Anonymous Review Replies! :D
Angie: Hah, oh wow, thanks! Reviews like yours are really what keeps me writing :) I love movie references wayyy too much and if I had this my way, this fic would probably be one bad pun after the other. XD I actually started writing this story because I also found it really hard to find sonadow stories that have a canon-like Sonic in them (which I don't understand, really - a kick-ass, fun-loving hero with an attitude is so much fun to write, how could someone *not* want to write him like that?!) That said, if you did make a fanart, I'd of course be over the moon, I love illustrations! :) Next chapter sadly didn't come in March (for, well, April-related reasons...:p) but it's here now, so hope you like! :D
Chapter 56: My Name Is Kingslayer
"WHAT has he done to you?!"
"Hey, Shads. Good to see you." Sonic smiled up at the black hedgehog, choosing a light tone deliberately to hopefully calm the Ultimate Lifeform down a bit – Shadow's eyes looked like hellfire, his expression black as thunder, both of which Sonic freely admitted might have scared the living chaos out of him a little if it had been aimed at his person. Scourge wasn't quite aware of Shadow's mood yet – the green hedgehog was currently lying on his back in a ditch and wheezing, (just slightly resembling a certain 'puny god' after a beat-down by the Incredible Elk in one of the recent Mobian 'Revengers' action movies, Sonic thought...).
"I swear if he has hurt you-"
"No worries, my legs are fine, and so am I," Sonic said, lifting briefly lifting his limbs into the air as if for inspection, before using the movement to flip onto his feet. "But... it might've been a bit close," he continued with a slightly embarrassed smile. "So, y'know, thanks for coming." He nodded at Shadow, lightly touching the other's hand to show he seriously meant it. Then he glanced back the way Shadow had rushed toward them, estimating Scourge would likely be out for a few moments more, and added, "But, er, shouldn't you be-?"
"It's no use," Shadow cut him off, teeth gritted, but apparently at least managing to focus on the battle again now that it was clear that Sonic was unharmed. "I can't defeat Black Doom on my own. I am merely running myself ragged in the attempt," he said, and Sonic almost had to wince as he heard the contempt in Shadow's words, the Ultimate Lifeform obviously not dealing well with what he apparently perceived as failure on his part. "Lara-Su is using a combination of chaos magic and fencing to keep him busy for a moment," Shadow continued, nodding into the direction where Sonic thought he could see Knuckles' younger sister leaping and slashing at the enemy king, and the fact that closeby someone was apparently using a tree to beat Black Doom's troops to a pulp indicated that her older brother was at it as well, "-but even if her technique is sound, her strength is not, and we need to come up with something else and fast...since I am obviously worse equipped to deal with this than I thought," he said, adding the last part while not meeting Sonic's eyes.
Sonic frowned and stepped closer. "Hey, 'm not gonna listen to you talk like this," he said, at the same time grabbing Shadow's wrist until the other looked at him. "We both sucked a bit at fighting our respective opponents so far, so what. If anything, that means a change of strategies." The hero of Mobius winked. "Tell you what. If we need a sword, you take care of Scourge, I'll get myself a proper weapon, and then we'll take on Black Dork again, but together this time. Sound good?"
Shadow looked at him for a moment, face impassive as he was seemingly considering, and then, finally, managed to let his lips twitch into an attempt at a smirk, easing a bit of the unrestrained fury that had been burning in his eyes since his arrival, and the contrition he had obviously felt about not being able to beat Black Doom on his own for far.
"Well," the black hedgehog said, "considering you're asking me to take on the guy who tried to take you away from me not once, or twice, but three times in a single week..."
Shadow let his eyes zero in on the green hedgehog who was just choosing this very inopportune moment to regain consciousness and try sitting up, groaning. The Ultimate Lifeform threw Sonic one last look and cracked his knuckles.
Sonic briefly wondered whether it made him a bad person to feel not a smidgen of remorse to leave Scourge to the tender attention of one incredibly ticked-off Shadow, and then decided that no, it did not make him a bad person, but would hopefully make Scourge into a person in requirement of a hospital.
Now the hero of Mobius was tearing across the battlefield again, green eyes flashing over the fighting warriors, focusing especially on the dueling knights he could see. He knew he needed to work fast, his brain taking in the details of the various focal points of the battlefield with the practice born from years spent fighting; Knuckles and Lara-Su darting around and through Black Doom's surrounding thunderstorm like suicidal kites dancing around a volcano, two seething mobs of soldiers where the two other rules were, both King Maximillian and his mo – Queen Aleena surrounded by throngs of enemy troops and defended by more of their own, Black Doom's army essentially leaderless, but still vast and terrified and desperate. Acorn's and Aleena's messengers could be seen on horseback trying to communicate cross-battlefield without getting killed, riderless horses stampeding, a figure that Sonic thought might have been Princess Sally leading a small charge of knights toward the camp of Black Doom's generals, fires burning where either Shadow's or the alien king's projectiles had gone ballistic, the echidnas creating miniature swathes of destruction with rising enthusiasm no matter who got in their way, and somewhere...somewhere in all of that there simply had to be...
That one's too short, too long, too broad, that one's a twohander, that one's too thin agai – there!
And even despite all the chaos surrounding him, Sonic still recognized what he wanted instantly.
No, it's not exactly Caliburn. Sonic exhaled. But I think, with that one, I'd make him proud.
