confirm that it was just an expression."

Ditzy knew she needed to clear up the misunderstanding before someone got impaled, whether by a broadsword or a hypersonic pegasus. Still, she couldn't help but ask, "Twilight? Really?"

Dash draped a protective wing over the unicorn. "Hay, don't knock my girl. She's got the eggheads of this town eating out of the frog of her hoof."

Twilight flushed as she extricated herself. "J-just because Processor Core paid me a compliment doesn't mean—"

"You see? Total stallions mare."

"Sure, why not. I take it you met Sorin?"

Dash slammed her forehooves on the desk. "That was not Soarin' Markov, Derpy! I don't care what he said, that was a feathering unicorn and a total ass to boot. No offense."

A recently hired donkey gave a weary grin as he adjusted his saddlebags. "None taken."

"So, aside from offending Benjamin, why come here?" asked Ditzy.

Dash moved off the desk and brought her gaze to the floor, muttering something.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Because he told me to. He had a freaking sword. What kind of pony has a sword?"

"One who isn't actually a pony." Ditzy looked to the unicorn. "How are you involved in this, Twilight?"

"Well, I now know that Dash considered me a suitable friend to aid her in a courtship attempt of a Wonderbolt, but—"

"Involved in revenging Dash's bruised ego, I mean."


"A friend should always be ready to come to her friends' defense." It sounded rehearsed, as though Twilight were reciting from some unseen textbook.

"Uh huh. So, calling in the heavy artillery?" Ditzy nodded to herself, ignoring both mares' discomfort. "Sound strategy, really, but unnecessary. He came here because of me. He's my responsibility."

"You can't!" cried Twilight. "This stallion is clearly unstable. I was trained in pacification by Celestia herself; I can handle this."

"And I know Sorin—"

"That wasn't Soarin'!"

"I know this guy personally," countered Ditzy. She fluttered over the counter and the two Bearers. "If he wanted to, he could brush aside your spells, paralyze you, exsanguinate you, and make you thank him for the privilege. He's thousands of years old, has no scruples whatsoever, and could probably fight Celestia to a standstill." She made for the door.

The moment she opened it, Twilight teleported in front of her. "Then give me one good reason why I should let you go to him. Tell me what I should tell your daughter when she asks why her mommy is gone forever."

Ditzy grinned. "Simple. I'm his friend."

Like most vampires of Innistrad, Sorin Markov was a shameless hedonist, which meant that he did, in fact, drink... wine. And anything else that caught his fancy, as Berry Punch was discovering.

The bartender frowned at her customer. "Okay, fella." The words came reluctantly, but even Berry had her limits. "I think you've had enough for this early in the day."

"Bah!" Sorin shouted. "Bah and bah again! Is there not yet drink? Are you not beautiful? Why put off until tomorrow who or what I can do today?"

"'Cause if you keep drinking like there's no tomorrow, there ain't gonna be," Berry noted, her mulberry coat hiding her slight blush. "Not for you, and not for my stock."

"Ah, so it is supply that concerns you?" Sorin burst into laughter. "No matter at all! I own many vineyards! Vintages the likes of which you have never seen will be yours, I promise you!"

Berry rolled her eyes. "Yeah, great, some weak-ass unicorn spit, just what I need."

The insult bounced off of Sorin's alcohol-augmented ego. "Ah, the brewer's pride! How foolish of me! Of course, only the best will do for you, madam, and that means only your own." He leered. "And what other sweet nectars might you produce, my dear?"

Fortunately, Ditzy entered the bar just then, drawing Berry's attention away from the muzzle she was about to flatten. "Hi, Ms. Punch, sorry about this."

Sorin turned, overshooting a bit, his gaze drifting about Ditzy like a pendulum. His grin only widened. "Cousin! It has been far too long!" He swayed on the barstool. "Come, sit! Drink! Or at least hold still, for blood's sake."

"You know him?" Ditzy could hear Berry's opinion of her drop with that question.

"He's actually Address's cousin," the pegasus lied with regrettably well-practiced ease. "Something of a black sheep."

"I can't imagine why," Berry deadpanned.