And then he actually recognized the current possessor of the sword he wanted and the edges of the blue hedgehog's mouth rose in what only a fool would have called a smile.
"Oh, getting this is going to be fun..."
The hero of Mobius took off.
The weapon he had set his eyes on belonged to a knight sitting on a feral horse – in Sonic's home dimension, Mobians enjoyed horseriding as a hobby much like humans, except because of the height difference in most cases it was much more common to see them riding ponies. The particular person Sonic was eyeing now, however, was almost as tall as a human, much like Vector, and sitting astride what looked like a small tank disguised as a towering draft horse. Currently its rider had his back to him, chasing down some terrified foot soldiers of Aleena's and laughing - Sonic didn't even pause one second before he leapt.
"Hey there, pup. Remember me?"
And he did so enjoy the look on general Drago's face.
"What?! YOU!" the white dingo's dark blue eyes widened almost comically before the noble had his face under control again and then snarled in barely contained rage, his teeth bared like those of his feral ancestors.
"Uh-huh, me. You've got something I want," Sonic simply stated, his expression calm and carefully controlled. He had landed in front of Drago, balancing on the horse's back easily, and also managing to block the dog's view, thus allowing his prey to escape. Drago still stared at him like he was an apparation.
"You're supposed to be dead!"
Sonic allowed himself the first sliver of a grin. "Sorry. Rumours of my demise were greatly exaggerated."
Drago responded to the quip by lashing out with one muscular arm that would have captured the wayward slave or pushed him under the horse's hooves, but the hedgehog had long ago expected it. Before the dog's limb had even halfway extended, Sonic had already leapt, twisting upside-down in the air, pausing only briefly to perform a handstand on a (very surprised) Drago's head before continuing to turn even that into a backflip that let him land on the horse's back again, this time behind the canine general.
The hero of Mobius reached forward and drew Drago's sword from its scabbard at the dingo's hip with a flourish.
"That's quite a cool sword. Totally wasted on you, if you ask me."
"What-!" Drago had twisted in the saddle with confusion, white fur on his head dishevelled and mud-stained from where Sonic's dirty gloves had dug into it. "You wretched slave vermin, give it back!"
"Hardly. I doubt it ever was yours," Sonic replied, evading snatching hands of Drago like an afterthought as he gave his new acquision an experimental swing – it was an old, but fine blade with a gold handle, reminding him even more of Caliburn now that he could see it up close. It had obviously already been in many battles, but had been used well – Sonic didn't doubt for a second that it had to have belonged to someone much grander than Drago before; the dingo probably having gotten it as loot somewhere.
And then the horse brayed in pain and that was all the warning Sonic got before the animal threw its head back and reared up on its hind legs, almost dislodging him if he hadn't grabbed Drago's belt and swung himself around.
"Woah! The hell!"
"Fall down, will you!" Drago snarled at him as the horse's front legs came down with a bone-crunching thump! on the earth again. Sonic had managed to get one of his legs over the animal's neck and was now once again in front of Drago, scrambling to stand again, sword still firm in his hand.
"So that you can bring your horse to fall on top of me?!" Sonic rasped. "I don't think so." An angry swipe cut through the reins even as he said it, severing the dingo's control of the panicked steed. Sonic smirked. "Shall we see who loses their balance first?"
"No-!" Drago tried to snatch after the falling leather, but it was Sonic's left hand that darted out first, and then the hedgehog had already jumped again, and when he landed behind Drago this time, the cold steel of the sword had settled right across the dingo's throat.
"You know," Sonic said, conversationally, "I suppose I should congratulate you. You're the first person who ever made me almost want to kill."
"I'm a bit curious how you aren't dead yet, though. Or even in the shape to ride around," Sonic said. "You look pretty good for someone Shadow chaos-electrocuted two days ago."
"The king healed me," Drago rasped. "And if you know what's good for you, you will give me back my weapon and surrender, because otherwise when he gets to you, he will-"
"Ah, so Shads' chaos spears aren't losing their power. That's all I wanted to know. Ta," Sonic said, and then the hilt of the sword collided promptly with the back of the general's head.
When the dingo slumped over on his horse promptly, Sonic gave the sword an approving look.
"Heh. I have a feeling well get along excellently." The blue hedgehog gripped the reins again, turning the horse around and grinned.
"Let's see whether we can't slay a king!"
Scourge the Hedgehog was currently experiencing a situation Sonic would have classified as "A Bit Not Good" and the green hedgehog therefore rated as "What The Ever-Loving Fuck".
Mostly because fighting against Shadow had been, to put it mildly, a complete catastrophe so far.
"Coming to fight me because your father chose me as successor over you? Don't worry. You'll be the carpet decorating my throne room," Scourge goaded, but was only met with stony-faced silence and another attack he barely evaded. The green hedgehog cursed under his breath.
Because contrary to Sonic, Shadow seemingly couldn't even be distracted by talking.
Fighting against the blue hedgehog had been almost like fighting against himself, except Scourge had been on his hometurf and clearly just a smidgen more used to fighting with a blade. He had been able to anticipate every move Sonic made and more, but the crown prince was different. And while Scourge had easily recognized the dancing and fleet-footed fighting style of the blue-furred slave as nearly identical to his own, he was at a serious loss on how to deal with a fire-shod, obviously demonic snarling maniac. The green hedgehog had lost his blade when Shadow had careened into him and thrown him off Sonic, and he hadn't been able to retrieve it when the ex-crown prince dogged his every move, not letting him a moment to breathe, impossible to shake off.
Also, Sonic, of course, had learned (and in most cases pain had been involved...) what worked and what didn't work when fighting against Shadow, but Scourge had no idea – and it showed.
"Look, why don't you justaaah!"
A snarl was turned into an involuntary scream as the general had tried to lash out in a kick and got his thigh burned by a chaos-fueled skate meeting green fur as Shadow had already moved to block it. And when Scourge twisted to avoid the retaliatory attack, the black hedgehog came after him relentlessly, seemingly already knowing where the green hedgehog would turn.
Shadow could see the frustration in the general's eyes at having his efforts thwarted again and again and would have been lying to say that he didn't find it amusing - and also very satisfying.
Mostly because having battled Sonic dozens of times before and having been on the receiving end of nearly every single one of the speedster's uncountable infuriating little tricks, all of that now seemed to finally be paying off in the most gratifying way imaginable. Sonic and Scourge's style was flourish and magic and show and daring, mixed with impossibly fluent movements and speed where you never expected it. It contrasted sharply with Shadow's movements that might were no less artful, but sharp and direct and as ruthlessly efficient as a knife in the dark.
Sonic loved playing with velocity, finding a million applications for his speed just to amuse himself. Shadow was much the same with Chaos energy, but he had to use his sparingly, now. Fortunately, as long as the other continued to be merely a copy of his blue-furred counterpart, fighting against Shadow like an inexperienced Sonic had during their first meetings years prior, this would likely not be a problem...
When Scourge next tried a particular feinting movement that had already ceased to work on Shadow months ago, the black hedgehog landed a knee effortlessly in the other's side. It was only too tempting to make a comment now, if only as payback for all of the cuts he had seen on Sonic's body.
"Mmh. A pathetic choice for an heir, it seems. I suppose Black Doom should have stuck with me after all."
And for Scourge, if the slave's grins had been annoying when Sonic had managed to land a hit, his owner's barely perceptible smirks were infuriating. It didn't help that the green hedgehog was also utterly confused how on Earth the crown prince, who never had been the greatest fighter at court, was managing to beat him so effortlessly now. He desperately needed something, anything to let him get back the upper hand -
"You...I will kill you and mount your head on my bedroom wall, and then take your slave toy and pound-!"
There. Finally. A flash in the prince's eyes, even if the rest of his face remained a mask. His pet, then, Scourge thought with a bit of satisfaction. The notion of abusing that infuriating whirlwind trickster seemed to be the only thing getting a rise out of the dark-furred hedgehog, and Scourge bared his teeth in a feral grin, because even that split-second of upset to Shadow's rhythm was all he had needed.
"You will never lay a hand on him ag-!" Shadow had hissed the words before he could stop himself, could feel his last chaos reserves flaring up underneath his skin as the same white-hot fury he had felt whenever Scourge had tried to hurt Sonic threatened to take away his focus, begged him to unleash his anger -
Shadow's words died in his throat as Scourge in one fluid motion had reached into his quills and whirled at him.
And he realized that yes, there were details of Scourge's fighting style that definitely had no place in Sonic's and he was staring them straight into the face.
Scourge smiled widely at the black hedgehog's genuinely surprised, wide-eyed stare the very moment he flung the knife at him.
"Hey! Hey there! Yeah, you!"
The knight in question turned his head, and then seemed to take a double-take that nearly let him fall off his horse.
"Hi there. Think you could take care of some luggage for me?" Sonic asked, smiling brightly at the purple walrus that despite his impressively shining armour seemed just a little lost on an actual battlefield. Sonic had chosen to gallop up to him mostly because out of all of the knights carrying Queen Aleena's banner, he had been the one in the quietest zone of the carnage, apparently having hung back a little from the fighting. He also looked a little bit on the pudgy side and distinctly uncomfortable on the horse when you looked closer, so Sonic figured he might even be doing the guy a favour.
"Wha – no way – are you – my Pr-!" the purple knight began to stammer, but Sonic cut him off with a swipe of his hand.
"No time for that. Got a favour to ask here, that okay?"
"You're alive! Her Majesty-"
"Hey. Hey, focus." Sonic said, snipping his fingers in front of the (now slightly-dazed-looking) walrus' face. "Yeah, I'm all fine and dandy and working together with Shadow and the echidnas on kicking Black Doom's arse, by the way, but there's loose ends to tie up. See this guy here?" Sonic asked, gesturing at the unconscious Drago slumped across the horse in front of him like 120 pounds of solid dingo could somehow be overlooked. The walrus nodded warily, looking just a bit like someone who was worried that the person they were currently talking to might make a habit of knocking people on horses unconscious.
At his nod, the blue hedgehog gave the walrus a smile that was just a fraction too bright. "Great! He tried to force himself on me. Could you kindly take him to Mom and explain that to her? I'm sure she'll deal with him as she sees fit," Sonic said cheerfully, coincidentally just as in the background the sounds of another charge lead by Aleena trampling a battle tower utterly to splinters could be heard.