"Come, Cousin!" boomed the vampony, staggering to his hooves. "We will go see big Equestrian titties!"

Ditzy wrinkled her muzzle in confusion. "...So, the milkmare of Trottingham?"

Sorin stared at her for a moment before a flash of realization manage to shine through the wine. "Right! Ponies! I knew that!"

Ditzy sighed and shook her head. "Come on. Let's get you out of here before you raise any more unpleasant questions."

"Bah! A third time, no less! If you were not prepared to explain the unexplainable, you should never have put down roots. It is against your nature!"

"How's your daughter, by the way?"

Berry didn't know why the stallion shut up at that, but he did. She gave a grateful nod to Ditzy as they left and pondered whether to ask her about her niece in the future.

Nah, it seemed personal. No more Berry's business than Ruby was Ditzy's.

"Cousin," Sorin slurred, "I have come to an alarming conclusion."

"Oh?" Ditzy listened with half an ear, paying more attention to keeping the vampire from walking into anypony or anything.

"I realize this may come as shocking news, but I appear to be drunk."

Ditzy didn't bother holding back the smirk. Sorin wouldn't notice, too focused on determining which of the several roads swimming in his vision was the one he was actually walking on. "And whatever gave you that impression?"

"I distinctly recall attempting to seduce a horse."

"Pony," corrected Ditzy. "We're kind of particular about that."

"So you are!" Sorin cried far too loudly. "In any case, irregardless of whether or not the event in place actually took question..." He reflected on the sentence thus far. "Or possibly vice versa. Anyway, that does not matter! What does matter is that the event is in my memory, and that is a clear sign that I have had far more alcohol than is good for me."

Ditzy snickered. "Right. Sorin Markov shouldn't have to seduce anypony. He can get any mare he wants."

The vampony drew himself up proudly. "Damn right!" Then the actual words of the praise registered. "Though I prefer women."

"Of course."

"Still, the point is..." Sorin scowled. "The point is... what was the point?"

"You're drunk," Ditzy said helpfully.

"Am I?"

"You tried to seduce a pony."

Sorin considered this. "Was that before or after the horse?"


"Really? Damn, I'm good."

"So, what are you going to do about it?" asked Ditzy.

"Fortu... fortuna..." Sorin took a moment to get his tongue in order. "Fortunatuitously, I have devised a spell of my own devisement. It will cleanse the toxins from my system and leave me in a state of relative sobriety."

Ditzy quirked an eyebrow. "'Relative' sobriety?"

Sorin's answering glare was as indignant as if the pegasus had insulted his mother. "You don't expect me to give up the whole damn buzz, do you? By Olivia's suspicious loins, I'm not letting all that work go to waste!"

"Work," Ditzy echoed, letting the irony hang in the air.

Either ignoring or not noticing, Sorin pressed on. "Now, while I distinctly recall the spell working, I do not recall how. Nor do I know if there will be any complications from casting it as a horse."


"That too. You may want to stand back a ways."

Ditzy's ears went flat as she contemplated why. "Should you be doing this in public? In the middle of the street?"

"Valid point. I may hit someone attractive." Sorin turned, tripped, and collapsed with lordly dignity. "Help me back up. Noblesse oblige oblige-igates me to do this away from the peasantry."

Other ponies looked on in disapproval as Ditzy nudged the lush back to his hooves. "They really don't like being called 'the peasantry,' you know. Especially not that loudly."

If anything, Sorin's response was even louder. "You have a princess. They're commoners. Ergo, they are the peasantry. That's how this sort of things works." He staggered towards an alley. "It's not my fault if they take issue with such terms. I have no problem with peasants. Damned useful people, peasants. Thankless work, but someone's got to do it."

"Yes, yes, everypony's gone serfing." Ditzy looked about. "Well, I don't think anypony will notice us here. Go ahead."

"Go ahead with what?"

"Your sobriety spell."

"I know a sobriety spell?" Sorin's eyes widened, horrified. "Why would I learn that? Next you're going to tell me some idiot freed the Eldrazi." He frowned. "Oh wait. Some idiot did. Damned elf."

"I won't ask."