"Uh...right...but-!" the knight tried to get another word in but was interrupted by Sonic's happy "Cool, thanks!" and then the thud! of one dingo's body kicked from a horse hitting the bare earth. And then the young knight, who was actually called Rotor and who really had always just wanted to be a metalsmith in a peaceful shop, and not a warrior on a crazy battlefield because he honestly wasn't that great at fighting, and who had never even seen royalty up close never mind talked to them, only could look down at the lifeless dingo he was now apparently responsible for, while the crown prince who had disappeared two years ago without ever being seen by any soul again, but who had also just casually chatted to him for a minute, was now galloping back into battle with remarkable enthusiasm.
"...nobody is going to believe this story, ever."
Throwing knives at point blank range. It was obvious the black hedgehog had never expected it and it was also obvious he wouldn't be able to avoid it hitting him straight between the eyes. Scourge grinned like a feral cat as the small blade was about to make contact, penetrate that thick skull of the dark-furred annoyance, add just a few more red stripes to his pelt. The prince's mouth opened in what had to be his last scream...
And then Scourge's eyes went as wide as power rings when the black hedgehog suddenly had simply vanished, the knife whistling through thin air.
The green hedgehog's head flew around. It had been the Prince's voice, coming from somewhere else, and he whirled to look behind him, even if he had no idea how the black hedgehog could have gotten there. Yet there was nothing. Scourge's mind was racing, trying to figure out what had happened, starting to wonder whether Shadow had turned invisible, whether he had been hung at the gallows after all and he had been fighting a ghost - until a very small thing brought the whole thought process up short only a split-second later.
The voice hadn't come from behind him.
Very slowly, a green head was tilted back.
And Scourge the Hedgehog looked up just in time to see the Ultimate Lifeform drop from the sky like an avenging angel, his form outlined against steel-grey clouds akin a spiky god of thunder as both of his hands prepared the lightning. The black hedgehog grinned at Scourge even as he fell.
"Chaos Spear, motherf-!"
Scourge didn't hear the rest of the sentence, but in his defence, it was pretty hard to understand any words when you had just taken a lance of pure Chaos energy straight to the face.
Scourge collapsed like a tower of green-furred playing cards. And Shadow was ever so grateful that the general was well and truly out of it now, because the moment he dropped back down to Earth, there was nothing he could do to prevent himself toppling straight on top of him, his body now utterly exhausted.
You complete IDIOT. Using Chaos Control like that, without an Emerald...
Shadow gave a slight groan of pain and briefly fought against falling into unconsciousness. He forced his eyes open, trying to push himself up from where he was lying across Scourge's prone form.
There hadn't been any other choice, though. He knew that.
Throwing knives. Sneaky bastard, Shadow thought and then snorted. Yeah, maybe I shouldn't mock Sonic too much for not defeating him on his own, then...
Still, seeing Scourge's expression so exactly mirroring Sonic's own when Shadow had used Chaos Control for the first time on him, had been so worth it.
Speaking of which...
"Yo Shads! Nice work!"
"Thank you," Shadow said, lifting himself off Scourge and forcing his body to stand. Sonic was back, looking rather pleased with himself, and now carrying a new blade, which looked longer and broader, more battle-hardened, and a lot more expensive than the one that Scourge had shattered. Shadow raised an appreciative eye ridge.
"Found what you were looking for, then?"
"Oh yeah," Sonic replied with a grin and briefly swiped the sword through the air, holding it out for Shadow's inspection. "Looking cool, no?"
Red eyes traced over the blade. "There's the emblem of Aleena's family engraved on it," he said, before adding with a slightly sardonic smile, "Considering the way things usually happen to you, I'm currently betting money that this is probably the sword of their rightful king. Did you pull it out of a stone by any chance?"
"Funny. Actually, I pulled it from Drago's paws, and also gave Aleena her very first POW in one go," Sonic replied, crossing his arms with just a trace amount of satisfaction. Then he nodded at Scourge. "So, he's out for good, then?"
"If you give me that sword of yours for a minute, in a moment he will be," Shadow said, reaching out a hand, but Sonic seemed to freeze, not making any move to hand it to him.
"I'm going to dispose of him," Shadow said, his tone still sounding as natural as if he was talking about the weather. He bent down and picked up the knife Scourge had tried to chuck at his head when it was obvious Sonic wouldn't pass him his sword, before then swiftly turning around to where the general's unconscious body was lying.
He stopped when a hand closed around his wrist. Frowning, Shadow glanced over his shoulder. Sonic was currently looking everywhere but at him, but not releasing his wrist.
There was a bit of a pause, with the black hedgehog just slightly confused, before it abruptly dawned on him what his partner was trying to do. Shadow could feel his left eye twitch ever so slightly.
Sonic looked up to meet the black hedgehog's incredulous gaze, and the collared hedgehog's mouth was a hard line, his expression strained.
"No killing, Shadow," he said, voice pained. "Not unless it's absolutely necessary. I just...can't. And..." And before Shadow could say anything, he dropped both his hand and his head, looking at the floor. His tone was quiet when he spoke.
"...and I don't want you to."
Shadow took a breath.
"Then what? Simply leave him?" he asked, voice not quite level. "You know what he would have done to you if given the chance, right? You'll let him off just like that?"
Sonic finally raised his gaze again and now it was with a wry smile.
"He Who Fights Monsters, Shads, remember?" he asked and then shrugged. "Anyway, I figure if anyone's got a right to decide what is to be done with him it would be Manic," he said."Kid was the one most harmed by him, he should have a say in this."
Shadow raised an eye ridge, his doubts that anyone actually would take the feelings of Sonic's fellow slave into account plainly written on his face. But then he merely shook his head and sighed.