"Good. Now stand back." The unicorn dimmed. Though it was near noon, he seemed illuminated by moonlight filtered through deep cloud cover. Tangible shadows twisted and writhed about his horn. His eyes, which had been closed in focus, snapped open, the illusion gone, the yellow irises on black sclera fully visible. He opened his mouth, fangs at their full extension, surreal among the teeth of a grazer. He exhaled, releasing a miasmic cloud of toxins, colorless but rippling in the air like a heat haze.

After a beat, Sorin blinked, the whites of his eyes once more white. "There, now," he said, satisfied and far more intelligible.

Ditzy shied away from the cloud. To her eyes, it was awash in black magic, like an especially noxious smoke cloud. "I can see why you told me to stay back."

"Indeed." Sorin contemplated the mass of vaporized alcohol as it eased its way to ground level. "Thank you for ensuring that I did this out of the public view. I can't imagine the locals would appreciate someone belching out great gouts of poison along the main thoroughfare."

"Generally not, no." Ditzy shifted on her hooves. Now seemed as good a time as any. "So, how did you want to call in that second favor?"

"To business so soon?" Sorin turned, an amused smirk on his lips. "Are you that eager to be rid of me, Cousin?"

"After making such a spectacle of yourself that I won't be able to show my face at the local watering hole for weeks?"

"I thought you didn't drink."

Ditzy scowled. "If your visit thus far is anything to go on, I'm going to have plenty of reason to start."

This got a chuckle. "Fair point," Sorin conceded. "Still, the matter is a fairly simple one. I've heard tell that the second princess has returned from her exile. Is this true?"

"It is."

"Excellent. Take me to her."

Ditzy paused for a moment. "I'm sorry, I must have misheard you. I thought you just asked me to take you to Princess Luna."

"I did."

Remain calm, the pegasus told herself. "Why would you think I would be able to do that?"

Sorin shrugged. "Can you?"

"Well, yes, actually."

"Then what's the problem?"

"That maybe, just maybe, I may have a slight problem getting access to the goddess of the moon? The princess of the night?" Despite her earlier thoughts, Ditzy was growing more frantic with every word. "Younger diarch of the nation, with a twenty-four/seven guard detail, to say nothing of the extra scrutiny she must be under given the whole 'going insane and trying to plunge the world into eternal night' issue?"

"Is that what happened? I never was able to get a straight answer out of Celestia."

"You... spoke with Celestia? At the time?"

Sorin quirked an eyebrow at her. "I have told you my age, haven't I?"

"Yeah, but..." Ditzy struggled for words for a moment. "It's... It's one thing to know you were going from plane to plane for thousands of years. It's another to think of you... well, here. In Equestria. Talking with Celestia."

"Ah. Yes. We often draw a line between our home and the rest of the Multiverse. For a planeswalker, any manner of 'here' and 'there' is a comfort, but it is an illusory one. As you said, I have been travelling between the planes for millennia. I have been visiting Ungula since shortly after it stabilized itself in space and time, when Celestia and Luna were but foals trying to regather their wits after subduing Discord."

"Oh." Ditzy opened her mouth several times, but shut it without speaking. Finally, she asked, "Then why ask me to come along?"

Sorin grinned. "In all those years of carousing, I've found it best to have a designated teetotaler to rein in the rest of us. Guess who that's going to be."

Ditzy stood for a moment, processing the ramifications. Sorin shouldered past her as she thought. Finally, she bolted out of the alley, shouting, "Get back here, Markov! You are not tempting the moon goddess into debauchery!"

Heedless of the staring passersby, Sorin called back, "My dear cousin, what makes you think she'll need tempting?"

Sorin, the Prodigal 2BB
Planeswalker — Sorin
+1: You may draw a card. If you do, you lose 1 life.
-X: You lose X life. Exile the top X cards of your library face down. At the beginning of the next end step, put those cards into your hand.
-7: Each player's life total becomes the lowest life total among all players.

Author's Note:

Processor Core, in case you're wondering, is the name I settled on for the stallion with the robot cutie mark who Rarity sweet talks out of his asparagus in "Putting Your Hoof Down." I considered naming him Minovsky Particle, but really, who names their kid Minovsky?

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