"Fine. The amount of Chaos energy I hit him with, he should probably be out for the remainder of the day. We can point the Acorn knights into his direction. I suppose you wouldn't mind Princess Sally dealing with him?"
"No, she seemed...fair, I think. Good judge of character," Sonic said, nodding, before adding, "Chaos attacks worked, then, huh?"
"Yeah," Shadow said, nudging the green hedgehog's body with a foot to turn him over. "Double Chaos spear, actually. One to the face and one to the chest."
"Ouch," Sonic commented with a grimace. Looking at Scourge, it was obvious where he had been hit – his head fur ironically burnt exactly where his black crown had sat before, and an angry-looking red ridge diagonally across his chest. It was almost parallel to the one scar already present, letting the the old and the new injury together appear much like the roman numeral II.
"Heh," Sonic said, and now his voice almost sounded light again. "I think I like it. Suits him to be in second place."
"I'm ever so glad when you find my work aesthetically pleasing," Shadow commented dryly, before letting his voice become more serious again. "Alright. Ready to deal with Black Doom, then?"
"Yeah. Let's head back to Knux and Lara-Su," Sonic nodded, shifting the grip on his sword subtly and turning his head into the direction where black missiles were shooting into the sky and boulders sent flying like toy marbles.
"Okay," Shadow said, looking like he was about to take off before something seemed to occur to him.
"...wait. You're not going to suggest we spare his life as well, will you?" the question was asked with something resembling almost dread.
Sonic looked at him, fawn lips pressed into a thin line, before the blue hedgehog then dropped his gaze again.
"...no. I won't."
"Oh, thank Chaos."
"Only because I really can't see any other way of ending this, Shadow," Sonic said, sounding irritated. "I'm not happy about it."
"That's okay. If we're finally killing at least something, I will be happy enough for both of us," Shadow replied, distinctly unperturbed. "Any other last requests or can we get going?"
"Well, now that you say it," Sonic said, a twitch to his mouth suggesting that he seemed to have the thought of Black Doom's demise at least out of his mind for now, "it's a shame we don't have any extreme gear, actually. We could be riding down from the sky like the horsehogs of the apocalypse."
"And chaos forbid we may save the world without doing it in style," Shadow muttered under his breath. "Now, are you coming or-?"
A sound interrupted his question and both their heads turned. Shadow raised an eye ridge when the source of the noise was rapidly coming closer, stopped in front of them and reared impressively.
"There...appears to be a horse now," the black hedgehog said, slowly, as it came down again. "Sonic, why is that?"
"Uh...it's the horse I stole from Drago when I took his sword," the blue hedgehog replied, blinking. "But I actually left it with the Acorn knights..."
The horse in question whinnied again and then lowered his head to lightly nudge Sonic against his shoulder. It unquestionably looked expectant.
Sonic briefly traded glances with Shadow.
"Well, okay, I already said you looked like Gandalf, but-"
Shadow interrupted him by simply taking a step forward and catching the reins.
"I've been playing riding sims with Maria from the moment she discovered video games," the black hedgehog said and then gave Sonic what was definitely a wicked grin as he then actually smoothly swung himself atop. "So. If you really want to face Black Doom in style – this can't be harder than riding a flying Black Arms ray, right?"
Sonic cocked his head, looking up at Shadow as the surprise on his face slowly faded into a sly smile. "Couldn't say. Never was too fond of using anything else than my own two feet for transport."
"Well then," Shadow said and at the same time let the horse trot forward, reaching a hand down to Sonic, who laughed, leapt up and took it, "Time for me to offer you a ride, I suppose."
The horse broke into a gallop just as soon as Sonic had settled behind him and Shadow threw a glance over his shoulder, eye ridge raised over a smirk.
"I believe the saying goes Geronimo?"
Knuckles stifled a scream as a lance of the poisonous lightning strafed his leg, muscles convulsing as the flesh was seared. He wouldn't show Black Doom any weakness if he could help it, no matter how they were faring.
The only problem was, they weren't faring well at all. Shadow had only been gone for a short while, looking for Sonic, and already Knuckles could tell that with just the two of them, they wouldn't be able to hold their own. His sister was tiring. He himself could distract the king only so much and if Lara-Su ended up hurt because either of them would eventually weaken and falter...
Knuckles gritted his teeth as he tore down another battle tower of Black Doom's, hurling the debris into the general direction of the alien king. And despite the stress, and how much the current situation required his absolute focus, he also couldn't help just the faintest lapses in concentration when he wondered,
Where is Sonic? That blue maniac said he'd be back...
It was an odd thought for the self-reliant echidna, Knuckles could feel that himself. Normally he never expected help in his battles, never focused on anything but his own fights, but still...
His sister screamed as she was hit, shrill and hoarse and so close to an actual cry of fear that Knuckles' felt like something inside him had just turned into ice and splintered. He whirled around and charged toward where she had fallen, to protect her in any way he could, no matter the price, even as Black Doom was already raising his claw for the finishing blow..
Dammit, blue hedgehog, you said you would-!
It was a futile thought, Knuckles knew, but still, there simply was something about that strange slave of the prince that was impossible for Knuckles to put into words, something that made you expect him to come when things looked their worst, made you feel like you simply knew he would be there at the last minute -
"Hey, Black Dimwit! How about taking on somebody a quarter of your size?!"
All three combatants' heads turned around. And maybe it was pure coincidence that a ray of sun pierced the clouds just now, but even so all of Black Dooms' eyes had to squint for just a second, because when Sonic, who was standing atop the horse's back that Shadow was steering in a gallop toward them, drew his newly acquired broadsword's blade, it was glowing like fire.
"YOU!" Black Doom thundered. "I thought I had sent Scourge to take care of you! Can't that hedgehog take even a mangy slave down?!"
"Told you before, tell you again," Sonic retorted, giving a flourish with his sword as Shadow let the horse ride up closer to Black Doom, not even slowing down, "I'm not a slave, I'm Sonic the Hedgehog, and you're facing the Knight of the Wind now!" He flashed a grin as quick and as humorous as a whip crack, "So you better run, 'cause a storm is headed your way!"
Black Doom did not even have time to finish his sentence when the horse was already rearing, and both hedgehogs had vaulted over its head, their movements in perfect unison like a trained pair of assassins. Knuckles' eyes went wide as Sonic swung his sword in his flight, Shadow at the same time calling upon his own Chaos magic, sending it leaping from his hand to hit the blade of Sonic's sword just at the apex of its swing -
And Black Doom screamed as the energy shield surrounding him was finally ripped apart, the sword crackling like it was made of lightning cleaving it in two akin a soap bubble.
"YES!" Sonic's triumphant cry brought Knuckles back to reality, where he had to dodge the hedgehogs' fleeing horse and covered the last few metres to help his sister to her feet. Black Doom was still reeling, but seemed to recover quickly, the stone in his hand blazing anew as he tried to resurrect his destroyed protection spell.
"No. No more," Shadow ground out, the black hedgehog throwing up his hands and seemingly re-directing the newly summoned Chaos energy, distorting anything before Black Doom could use it. And even while that effectively immobilized the prince, it did nothing to hinder his slave. Both Knuckles and Lara-Su couldn't help but stare, either of the echidnas mesmerized by the blue hedgehog who was now slashing with the fury of a wildfire, the whirl of his blade against Black Doom the madcap jigue of a dancing demon. The dark king was screaming more than ever, but Knuckles could hear how rage was actually mingling with pain now. Sonic had landed a cut in his side, sword tearing through cloth and what abomination lay beneath. Black Doom whirled backwards, hand still clutching at the Emerald as he tried to fight off two opponents now, both of them quicker than even three eyes could see.
"Give it up, hammerhead! The good guys always win in the long run – and there's no one who runs better or longer than us!"
"I shall shred you to pieces!" the dark king was howling now, his swipes larger and more uncoordinated as he hurled another broad energy disc at the collared hedgehog, but Sonic was simply impossible to hit - and his attacks, when charged with Shadow's deadly lightning, impossible to block.
"By the Walkers," Knuckles whispered to his sister, "They might actually win."
"Then let's keep his soldiers at bay to give them a clear fighting space," his sister replied, tugging at his arm a little when he didn't move. "Come on. I know, I want to see them fight, too, okay?" She smiled. "But even more than that I want to see them win."
"No," Black Doom hissed at them as if he had heard the echidnas now hurrying off, slime-like saliva sputtering from his mouth hole, "I will not be defeated like this. Not by a slave, a mere parasite of this world! You haven't even seen half of this stone's true power!"
And then, when Sonic had just been about to charge at him one more time, he simply vanished.
"Wha- oh come on! He's doing the same shtick as last time on the comet!" Sonic called out, eyes roving every which way as he tried to figure out where Black Doom had disappeared to, vividly recalling unwelcome memories of Chaos energy burning into his back aboard the Black Comet, because of course the alien overlord had always reappeared exactly where he hadn't been looking at the moment -
Sonic's head flew around the second Shadow's shout pierced his ears, the dark hedgehog having had closed his eyes, but now was pointing clearly at a spot of nothing but thin air straight behind Sonic. The blue hedgehog slashed at it without even thinking twice.
"Aaaaaaaah! You snivelling traitor!"
And the resulting scream of Black Doom as the hero's sword impacted into his other side just as he materialized was music to everyone's ears.
"Trying to surprise me with teleporting is generally ill-advised," Shadow informed his 'father' pleasantly. "In fact, your chaos signature couldn't be easier to read for me if you had it on kindle."
Sonic threw Shadow a look.
"...your one-liners need work, dude."
Red eyes narrowed just a tad. "Shut it and get him, pet."
And the hero of Mobius grinned like a Cheshire cat. "Your wish is my command, my master..."
This time, Black Doom almost didn't even have time to scream before Sonic attacked again.
"Stop it araaaah!"
"See that?!" Sonic shouted, now feeling almost delirious with Shadow's Chaos energy dancing around him, charging his sword and his body with more raw power than he thought even he could handle, lightning fingers dancing across his fur and leaping from his blade when he whirled and struck against Black Doom's form. Shadow was skating behind him, around them, moving with Sonic like they were twin stars in orbit, their paths interweaving and intersecting as Sonic bounced, jumped and back-flipped, leapt from the dark king's side over his horned head, cartwheeled under his clawed arm and rolled through what would have counted as his legs had he had any. Neither of them was ever ceasing in their movement, perfectly defending and covering each other, one keeping Black Doom's forcefield down while the other dealt him yet another blow -
"Look around you! There is your cavalry, fleeing!" Sonic shouted, blocking a swipe from Black Doom's arm and instead cutting into his hand, "There's Queen Aleena and King Maximilian, annihilating your troops!" he continued, this time leaping and twisting, his sword jumping to slice at Black Doom's head and catching its side,
"And THIS!" Sonic roared, landing in front of the alien king and staring up at him, remembering everything he was responsible for, people dying, a world in terror, captured children, Tails, bleeding -
"This is you, losing this war!" the hero of Mobius shouted just as his partner's voice called him back into the present again and behind him he could feel Shadow releasing another Chaos spear, meeting his sword in the air and letting it briefly blaze like the sun, right before Sonic plunged it straight into Black Doom's chest.
Sonic fell down and stumbled backwards. Suddenly, all sound seemed to have gone from the world, just for one moment in time, and every sensation that reached him felt muted and distorted, as if everything was suddenly in slow motion, because time had simply forgotten to move. His fingers had gone slack, releasing the sword they grasped in their hands, the blade still wedged in Black Doom's torso like a toothpick stuck into a particularly grotesque grape as the dark king was crumbling. Sonic felt his feet hitting the earth, his knees buckling, threatening to send him keeling over and into the dirt, but then there were arms around his torso, grabbing him and encircling him and pulling him backwards into a familiar chest to hold him upright and close. Is... is that it? Can we go home now?To a place with aspirin, maybe? A muffled voice asked in his head, while adrenaline was still singing its deafening and high-pitched song in his ears, a blurry world before his eyes only seeming to consist of the colours of mud and lightning and war, the only thing he recognized the shape of the fingers that had reached down to entangle with his own...
"Sonic. I've got you. It's alright..."
The words were a murmur for his addled brain for a moment, but Sonic recognized his partner's voice that was calling him back to consciousness, understood the intent, didn't panic at the embrace that had captured him. His head was still ringing, his blood rushing in his ears, his own heartbeat, or maybe it's Shadow's, I dunno, the only things that let him know time was passing, one second, two seconds since I drove that sword into his chest, I could feel his ribs breaking, and Sonic tried to get his feet under himself again, lean on Shadow, dizzily attempting to raise his head to see what was happening now.
"Did...did we win?"
And then, the world came back as if a rubber band had snapped, sound and light and noise assaulting Sonic like he had been hit with a sledgehammer.
Shadow's voice was cut off by a horrible noise that sounded wet and sick and like somebody was trying to scream when they had a hole in their lung. The black hedgehog's arms tightened around him and Sonic's head snapped back up, blinking as he tried to take in the scene in front of him. Black Doom had flailed backwards when the sword had been buried in his chest, red eyes staring down at the blade, disbelieving, and then for a moment had seemed to be about to keel over backwards, obviously dying, but then he had screamed instead, and now was starting to spasm wildly...
"I, uh, what, what is happening now?" Sonic asked, disentangling himself from Shadow's grasp and staring at the black hedgehog with wide eyes, but his partner only looked equally tense as him.
"I don't know. This never happened before...!"
Shadow had felt Black Doom dying. When Sonic had been running circles around him, leaping and bounding across their battle sphere, slicing and cutting away at the dark king with his sword, the black hedgehog had been able to feel it in his Chaos energy that he was busy deflecting and tearing apart. Black Doom was bleeding out, getting weaker, losing, and even while Sonic had been whooping and cheering and making his usual banter at Black Doom, Shadow had been able to feel his lips stretch into an answering feral grin, the blue hedgehog's joy and boundless optimism so contagious it was impossible not to feel the pure hope he radiated when he was on your side.
"Give it up, hammerhead!" Sonic was laughing, and taunting Black Doom, acting as if he hadn't been beaten and bruised and threatened to be killed about half a dozen times today yet, and if Shadow tried, he could almost believe it.
There was a wave of rage in Black Doom's Chaos energy at the blue hedgehog's insult and Shadow had expected it, bracing himself against it, and reeled it in, counteracted it with his own before it could build up. This was more than he had ever channelled before but it defused the Chaos Blast that the dark king obviously didn't know how to use properly yet before it could have blown them all off their feet. The black hedgehog supposed Black Doom didn't even know what he, Shadow, was doing exactly, his supposed father's attention focused much more on Sonic who took to being being in the spotlight like a rockstar feline to catnip parties, and this was exactly how the Ultimate Lifeform liked it.
Yes. Let him have the show and the fun and the straight forward attack.
Shadow charged up another surge when Black Doom wasn't looking and smirked.
Let me be his protector, and the knife, and the assassin in the dark.
"And this is you, losing this war!"
The Ultimate Lifeform drew another sharp breath as he could see Sonic raise the sword to strike, and once again called forth the last remaining vestiges of Chaos still in his body, knowing this was it, this was meant to be the final blow, this was where both of their power would be needed and it was this moment or never, but his partner hesitated for only a split second -
"Sonic, NOW!" Shadow bellowed, and he could see how his voice reached the other, clearing up emerald eyes and letting them regain their focus, and then it was the last of his Chaos Spears that met with the blue hedgehog's blade just as it drove into Black Doom's heart.
Black Doom screamed. Or at least Sonic thought so. He had drawn himself to his feet again, and the sound that was tearing from the dark king's throat now...the blue hedgehog was sure it sounded like no living thing had ever screamed and it let all his fur stand on end.
"Uh...should we...?" Sonic began, looking at Shadow with a slightly worried grimace, blue ears folded against his head, and the black hedgehog seemed to be about to reply something, but the next moment meant he never even got the chance.
"I shall put an end to your foolish attempts to defy me, and your miserable existence!"
"What-!" Sonic gasped as Black Doom suddenly roared again, seemingly heedless of the dark liquids spilling out from the wound, stretching both clawed hands out against his sides. The Emerald was sill clutched in his right one, black talons clamped down on it so hard they seemed in danger of crushing it.
"Okay, that's so not fair," Sonic hissed, "They're supposed to go down after three hits, like, everyone knows that, I'll-"
"Sonic, NO!" Shadow shouted, grabbing the blue speedster's arm just as the hero would have shot off to take the Emerald from Black Doom once and for all, and brought him up short. The black hedgehog grit his teeth.
"I have heard that line before."
Sonic stared at him with wide eyes. "And what-?"
And that was as far as he came, because the next thing that happened was Black Doom tearing the sword out of his torso with his left hand, and shoving the Emerald straight into the bleeding hole.
One dimensional barrier away, three Mobians were currently staring at the Master Emerald with very wide eyes.
"That...wasn't very PG," commented Rouge.
"No," concluded Knuckles weakly.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Tails added, and then promptly stood by his words.
Both echidna and bat looked at each other and didn't even need words to agree that trying to ask the Master Emerald one last time for the current location of the missing stone while waiting for the result of Tails' experiment may have been a rather terrible idea.
"Oh no. Tell me this isn't happening. Not after all this," Sonic's voice was hoarse, the collared hedgehog taking a step back with a look of mingled disgust and horror on his face. He could feel his heart hammering in his chest again, fear washing through him anew as the control over the situation was slipping away from them by the minute. They couldn't even tell what was going on, only that the Emerald in Black Doom's chest was glowing so brightly it hurt, while the overlord's body was growing over it, encasing it inside itself like a snake swallowing an animal whole.
Shadow's hands had curled into fists, his teeth gritted.
"There's nothing we can do. Stepping close to him now would get anyone killed."
"But it's not fair!" the blue hedgehog shouted, sounding desperate now, "He doesn't even have all seven of the Chaos Emeralds! That's not how it's supposed to work!"
"If this world doesn't have any Chaos Emeralds of its own, the one we brought likely channels power equivalent to the seven we have at home," Shadow replied, and even he himself wondered how he could state this so calmly, even if the events developing now were equivalent to a catastrophe. Maybe he just had used all his emotions up for today and this numbness was all that was left.
"But..." Sonic stared at him, desperate. "That means...!"
"Yes," Shadow said and now even he could feel his stomach beginning to sink again.
The form in front of them was starting to grow now, swelling like a misshapen embryo in a sped-up movie, grey, fin-like wings bursting from its back, flapping like skin torn loose. Black skin was cracking open all over the king's mutilated body, new, dark Chaos energy leaking out of the wounds and fissures to drip and flow and run down his clothes like contaminated blood, the dry ground sucking it up as if it were poisonous water.
"Sonic! Shadow! What is going on?!"
The hedgehogs whirled around to see Knuckles and Lara-Su running toward them now, the echidnas looking utterly terrified. "I thought you had defeated him! What is he doing? What is happening to the ground?!" The younger echidna was shrieking, even when another tremor shook the earth they stood on and nearly let her lose her footing, fighting everywhere ceasing as soldiers could barely stand any more.
"This plain has been the scene of a hundred battles!" Black Doom seemed to have recovered his voice and roared at them. Even his tone was changing now, becoming deeper and if possibly even less human than before. A second head burst forth from his back and they started speaking in unison.
"Innumerable soldiers have died on this cursed ground, their souls drenched in fear, burning with hate, never finding peace as their blood tainted this very earth itself!"
His three eyes were starting to melt together into one madly swivelling orb with three pupils now and when he spoke again, they were all focused on the small group on the hill. "Now it is time for them to fight and kill again."
And the ground started to erupt all over the plain.
"Okay, I think this situation is possibly a bit problematic now," Sonic noted.
Knuckles stared at him. "You think?"
"Today the dead shall rise!" Black Doom's distorted voice thundered. "A mere echo of their existence, souls and spirits twisted beyond recognition by the grave, but destined to play out their dying moments over and over! Their wish to survive twisted into murder, and they shall tear you down into hell with them! BEHOLD MY PERFECT ARMY!"
Black Doom flung both of his bulging and mutating limbs in the air as he bellowed the last words before exploding into a flash of dark lightning and vanishing. To the huddled Sapients on the hill it seemed as if this had finished a terrible incantation they had just witnessed, because now things that could have been hands broke free of the earth, body-like...creatures clawing themselves out the ground with jerking, staggering movements.
"What...what are those?!" Lara-Su rasped, her voice sounding choked with shock while Knuckles looked equally uncomprehending, but to Sonic and Shadow, the mismatched, squat, reptilian-like bodies, the clumsy and uncoordinated flailing limbs, the strange gait and the glowing red eyes were so horribly familiar that they didn't even need to hear the screams now erupting all over the battlefield to know what the dark king had just summoned.
The Black Arms had risen.
To be continued...
Yup. Having fun here. Hope you liked, last chapter didn't let your head explode (to be fair, I did warn people that this story might have 'Sonadow' in it at the very beginning...:p), and if you read, please review! :D